If ever there were a habit of mine that were problematic enough to warrant an intervention, it would be this: I have a jar problem.
At first, it was just tomato sauce. At the height of the season (which, get excited friends, is so near it’s basically here), I spend two long afternoons with a pot of tomato mush on the stove, bubbling and simmering until it breaks down and thickens into sauce. Then I pack it into jars and tuck it away until fall. These days, I use a big pot to process my jars for shelf storage, but back in the day, I just tossed them into the back of the fridge.
Then it was jam. The strawberries, the sour cherries — how could I resist? I always buy too many; add a little sugar, and I’ve made January breakfast taste like summer. And while I was already bothering, I put up some brine and started pickling cucumbers, asparagus, beets and cauliflower.
At this point I should note that our fridge is smaller than regulation size. It’s small. It’s not equipped to serve as a pantry for my experiments. Things have calmed down a bit since I started properly canning food, but still — the extra egg yolks from meringue, the leftover chicken broth from last week’s dinner, the five blanched asparagus waiting for tomorrow’s lunch — it’s all in there. These days, I’m trying to be better about using the stuff up.
Pesto is almost always in (at least) one of the jars in our fridge. Just last week, I made one batch with the first basil of the season, and another — the topic of today’s post — Â using garlic scapes.
The pesto recipe I’m sharing is the product of two wonderful recipes from Food52 and a kind hattip from my friend Josh (and I think this makes three Josh mentions in the course of 1 week. He’s becoming my sensei!) Josh mentioned an outrageously good duck carbonara pizza that he’d made with a few modifications. No surprise the recipe came from my friend Cathy, she of Mrs. Wheelbarrow fame on Food52 and beyond. Josh was especially excited about the pesto that went on the pizza, which Cathy made with green garlic but I think Josh made with ramps instead. I loved the idea and decided to follow in his footsteps, except I found beautiful garlic scapes at the market, so I decided to use those instead.
(What are garlic scapes? They’re the tops of the garlic plant. Good ones are taut, vivid green, and smell grassy and fresh, not nearly as pungent as garlic bulbs.)
That’s when my absentmindedness kicked in. I remembered Josh saying he made ramp pesto, so I searched for a ramp pesto recipe on Food52 and found a beautiful one that won the ramps contest a while back. I followed the instructions there, subbing in pistachios for the walnuts (which, incidentally, Cathy’s recipe calls for), and wound up with a fantastic little spread that looks pretty similar to the recipe Cathy wrote and Josh used.
Lesson? Pesto is flexible.Â Please don’t feel restricted to garlic scapes!Â You can swap in ramps, green garlic, basil, or any other green and have a different but equally delicious mixture, to be used in all the same places.
What places, you ask? Here are five good ones. If you’ve got other favorite ways to use pesto, share’em in the comments. Let’s get this thread going, folks. When you’re ready to cook, the pesto recipe is below.
If you’re feeling adventurous, make Cathy’s beautiful duck carbonara pizza. It looks out of this world.
I’ve now made similar pizzas twice: once, I spread a thick layer of pesto on the dough and sprinkled chopped asparagus, chive blossoms, fresh mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan on top. I put an egg on top, but it overcooked in my smokin’ hot oven. Follow Cathy’s directions and you won’t have that problem. So, so delicious.
The second time, I went for the meat, again at Josh’s suggestion. We had some lamb bacon in the freezer, which I fried up. I used the rendered fat to cook the asparagus, which I again put on the pizza, and this time, I left the cheese off and went for just an egg instead. Topped the whole thing with a squeeze of lemon, and it was dynamite.
2. Â In Marinades
Summer is time for grilling. For sides to accompany your burgers and grilled fish, you really can’t do better than pesto-marinated vegetables. Right now, asparagus are the logical choice. When they’re done for the year, try brushing tomatoes with pesto that’s mixed with a bit of water and a squeeze of lemon, then grilling them, using the method in this Saveur piece. When the weather gets cool again, coat green beans with pesto for one of my favorite side dishes of all time.
3. In a Frittata
Frittata: world’s easiest last-minute dinner. Kenzi did a great step-by-step post on how to make frittata on Food52. Follow that and you’ll be golden. You can add the pesto either when you’re beating the eggs, to get a more uniform taste of pesto throughout, or you can do as I prefer, and dot spoonfuls of pesto into the frittata after you’ve poured in the egg.
While we’re talking about frittatas, here’s my favorite frittata of all time. I can’t think of a more perfect place to add garlic scape pesto. And here’s a recipe for pesto frittata bites. You really can’t go wrong.
Friends, how do you use pesto?Â Garlic scape or otherwise? Share your thoughts in the comments.
1 bunch garlic scapes, chopped (my bunch of 5 scapes made about 2 cups)
1/2 cup pistachios
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more if necessary
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Combine scapes and pistachios, cheese, and water in a blending or mixing apparatus; I’ve used a hand blender for this recipe and it works great, but of course the food processor also does the job, if you have one.
Blend until mixture starts to break down. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil and continue blending until mixture looks like pesto. If things look too chunky, add a couple extra tablespoons of olive oil.
Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
Pack pesto into a jar. If you’re hoping to keep it longer than a week, top with a healthy drizzle of olive oil, which will help preserve it for longer.
Use in everything. Except ice cream.