Wilted Greens Pesto – Waste Not, Want Not
I admit it! I have wilted greens at the bottom of my crisper drawer. I’m extremely frugal and hate waste! Especially food waste. But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to avoid some greens that don’t get used before they are too old for salads or other dishes.
To the rescue: Pesto! I had no idea pesto could be made from almost any variety of wilted greens, not just basil. Leftover kale, spinach, parsley and even lettuce. I found a variety of recipes and decided to try it on some very wilted romaine lettuce leaves which you can see in the picture. Now that I’ve started, I see lots of possibilities for a variety of combos too.
Below is the first recipe I tried (an amalgam of several I found). I like the extra spicy homemade mustard I had on hand, but would probably cut back to 2 tablespoons if I use this the next time. Maybe add a clove or two of garlic. I also plan to try some grated parmesan in it sometime as does the classic basil pesto. Or grated almonds which would make it vegan and a bit more interesting texture. I also plan to try with a mixture of greens since I often have a variety of leftovers in my crisper. The sharpness of arugula or kale should pair nicely with the blandness of lettuce, I think.
How to use? Dips come to mind – a way to use up stale baguettes, sliced into crostinis and lightly browned with a spritz of olive oil on stovetop or in oven. Or an easy pasta dish, tossing with just-cooked spaghetti or fettucine and a sprinkling of parmesan on top. Of course, use as a topping for any kind of burger or condiment for a meat dish too. And I think this might make an easy lunch or side dish of cannellini and/or black beans topped with the pesto.
Suggestion: Freshly made pesto has a short refrigerator life, about a week. So plan your use around the preparation of the pesto.
Wilted Greens Pesto
Makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups
1 quart (packed full) of dry and torn lettuce leaves (see note above about substitutions}
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped onion (or shallots)
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish or chopped sweet pickles
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt to taste
In a large skillet, crisp lettuce leaves in 4 tablespoons of hot oil. This is to remove residual moisture and coat the lettuce leaves with oil (about 3-4 minutes). Remove lettuce leaves from heat and cool completely in refrigerator.
In the same skillet, add the remaining oil and cook the onions until just translucent. Cool completely.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor or using an immersion blender in a deep jar, process until chunky but blended. Then add greens and onions and process until a creamy consistency. Scrape into refrigerator jar, stir in salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon), cover and chill. Pesto will keep about 1 week in refrigerator.