One of the best ways to preserve the fresh flavors of herbs is to create a pesto.

While my plants appreciated the rain this summer, we could have done without the flooding throughout the city.

The herbs I started this season are springing up to their mature heights. I’ve got a couple varieties of basil, mint, parsley and even tender marjoram.

Chef Aaron Egan

With any amount of basil growing in your garden, let alone any other fresh herbs, you’re always presented with a huge amount of greenery to harvest. One of the best ways to preserve the fresh flavors of these herbs is to create a pesto. 

While the classic Pesto Genovese contains Genovese basil, extra virgin olive oil, two grainy grating cheeses (parmigiano and pecorino), pine nuts, garlic and salt, there are other variations that can be explored, and the fundamental basic combination of oil and fresh herbs is the key.

Basic Pesto Recipe

  • 2 cups fresh herb leaves, packed in snugly
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt + fresh black pepper to taste

Additionally, you can add:

  • ¼ cup lightly toasted nuts (try blanched almonds if you’re allergic to tree nuts like me)
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano (or other piquant aged, grated cheese)

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth and well combined.

2. Transfer to an airtight storage container; use promptly.

3. To prepare container; seal tightly.

Versatile Pesto

A classic basil pesto will be delicious on pasta as a simple dish or as a component on a larger plate; it’s also an excellent complement to fresh tomatoes from your garden. 

Parsley pesto is delicious on dishes with dark, rich flavors for a bright finish, especially around Passover. 

Cilantro pesto, fortified with a little lime juice, brings the flavor for Mexican dishes — or, together with lemon juice, it isn’t out of place in the Sephardi culinary repertoire.

Mixing your herbs up is also always good: Basil pesto can be stretched and amplified with some amount of parsley (¼ or ⅓ of the total herb amount, for a start); and a pesto of fine herbs (parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon) brings intensely French flavors to the plate. Experiment and preserve the fresh tastes of summer for later enjoyment. 

Chef Aaron blogs about his garden on the Facebook page of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. Reprinted with permission.

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