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From the farm: Pea Shoot Pesto

May 13, 2010

Pea Shoots

I got my first box from West End Farm this week, which was very exciting. It was full of green things, many of them unknown to me, but thanks to the handy dandy newsletter, they were quickly identified. Tis the season, apparently, for pea shoots and baby greens and spinach and lettuce and teeny, tiny radishes, not to mention wonderful smelling mint and green onions. And all of it looked so unbelievably fresh and lovely. And green. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with all of those greens, but the newsletter recommended making pesto with the tiny, delicate pea shoots, and I figured it was high time I get over my fear of making pesto and give it a shot.

Ok, it’s not so much a fear of making pesto from which I’ve suffered, but a consistent inability to do it right. Every attempt in the past resulted in unevenly blended pesto, or a quantity of about a tablespoon from what I had thought was heaping piles of basil, or just a gross, oily mess. This time I decided I should perhaps look at a recipe and try to get those proportions right, and after perusing a few cookbooks, I eventually found this recipe for pea shoot pesto from Coconut & Lime, and thought I might as well just go with that, as that was what I intended to make after all.

Just a few simple ingredients

Pesto is really one of the simplest things: some type of vegetable or leafy herb, olive oil, nuts, and cheese, blended together into a thick, flavorful sauce. This recipe used green onions for flavor, and I substituted walnuts for the pine nuts. And what I finally figured out is that, when using a blender for making any kind of pureed food item, patience is key. It’s helped with my hummus making, and it certainly helped with pesto. When you’re using a blender, you need to stop frequently and use a spatula to scrape all the ingredients back down to the bottom and stir it all up. You need to do this over and over again for a long time to really get the smooth, creamy texture you want. And it’s kind of annoying, especially when your blender is as loud as mine. But it’s worth it. The patience pays off.

One thing I did not do and would recommend is to chop up the walnuts before blending. Even after about 27 hundred turns of the blender, I ended up with chunks of walnuts in my pesto, and if I’d blended any more the greens would have become liquid. So chop ’em up a bit before throwing them into the blender. They don’t have to be powder, just give them a rough chop chop to give your blender a bit of a break.

Pea Shoots

My pea shoots were…a little bit stringy. Never having had them before, I’m not sure if they are always like this, but it did result in pesto with some stringy bits in it. Which tastes perfectly fine, but if you’re picky about texture you might want to try to remove the stems and stringy bits before blending. I didn’t have the time or patience for that, and I was happy with what I ended up with, so it’s up to you. So what did I end up with?

Pea Shoot Pesto

This gorgeous bowl of technicolor pesto! This stuff is flavorful and rich and bright and tastes just like spring. Of course it is delicious on pasta. I ate this whole wheat fettuccini with pesto for lunch and it was perfect.

Pea Shoot Pesto and Whole Wheat Fettuccini

But it was also spectacular on boiled potatoes, as a pesto potato salad. I don’t have a picture of that, however, because I overcooked the potatoes and ended up with something more resembling a bowl of pesto mashed potatoes. Still quite delicious but not so photogenic. I might try pesto potato salad again this week, perhaps with some chopped up olives or capers, maybe with a hard-boiled egg. It would also be wonderful on pizza (but what isn’t wonderful on pizza?), or as the spread on a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich. It would make a terrific dip for carrots and celery, and would make a great crostini appetizer, spread on top of a thin layer of ricotta. There is practically nothing you can’t do with this stuff.

Pea Shoot Pesto
Adapted from Coconut & Lime

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • one bunch of fresh green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 pound of fresh pea sprouts
  • about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

This is really quite simple: Put everything but the salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Then season to taste with salt and give it one more whirl to mix.

If you’re using a blender, you want to blend in 20 to 30 second increments, stopping to stir everything up and get the unchopped bits down there by the blades between blendings.

Once it’s blended to your liking (it took me about 15 minutes of blending), use about a two tablespoons per serving of pasta or potatoes or whatever you’re planning to serve it with. It will also freeze wonderfully. I’m planning to make another batch with my remaining pea shoots to freeze, so that in the middle of next winter I’ll be able to pull it out and have a wonderful reminder of this, my favorite time of year.

Pea Shoot Pesto with Whole Wheat Fettuccini

And now I’m kicking myself for even thinking of next winter, when we’ve just emerged into what appears to be early summer here in Walla Walla. It has been absolutely beautiful since I got back into town, which definitely helps make me feel a little more settled and hopeful and happy. And I’m looking forward to many more boxes from the farm this summer, and figuring out all kinds of fun things to do with all of it. I love spring.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2010 2:01 pm

    That sounds so yummy. I need some pea shoots STAT!

  2. May 14, 2010 7:43 am

    I made a pesto potato salad a few weeks ago, and had the same problem. Ah, well, it was still tasty.

  3. May 18, 2010 5:11 am

    As soon as it stops raining, I’m going out to my friends’ garden to grab a handful of those pea shoots. What a great looking dish.

  4. Mary permalink
    May 28, 2010 7:29 am

    Try a food processor for pesto, it does a better job than a blender for thicker textures, like pesto. It should chop your nuts just fine. And if you don’t want the stringy bits, you could run it through a food mill or a strainer. The recipe souds delicious, you could toss some of the mint in as well for a variation.

    • May 28, 2010 8:28 am

      Ah, someday I will have a food processor. I think that will be my next big kitchen purchase. That or a Le Creuset dutch oven… :-)

      I love the mint suggestion!

  5. April 7, 2011 11:09 am

    Looks good but per my terms of use, I’d prefer it if you didn’t repost my recipe.

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