I will admit I am not exactly a snout-to-tail kind of gal -- my kids are not that adventurous and I am just not that skilled -- but I do fancy myself a stem-to-flower cook. This is largely because I am both cheap and nervous.
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After realizing last year that there was a dearth of herbs at many of the farmers markets in D.C., I decided to take matters into my own hands this spring, and got to planting. This has yielded all the expected pleasures: Is there anything more divine than a salad fashioned from the cucumber and sorrel you just picked three minutes ago? And disappointments: Damn you cilantro and your sad little appearance, like an extra in J. J. Abrams film! But this has also made me covetous of every little leaf.
I just cannot let anything go to waste, and have taken to gnawing on Thai basil straight from the pot (not bad, a little dirty) and freezing it too (will let you know how that turns out in February). With a two-week vacation looming, I simply could not stand to let my regular basil and mint go unused and possibly dry out in my absence.
The great joy of pesto, of course, is that it takes approximately the length of one Beyoncé song to make. Before you know it, you’re dumping it over some perciatelli and serving it to your across-the-street neighbors who stopped by for a bite, one of whom may or may not be telling you that anthropology is a “step child discipline of the Enlightenment” but you’re not really sure because you were too busy dancing a little to listen carefully and besides all Washington dinner conversations are like this, so you’ll catch up next week.
There are two revelations about this recipe: who knew feta could be used for pesto, and what a thrill to make it without garlic. I don’t know what Bulgarian feta is so I cannot proclaim if it is superior to the sort I had in my fridge, but let me tell you, it makes for a mighty fine sauce -- smooth and tangy. Don’t worry about measuring your herbs too terribly much, it will be good. Make sure your pine nuts are as fresh as possible -- the lingering taste of a rancid pine nut is a new addition to the growing list of why I need to clean out my pantry soon.
The husband of the couple from across the street, who is not a fan of any cheese, pushed his pasta to the side in favor of a burger, and his wife, not missing a beat, grabbed the bowl and polished it off. “I have to have this recipe immediately!” she said, moaning slightly.
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about one small lemon)
¼ cup Bulgarian feta (or any feta will work)
your very best extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
5 turns coarse ground black pepper
Place all ingredients into food processor (or blender if you do not have). Drizzle a little olive oil in to moisten, then pulse a few times, and continue to drizzle olive oil in until reaches a smooth and fluid, but still very thick consistency. Check for salt and pepper and add more lemon juice if necessary; then blend on high until as smooth as possible. **Note: I also used this on pizza and it was AMAZING!!! Ask a question about this step.
Enjoy Jenny? See the Tender Yellow Cake she baked last week -- a perfect pedestal for all your summer berries.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).