Having visited the farm where much of our produce is grown, we’ve come to understand just how much labor is involved. And, having been there in the middle of summer, just how hot it is, too. It is a lot of work, all throughout the year, particularly including those really, really hot days in Phoenix (that’s where some of the acreage is). With that knowledge, we’ve acquired a new respect for our food and the people who produce that food, so we’re always loathe to waste it. Any of it.
Naturally, some foods are easier to use than others, but some, like radish tops, are most often thrown away by the general populace (we would bet that perhaps one in ten people knows that radish tops are edible). While that happens on occasion in Scratchin’ land, we really try to eat everything that’s edible, and that includes the radish tops. And, because last week we brought home two bunches of radishes, we wanted to find a use for them.
Since we had just made risotto with a pine nut garnish, that meant that we could try making radish greens pesto. Besides using the radish greens, it gave us the opportunity to try out a new kitchen acquisition, too.
Pesto is a wonderful dish that you can change over and over using whatever you have on hand. Most people make it with basil, but, as you see here, other greens work, too, so feel free to substitute. Same with pine nuts; we know they’re expensive, so we don’t often buy them; instead, we’ll use walnuts to make our pesto. We do not skimp on the olive oil, or the cheese, however. Always true extra-virgin olive oil, and a good Parmesan (or Grana Padano which is made just like Parmesan, but not near Parma, Italy).
Procedure in detail:
Blanch greens. We wanted to blanch the radish greens to reduce their sharp taste. While we could have boiled up a pot of water, blanched, then drained, we went with a faster, easier method that works for small amounts of greens. Wash the greens well, trim off the stems if desired, and place the greens in a colander in the sink. Bring several quarts of water to a boil — we use a tea kettle — and pour it over the greens. Let sit for a minute, then rinse with cold water. There: blanched greens. Now squeeze out as much water as you can.
Toast pine nuts. Place the pine nuts (or whatever nuts you’re using) in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring nearly continuously, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Pine nuts — well all nuts, really — burn easily, so watch them closely and remove them from the skillet when done. The residual heat from the skillet can continue toasting them.
Blend. We wanted to try out our new (to us, anyway –these are expensive) Vitamix blender that we just purchased, so we put the greens, garlic clove, cooled pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil in the blender and pulsed and scraped until we had a paste. A food processor will work, too. Or even a chef’s knife and some chopping action — just omit the olive oil until you can transfer the chopped ingredients to a bowl.
Taste and season. Taste the pesto, and add salt and pepper (or more of any ingredients) as needed, pulsing to incorporate.
Pack. Scrape the pesto into a container, cover, and refrigerate.
We used this as a spread on bread, and we were pleasantly surprised. We thought that it might have a sharp, radish-y flavor, but, no, the radish greens pesto is quite good. Milder-tasting than with basil, but it still has a lot of flavor because of the pine nuts and Parmesan (don’t skimp; good Parmesan packs a lot of flavor). We think we found a new way to eat radish greens. Four stars, because it always seems like a lot of effort to clean a blender for just a cup of pesto.