March 27, 2016
I want to share this carrot top pesto idea (more of an idea than a recipe) with the world, because it’s been kind of revelatory in my house these last weeks, and I don’t want to let the fact that I don’t have anything revelatory to say keep me from doing so.
Today, we maintained the tradition we started after Shiv was born, of going to see our friends on their beautiful farm to celebrate the day, hiding cascarones and eating ham. I came home two nights ago from a five-day school trip, during which I got to hang out with wonderful colleagues and students, enjoy some gorgeous California weather and meaningful programming, and also, along with most of my colleagues and many students, got sick as a dog. The week before my trip was Spring Break, shared by me and Shiv, which meant lots of adventures and play dates and also the home project of moving Shiv into a new room, complete with new floors (done by Jill), walls painted the color of his choice (done by me), and big-boy bunk beds (because the toddler bed was no longer cutting it!).
And, somehow, it’s almost April.
I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved a few weeks ago, a book I can hardly believe I managed not to read until now, although a part of me knows I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much out of it had it made its way into my life sooner. That novel is astonishing.
Right now, I’m enjoying Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, which is my book club’s selection for this month, suggested by Jill, who read and loved it a few months ago; I was handed down a friend’s copy of The Girl on the Train, which everyone says I shouldn’t start until I’m in a position to be sucked in for a few days…I think I shall reserve it for this coming weekend, as a reward to myself for weathering the return back to school and the grading/planning/emailing/meeting that will accompany it.
The last person I spoke to on the phone is caring for a dying parent; the last person I received an email from is nearly 39 weeks pregnant, waiting for her first child to be born. Those are some appropriate bookends, seeing how it’s Easter and all.
CARROT TOP PESTO
Sometimes Jill comes home from class on Mondays with a big box filled with beautiful, homegrown veggies from her student Will, who just happens to be a very generous master gardener. Last time he sent some lovely carrots, and in my desire not to waste a single thing that he had grown and given, I decided it was the time to try carrot top pesto, which I’d heard of as an idea but never eaten. The result was so successful that I’ve made it twice since; neither time was it a precise, scientific endeavor, so what I’ll offer here is more method than recipe—but pesto is forgiving, and fiddle-able, so I hope you’ll still give it a go.
The first time I made this, I used a handful of basil leaves as the “accent” herb; tonight, I used flat-leaf parsley from the garden, because our basil is in sad-awful shape. Both ways were tasty, though I think I prefer the flavor the basil adds, if you have or can get some.
One last note about this method—the almond butter seems really weird, I know, but it TOTALLY WORKS. I saw the idea on The Faux Martha and decided to give it a whirl with the first batch of carrot top pesto I made a few weeks ago since, honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to be very good. Shows what I know, right? The almond butter adds body, creaminess, and, duh, nuttiness, and it’s genius because I always have a container of almond butter in the fridge, whereas pine nuts are so dang expensive that I never buy them. So—almond butter in your pesto, my new favorite kitchen hack.
greens from one bunch of carrots, blanched* (remove the leaves from the stems if you can, but don’t be too finicky about it)
a handful of basil, flat-leaf parsley, or another fresh herb of your choice
1-2 T almond butter (start with 1 T and judge as you go)
1-2 cloves garlic, depending on your preference
Parmesan, if you have it
Whir it all up in a food processor, tasting and adjusting for flavor/texture as you go. Some people like their pesto more runny, which means more olive oil. Some people prefer theirs more chunky, which means less olive oil. If you’re adding Parmesan, hold back on the salt.
Once prepared, the pesto will keep for about a week in the fridge, much longer in the freezer. We like to use it on pizzas, in lieu of sauce, or, our latest thing is dicing Yukon Golds, roasting them in the oven with olive oil & a little salt, then tossing them with the pesto when they come out of the oven. Pesto is also a friend of pasta, of course, either hot or cold!
*To blanch the carrot tops, wash them thoroughly first, removing any brown or yellow parts. Set a colander in the sink and a bowl half-full of ice water to the side of the sink. Bring salted water to boil in the pot of your choice (making sure you’ve got enough clearance that the water won’t spill over when you add the carrot tops). Once it’s boiling, use tongs to add the carrot tops, pushing the greens below the surface and allowing them to hang out in the water for a minute or two until they are bright green. When they’re ready, dump the greens out into the colander, then immediately plunge them into the ice water to keep them from cooking any further. At this point, you can dry and refrigerate the carrot tops to use later, or you can go ahead and make your pesto.
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