Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

May 4, 2014

Radish Leaf Pesto

During the spring and summer, I often make my own pestos. Store bought varieties tend to have an oxidized taste, too much oil, or (IMO) the wrong combination of ingredients. Since I am fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of inexpensive fresh produce, I enjoy experimenting with new dishes, focusing on economy (both money, and making the most of each ingredient). A lover of basil (who isn't??), I typically make basil pesto. 

Recently, I bought a few bunches of beautiful spring radishes (some of which I used in a Thai cucumber salad). To make the radishes last, I snipped them off their stems and refrigerated them in a container filled with cold water. 

Just before I tossed the greens into the compost bin, I had an epiphany. Why not use the leaves in something? Knowing that some veggie extras are inedible, I did a quick Google search, and got the "green" light to proceed. I tasted a leaf. It Not bitter, not sweet, just sort of grassy and fresh. Because the leaves have sort of a neutral taste, I decided to toast up some pistachios to give the pesto a nutty flavor, as well as a little crunch. Other than that, I stuck to the usual pesto ingredients: olive oil, salt & pepper, parmigiano reggiano, and a little lemon juice. 

The result (as you can see above) was a vibrant pesto, that not only tasted bright and lovely, but kept its green color and freshness after several days in the fridge. Considering that a bunch of radishes costs about 50 cents, this radish leaf pesto is a great way to stretch your dollars, while adding a tasty and healthy touch to your meals. 
Look for radishes with fresh, green, undamaged leaves. Farmers' markets or stores with high turnover are your best bet. Whenever possible, buy organic, or ask where and how the radishes were grown. Obtaining a Certified Organic label is very time-consuming and expensive. Many farmers grow clean produce, without an organic seal of approval. 
Greens from 2 bunches of fresh radishes
About 1/3C of shelled pistachios (Trader Joe's 50% less salt, or Whole Foods bulk are good choices)
Olive or Grapeseed oil
Parmigiano Reggiano (Trader Joe's and Costco have great prices)
Kosher salt, & pepper
Lemon Juice 

In a dry pan, toast the shelled pistachios until they're golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool. 
Toasted pistachios
Remove the stems, and float the radish leaves in a large bowl of cold water. Gently push the greens under the surface of the water every so often. The dirt will settle to the bottom of the bowl. (We're in a drought! You can use "dirty" water on your plants, or to flush your commode. Pouring sandy water down the sink can lead to clogging.) 

Either spin the leaves in a salad spinner, or place them in a clean kitchen towel, wrap up the corners, and give it a few shakes to dry the leaves a bit. (Slightly wet leaves will help produce a smooth pesto.)  

Add the leaves to a blender, food processor, or my favorite go-to, the Mini Prep. Sprinkle about 1/4t of kosher salt (you can always add more later), some fresh ground pepper, the pistachios, the cheese, and drizzle over a few tablespoons of oil. Pulse the blender or processor at first, then let it go for a few seconds. Scrape down the sides, and repeat. If the pesto looks chunky, but a little dry, add some more oil. Once it starts to resemble a pesto, stop the machine and taste. Add a little lemon juice, and adjust the seasoning. Give it one more blend, then transfer the pesto to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed (up to 3 days), or serve immediately. 

My beloved Mini-Prep holds 3C of goodness, has a reversing smartblade, and only cost about $35. It has a ton of uses. Check out the link for color options, more info, and a brief instructional video from the good people at Cuisinart. 

Other than a sauce for pasta, pesto can be used on potatoes, as a spread on a sandwich, or however you like. 

Make & Freeze
You can also prepare and freeze a pesto for later use. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop them out and store them in freezer bags. The cubes defrost easily, and are great to keep around for dinner "emergencies". 

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