Two Different Kinds of Pesto: Sorrel and Basil & Celery

Two different variations of homemade pesto, both equally delicious.

Some may think it’s silly to grow your own sorrel when you have it growing wild just around the corner. As the cultivated sorrel has a slightly milder and nicer flavor, I believe it’s a great idea to include this sour and lemony herb in a garden plot.

It’s best is to harvest the young light green leaves, as when the leaves gets older and larger (darker green) they get tough and unpleasantly sour. Sorrel can be cooked like spinach for soups and omelets or raw in salads and pesto (see below). I also think the sourness in this pesto works terrifically well with fish, poached or cured. Spread on crackers, this sorrel pesto can be a simple and delicious appetizer.

Sorrel Pesto

About 2 cups of young sorrel leaves
2 garlic cloves
A handful of walnuts
Fresh red chili to your own taste (I use about ½”- 1″ depending on hotness)
½ cup grated parmesan
Olive oil
A few sprigs of parsley (optional)
Season with: salt and pepper

Pick about 2 cups of very young cultivated sorrel leaves. Rinse the leaves in cold water and drain while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop the walnuts and the chili a little. Grate the parmesan roughly.

When the sorrel is dry, run them in the food processor (or use a mortar and pestle). Add chopped garlic and run the machine a bit before adding chili, walnuts, (parsley) and parmesan. Drizzle some olive oil over. Blend the mixture carefully as it should have a crunchy texture. If necessary add some more olive oil. Season with salt and fresh pepper.

Note: Sorrel contains plenty of vitamins but the plant contains some oxalic acid which is not healthy if eaten too much (especially if your body easily creates kidney stones). I think to have sorrel on a few occasions though over the summer can hardly harm you.

This spring I have seeded plenty of basil and they are now all growing on my window sill. They are doing well but are still too small to be harvested. If you don’t have the patience to seed basil you can of course buy a plant from the plant shop. You can also sometimes find small pots at the vegetable shop which work really well replanted in a larger and nicer pot. I use basil to spice up almost any vinaigrette and as a main herb when making hazelnut baked cauliflower. But why not try basil as a flavor in cocktails! I like it with cucumber in my favorite summer drink Pimm’s Cup. Even if it’s well known, I still think basil on fresh tomatoes and mozzarella is magical.

This basil pesto is made with the addition of celery stems (and leaves) that gives a nice grassy flavor. Instead of pine nuts I use walnuts (or roasted sunflower seeds). I use this basil pesto with spaghetti, as a side to vegetable patties or on bread topped with tomatoes.

Basil & Celery Pesto

2 stems of celery
About 2 cups basil leaves
Two cloves of garlic
Handful walnuts (or sunflower seeds)
½ cup fresh grated parmesan
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Rinse the basil leaves carefully under cold water. Set aside and let dry while preparing the other ingredients. Chop the celery and garlic into small pieces. If the celery comes with leaves I would add them to the pesto as well. Mix all ingredients in a blender, starting with the basil, garlic and some olive oil. Add the celery, walnuts and lastly the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add as much olive oil as you like. Use less if you like to spread the pesto on bread and more if serving with pasta.

Both of these pesto variations, when packed nicely in a jar, are a great summer present – especially when you have a place in your garden where sorrel or basil grows better than any flowers.

If you like to learn more about sorrel I suggest reading Sarah Smith’s article about sorrel at The Foodie Bugle and Clotilde Dusoulier’s 50 Things To Do With Fresh Sorrel post.

Over at Food52 you can follow Amy Pennington’s City Dirt column on how to grow plants from seeds, etc.

Illustrations by Johanna Kindvall

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