I always get so excited when the spring greens at my favorite store start getting their “Local” labels. These greens usually sneak up on me, but oddly, the weird early spring/summer got me in the right frame of mind this year. I was ready for the first locally grown bundle of spinach.
This particular bundle, which was probably grown in a greenhouse or cold frame, had developed way beyond the tender “baby” spinach stage that’s so wonderful for early spring salads. The leaves were kind of thick and gnarly and weren’t quite delicate enough to simply dress and eat with a fork. So I pureed them with some chives from my own herb garden (!), a splash of lemon, and the usual suspects (walnuts, Parmesan, olive oil) to make a lovely emerald green pesto.
This was a really nice pesto that went quite well with some rustic (very rustic) free-form pasta that I made. It was also delicious spread on some toasted baguette slices. The spinach, chives and lemon really are quite a nice combination. The chives are relatively subtle, giving it just a bit of oniony back note. (You might be able to replace them with scallion tops, which would probably be a little stronger.) The lemon juice helps to brighten the taste of the spinach, and the other flavors in the mixture are allowed to come through and play their respective parts.
This Spinach-Chive Pesto is a delightful bright green, and unmistakably pesto in form and function. Unlike basil pesto, it keeps its greenness even when stored for a couple days and doesn’t turn brown. The spinach leaves also provide a green that is not so strong in flavor as basil pesto or arugula pesto or radish leaf pesto. If you (or your kids) find those stronger greens a bit too much for the palate, Spinach-Chive Pesto might just be the way to go.
Besides, my little bed of radishes in the backyard is just coming up, my arugula won’t be ready to cut for a couple weeks, and I haven’t even considered where I’m going to plant my basil. The spinach, however, is ready and waiting in the market. Spring is here, and the pesto can be, too!
Based on recipes in Cooking Light and Bon Appetit magazines
You could use pine nuts in place of the walnuts, or even leave them out entirely.
2 heaping cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1. Place the spinach, chives, Parmesan, walnuts, salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is coarsely pureed, scraping down the sides occasionally to incorporate all the ingredients.
2. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil (through the top opening of the processor) and process until smooth. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Makes about ¾ to 1 cup (I’m not sure about this measurement, but there should be enough pesto to dress at least a pound of pasta.) Serve over pasta with additional Parmesan or wherever else you like to serve pesto.
Other recipes like this one: Basic Basil Pesto, Radish Leaf and Peanut Pesto, Arugula Pesto with Kalamata Olives
One year ago: Cabbage Slaw with Feta and Olives
Two years ago: Chicken and Vegetable Tetrazzini