You might be familiar with the classic pesto sauce that deliciously tops mounds of pasta and is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. But pesto doesn’t have to be limited to these ingredients. In fact, pesto can be seen as more a method of preparation than a list of specific ingredients; what you choose to include can be left to your imagination, what you think tastes good, and what’s in season.
A mixed pesto made from greens and herbs is a perfect match for the seasonal shopping that accompanies the freshest produce found at local farmers’ markets. And using New Mexico pine nuts or pecans, garlic, and cheese means the only ingredient that won’t be local is the olive oil. And, yes, Italians have been known to add chile flakes to their pesto, so even that isn’t out of the realm of delicious possibilities.
For our pesto recipe we went to the farmers’ market in the morning and purchased some fresh spinach, chives, chard, and kale. (Keep an eye out for spigarello, which we predict will be the next kale!) We also used local garlic, a lovely hard cheese from the Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia, and instead of pine nuts we used New Mexico-grown pecans.
When using greens in pesto, deciding the amount of each green to use is a matter of taste. To help you decide, conduct a simple test. First, take an equal amount of each green and herb and taste them together, chewing thoroughly to make sure the flavors meld. If you feel one flavor overpowers the rest, adjust the percent of the greens and herbs until the taste pleases you. For our pesto, we ended up with 40% chard, 30% spinach, 20% kale, and 10% chives. Here’s our complete recipe:
- 1/2 pound mixed greens and herbs (washed and roughly chopped). We used 40% chard, 30% spinach, 20% kale, and 10% chives
- 1/2 cup grated hard cheese (something similar to Parmesan)
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted nuts (New Mexico piñon or pecans)
- 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each)
There are two ways to make the pesto, and each results in a different flavor:
- The first way is to sauté your ingredients, which mellows out the flavor of the raw greens: Place about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add your chard and kale, cooking over medium heat until soft (if additional moisture is needed, add some water a tablespoon at a time). Next, add the garlic to soften for a few minutes. Lastly, add the chives and spinach until they are barely wilted. Place your sautéed greens in a food processor or high speed mixer, add your remaining ingredients, and process until smooth. Taste, adjust your salt and pepper if necessary, and add more oil if a thinner sauce is desired.
The second way to make your mixed greens pesto results in a sauce with a brighter, more vibrant bite:
- Place all of your roughly chopped ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and blend until smooth. Taste, adjust your salt and pepper if necessary, and add more oil if a thinner sauce is desired. That’s it! Very easy.
What makes mixed greens pesto so great is that it is so versatile. The pesto of course can be served over pasta, but it is also delicious as a baked potato topping, a sandwich spread, and a dip for raw vegetables (it’s especially delicious, and beautiful, with raw carrots). And the sauce is terrific served over grilled chicken, beef, or pork.