I have two gardens. One is a small coffee table-sized area outside of my home, and the other is a 4×8 plot in the Avon Community Garden. I am growing quite a bit of delicious veggies like squash, tomatoes, peas, beans, spinach, peppers, lettuce, and eggplant. While most of those veggies have the lovely beginnings of tomatoes, peas beginning to form after their flower, and a couple squash blossoms, the kicker is that nothing is ready yet except for radishes, arugula, spinach, and lettuce.
The only vegetable on that small list that is not regularly thought of as a green is the radish. I am getting tons of the from the garden, which is great! But after the red radish root has been used, I am left with tons, and I mean TONS of radish tops. The gardener in me says, “No, don’t throw them out! They can be used! I grew this all by myself and they MUST be used!”
After perusing the internet for a couple hours and coming up with boring ideas like “sautéed radish greens” and ideas such as “use them as salad greens!” (blech), I have come to the conclusion that one of the more interesting and versatile ways to get them in my belly is through pesto. Good news is that you can make pesto out of virtually anything! I make arugula pesto often because my arugula plant is out of control, and it does very well.
So I set to work. Turns out, radish top pesto is delicious (why wouldn’t it be) and gives the bite and fruitiness that you would not normally get out of, say, a basil pesto.
After I swung by my garden and the produce stand, I conveniently stopped next door at this fabulous restaurant and artisan bread and cheese shop. While there, I bought some manchego cheese. I have never cooked with this cheese before, but its name brought me back to Barcelona, and I gave in. This cheese is wonderfully nutty and slightly salty and slightly softer than a parmesan. That being said, it will be the cheese in my pesto.
Radish Green and Arugula Pesto
Makes about 1/2 cup pesto
1 handful of radish greens and stems(about 2 cups packed fairly firmly)
1/2 cup firmly packed arugula (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/4 small lemon
2 cloves garlic
2 oz manchego cheese, grated or sliced using a vegetable peeler
salt and pepper to taste
dash or two of paprika (optional)
1. Pack your food chopper with as many radish greens as possible and pour in about half the olive oil, just so the radish greens can spin and get chopped. I had to do this in steps as I have a small food chopper. Put in the remainder of the radish greens and the arugula and chop until all the greens are in the food processor. Add olive oil as necessary so the paste can spin in the chopper, but not so much that it is runny. You may need to scrape the sides a couple times in order to incorporate all the greens. The pesto should be thick.
2. Quarter the garlic cloves. Add juice of the lemon, a couple slices of its rind, the sunflower seeds (or nuts of your choice such as cashews, pine nuts, almonds, etc.), garlic cloves, and remainder of olive oil. Process in chopper until just mixed. Add the cheese and process until just mixed.
3. Taste pesto and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Add olive oil until the pesto is creamy but not so much that it is runny. It should be a paste. You can also add in a couple dashes of paprika for the extra kick. I ended up adding about 1/4 teaspoon both salt and pepper and three dashes of paprika.
4. Store pesto in an airtight container and store in the fridge. The pesto stays good for a while, about a week give or take. I used a repurposed glass jar.
Yum! I seriously use this on everything. It is such a flavorful condiment that it spices up almost anything. I use it as a pizza “sauce”, a condiment for simple sandwiches, as a “dressing” for cooked vegetables, in pasta dishes, and more! It is really versatile due to its garlicky flavor, high green content, nutty flavor, saltiness, and slight acidity.
What have you put pesto on recently?