I recently started harvesting my chard, and I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with well over 20 cups of chard when my fridge was already stuffed with other salad greens. After asking friends for help, the overwhelming consensus was pesto. Transforming my chard into pesto would greatly consolidate the sheer amount of chard I’d grown, and would keep well in the fridge and freezer after blending it up.
Before this, I had only dabbled in the pesto making process once. Pine nuts are a little too expensive for my taste, so pesto has always seemed like a luxury item. What I learned was that pesto is not as difficult or expensive as I made it out to be, because there are a mind boggling amount of non-traditional variations of pesto to be prepared. It can be made with just basil, or basil and a green, or just greens, and any type of oil you fancy. The nuts and parmesan are completely optional.
The ingredients for this pesto are minimal: chard, basil, lemon, olive oil, walnuts, parmesan, salt and pepper. I decided I wanted to let the chard shine in this, so there is a higher ratio of chard to basil. Sometimes bitter greens can be overpowering, but I found that when blended together the chard had a more gentle flavor. By omitting the parmesan and adding a little more salt, this would easily become a vegan recipe. The pesto can be used fresh on pasta, burgers, bread or frozen for later. I have not frozen pesto before, but I have been warned that the basil will turn brown in the freezer and not to be alarmed–it is still safe to eat. If storing your pesto in the refrigerator or freezer, I recommend adding a tablespoon or two of extra oil to the top since the finished product tends to thicken once chilled.
I had a bag full of unshelled walnuts in my pantry from my CSA (community supported agriculture) that I felt would make a fine addition to the pesto. I went on to make another batch with some pecans that I had laying around, which was equally tasty. With some friends over, I played around with what went into the pesto as we passed spoons around taste testing, adjusting, and blending some more.
- 1 1/2 cup tightly packed chard leaves
- 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil
- 1/2 cup olive oil (plus 1-2 tablespoons more if chilling/freezing)
- Juice of 1 medium sized lemon
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 1/3 cup parmesan (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Thoroughly rinse the chard and basil. Roll both tightly into the measuring cup, then place in a food processor or blender.
- Add the olive oil, walnuts, lemon juice, parmesan, salt and pepper. Blend until well combined and smooth.
- Place on burgers, pasta, spread on bread, or otherwise use to your heart’s content!
- If refrigerating or freezing, pour the pesto into a container and top with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the top of the jar).
Happy Eating and a special thanks to Brittany J. Reid Photography for the images,