Using Veggies Trimmings for Pesto


Spring was late, and as such my typical spring crops of spinach and lettuce were delayed or totally non-existent. Even the reliably early zucchini has been slow to produce. Other than some late lettuce, a few radishes and some strawberries that haven’t made it back to the kitchen, I’m harvested very little from the gardens so far this year.

That doesn’t mean we have been idle in the kitchen, however. We have managed to find bits and pieces in the gardens to bring back and whip up into something delicious. And it’s all come from trimmings.

Last fall we found a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine for something called Fridge-Dive Pesto. The recipe caught our attention with this introductory description:

“This pesto pasta recipe is the solution for any leftover hardy green, lettuce, or herb you don’t know what to do with. Cleaning out your fridge has never been so rewarding!”

In fall one definitely has more glorious greens than one knows what to do with, for sure. For those who just can’t bare to throw out quickly fading greens and herbs, making a pesto is a delicious, no-brainer solution.

The same concept can be applied to the late spring garden just as well as the fall refrigerator. When it comes time to thin my rows of lettuces, kale, chard, radishes, etc. sown as seeds, I have a wonderful harvest of still-good and nutritious greens. Same thing goes for when I trim back my overly vigorous oregano plant—no sense in wasting some really great flavor, right? And this year I find myself awash in “rogue” fennel seedlings popping up in my garden thanks to my garden neighbor’s over-abundant fennel last year. If after thinning and trimming and pulling I find I don’t have enough greens and herbs to make the Fridge-Dive Pesto, I will harvest some still-young chard or kale leaves.

The best thing about this recipe is the flavor is different each time we make it.

Fridge-Dive Pesto, as published in Bon Appetit magazine.

  • ½ red onion, quartered through root end
  • 8 cups (lightly packed) torn mixed greens and tender herbs
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup grated ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), divided
  • 3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil; plus more for drizzling
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed

Cook onion and mixed greens and herbs in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 2 minutes. Using a spider or tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice water and swish around in the water to cool down as quickly as possible (this helps retain the bright color). Drain and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid, then press between a double layer of paper towels to remove as much remaining liquid as possible. Reserve pot with greens cooking liquid (for cooking pasta, which I’m not including here).

Process ¼ cup sesame seeds in a food processor until finely ground. Add onion and greens mixture and ¼ cup ricotta salata and process until a coarse paste forms. With motor running, stream in 3 tbsp. oil and process, adding water by the tablespoonful if needed to thin, until pesto is very smooth.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add pesto and cook, stirring, until sauce looks like most of the moisture has been cooked out, about 1 minute.

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