Even though traditional pesto comes from Genoa, Liguria, Italy, many cultures have their own version of a green, herben sauce. North Africa has chermoula, made from cilantro, mint and parsley. The French base their herb sauce off of tarragon, chervil and parsley. And in Yemen, the recipe for zhoug calls for a cilantro base with an assortment of spices. Zhoug is most commonly served on falafel, and is green.
I have grown to love making up my own rich, vegan sauces for pastas, corn tortillas, or other grains. I like to riff off of the idea myself using whatever ingredients I happen to have on hand. Though, I can’t take credit for this, my friend S. (I’m not sure she wants her name revealed — I’m sure she’ll let me know) can. Having experienced thyroid problems, she could no longer have certain nuts or plants. She told me about the sage, hazelnut pesto she tried. Then another friend told me about arugula pesto.
Lo and behold, our first crops have already come in strong, one being extreme amounts of arugula. So here’s what we did! We made, froze and stored arugula pesto. You can use whatever quantities you want to – depending on your tastes. But you will need a food processor.
First I took a whole mess of fresh arugula. This isn’t quite the strongest flavored arugula I’ve ever had. I’ve learned that if it’s really bitter, I need to use a lot less, or add other herbs.
I added a bunch of hazelnuts, aka filberts, maybe a cup and a half or so. Process both together until it looks really well ground.
The next steps involve adding some spices, salt if you want to, but I feel it’s unnecessary, just a bit of black pepper, some granulated or raw garlic, and the final touches.
A chunk of the slow aged cheese we call Parmesan, and about as much olive oil as you think it needs.
I definitely feel that the higher quality the olive oil, the better this sauce will be, but I’m not picky. This olive oil was actually pretty cheap by volume at the Boise Co-Op.
What do I use this on? A better answer is what not to use it on. Breads, tortillas, pastas, grains, and salads are great vehicles for these pestos.
Try your own variation with whatever herb you have on hand, but if it’s bitter tasting – taste it first of course by itself – add some other herbs like basil or parsley. Other nuts to use could be walnuts, pine nuts, or … your choice! Sage walnut is not too shabby!