Two of my favorite vegetables to roast and nibble in the late winter and early spring months are beets and fennel. They’re such beautiful foods and require so little by way of seasoning – just a light toss in olive oil, a sprinkling of salt, pepper and some spices and I am one happy little rabbit.
Beets and fennel, however, come with a lot of “extra” parts. In their natural (and cheapest!) form, beets come attached to gorgeous deep red stems and large green leaves often marbleized with a red hue. Fennel bulbs are accompanied by proud stalks and fragrant feathery fronds. How to turn this excess into an exciting bonus?
I’ve experimented with deviations from the standard basil-based pesto and thought, well, these things are green. That could work.
It totally worked!
Aside from briefly cooking the beet greens, you pretty much just toss everything into the food processor.
What you’ll need:
Beet greens from 1 bunch beets, stems separated from leaves (you’ll use both parts)
Stalks and fronds from 1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
A few leaves of fresh basel or about 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Olive oil (quantity depends on desired consistency)
Lemon juice from 1 lemon
Splash of vinegar (I used ume plum vinegar)
Handful walnuts, almonds, or some other nut (traditional pesto calls for pine nuts)
Garlic powder, coarse sea salt and fresh-fracked black pepper, all to taste
Optional frugal flavor bonus: toss in those crumbled bits of kale chips at the bottom of the bag
Medium pot, some water, colander to drain beet greens, food processor
What you do:
1. Bring a with couple cups of water to a boil (enough to cover the beet stems and leaves).
2. Add the beet stems for a few minutes – these are tougher and take longer to cook than the greens.
3. Leave the stems in and add the beet greens to the pot. Let everything cook together for a couple of minutes.
4. Once stems are soft and leaves are bright green, drain and rinse them in cold water. Let cool before adding to food processor.
While the beet greens are cooling:
5. In food processor, add fennel stalks (maybe 2 full stalks) and as many fronds as you like, and everything except the olive oil and beet greens.
6. Blend to combine.
7. Add olive oil to smooth it all out.
I enjoyed this pesto with some quinoa and roasted veggies for dinner this week, and I’ve since enjoyed it as a dip for carrots, radishes and cucumbers!
The basic formula of pesto – greens (typically basil leaves), additional herbs and seasoning, nuts, lemon juice and maybe an additional acidic ingredient like vinegar (and of course you can add traditional parmesan if you like!) – can be used to make so many things taste delicious. Let me know what you experiment with!