Pesto is such a summer recipe—how do we use all that fresh basil before it goes bolts or goes bad in our refrigerator? But you don’t have to wait until July to have tasty pesto. Allium are in abundance, and though most herbs are not ready, one farmer at the Greenmarket at Union Square was ahead of the game with pungent, albeit small, cilantro. Together with the last of the garlic and some farmstead sheep’s milk pecorino, voila, you have an early scallion or ramp pesto to enjoy in Spring. If this had been later in the season, I would have used toasted squash or pumpkin seeds, but I ran out of last season’s seeds I had roasted and didn’t have anything on hand but pine nuts, which I used. You can skip any nuts or use pine nuts, walnuts, even sesame seeds.
I put it over leftover polenta I had from the weekend, which I cut into squares and pan seared and served with sauteed mushrooms.
Here’s the recipe for the pesto:
Scallion Cilantro Pesto
1 bunch scallions (or ramps), roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1“ piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 dried hot pepper
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (or other nut or seed of your choice)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup olive (not extra-virgin) or grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup grated smoked pecorino (optional)
- Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
- Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, lemon zest and sesame oil. Add oil slowly while processing until it forms a rough paste.
- Remove paste to a bowl and stir in salt and pepper, and if desired, more lemon juice to taste. Stir in cheese and use or store in refrigerator. (NOTE: if freezing for later use, don’t add cheese until defrosted and ready to use).