Pesto isn't just for basil, though traditionally that's what pesto is made of. The word pesto itself means "pounded" in Italian. Famous in Genoa, the pesto of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil is a delicious sauce on pasta. But many herbs and/or greens can take the place of basil to create a flavorful pesto. In the past I've made it with parsley, cilantro and even ramp greens. This time I've made a pesto from radish greens.
It may sound crazy but I love using up every last remnant of vegetables. It's not unlike saving vegetables scraps for stock. I mean why throw anything away when it's good for flavor? Radish leaves are not only on the radish for show, they're very much edible as a pesto or even sautéed and tossed with pasta. They offer up a unique fresh and peppery flavor that enlivens the palate.
The next time you buy a bunch of radishes, save the greens and use them—you'll be pleasantly surprised. Try the pesto spread on sandwiches, mixed into pasta, or used as a sauce on pizza in place of tomato sauce.
Radish Greens Pesto
4 cups radish greens from 1 large bunch radishes
1 garlic clove, mashed
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1/3 cup olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse radish greens, garlic, almonds, Parmesan and lemon juice until a thick crumbly mixture forms. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil. The mixture should be slightly loose but still viscous. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Store in an airtight plastic container with a thin film of oil on the surface of the pesto. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Use within 1 week. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.
Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, but above all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for foodon his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food.