Okay, so I’m not a slave to recipes. In fact, most of the time, when I’m in the kitchen, I’m riffing on old themes, drawing from memory of what has worked for me in the past. And I’m trying new things that may have been inspired by something I saw on Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain’s wonderful new show on CNN that is part documentary, part travelogue, part food show. Or, I’m mining my mental databanks for ideas gleaned from my insatiable appetite for reading vintage cookbooks snagged at a variety of thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, library sidewalk sales.
So a couple days ago, I realized that I had a bumper crop of sorrel, a new plant I was trying out in my own backyard garden. Now, I’ve eaten sorrel maybe two or three times at the most in my life. It’s kind of a rare, seasonal, fleeting herbaceous treat usually found in French restaurants and nowhere else. But I thought, I like sorrel. It’s like a delicate, piquant, lemon-heavy spinach. And it’s delicious in soup, with potatoes, and with creamy sauces. Plus, I learned that it is a perennial plant. And I thought, “Why not plant something once and never worry about having to plant it again? That suits my lazy soul.”
So, I had this bumper crop of sorrel, a statement that in the past I was pretty sure I would never say in my life, but now I was saying it. What on Earth was I going to do with it? And then it hit me — pesto. Sure! Why not? I’ve learned from all my reading and watching and thinking about food that anything green and leafy tends to make a tasty pesto. I’ve made the usual basil-pine-nut pesto many times, of course. I’ve made a pesto from parsley and walnuts. So why not sorrel pesto?
I realized I had a whole jar of plump dried pepitas in my kitchen cabinet. These are hulled pumpkin seeds, which reveal a delightful shade of green underneath the usual tough, white hulls swathing whole pumpkin seeds. I toasted about one and a half cups of the pepitas in a dry cast-iron skillet until they were lightly browned and nutty smelling. Be careful not to walk away from the stove, and keep stirring, or things can go from raw to burnt in a flash.
I placed them in my food processor and added two cups of fresh, washed sorrel leaves, about a half teaspoon of Hawaiian alaea sea salt (again, I’m experimenting, and I dig that crazy pink color!), a dash of pepper, and about a 1/4 cup of organic olive oil. I did not add any garlic, although you can if you want something more pungent. Me, I decided to let the lemony sorrel and nutty pepitas shine through without being overwhelmed by the garlic.
I pulsed the whole mix for about ten seconds, to lightly blend. Then I turned the food processor fully on and as the blades turned, I drizzled in about another 1/2 cup of olive oil through the open top.
The result was this grainy, verdant, succulent, nutty-smelling, unctuous, lemony, indescribable mixture. The total recipe produced about 1 1/2 cups of the pesto. All week long, I’ve been spooning some on my morning eggs. I smeared some on top of Copper River wild salmon that turned it ambrosial. And tonight I made organic fusilli pasta and mixed the pesto through. I’m so glad I decided to grow a perennial plant. Now I can enjoy this pesto over and over and over just by walking out to my own garden and harvesting what I need. I hope you’ll either plant your own pesto or seek it out in a store. You’ll be glad you did.