I know what you are thinking, garden scraps can’t possibly make a delicious sauce. But I will prove you wrong! They sure can! And it is a sauce that is well known – pesto! Pesto displays a vibrant green color and packs a powerful punch of flavor with the toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. But let’s not forget where the green color comes from.
Pesto is generally thought of as a “basil pesto”, because the brunt of the sauce utilizes basil. While basil certainly delivers a great flavor to the sauce, and most times grows abundantly in a garden, it is not always readily available for everyone. Unfortunately, I do not have a yard at my current residence, and therefore cannot sustain a garden. Sure, I could get an indoor herb garden and grow basil, but most likely my cat would enjoy the herbs before I get my hand on them. Therefore, I stick to purchasing my food ingredients from the store.
Basil is fairly cheap to buy, but on my budget (mounds of student loans since I JUST graduated from graduate school), means that I need to be extra savvy at shopping. I love purchasing fresh vegetables, and although these are more expensive then frozen vegetables, I am willing to allocate these extra funds to this purchase.
Now, let’s get to the point of this article. How exactly do I use scraps to make pesto? Easy! I purchase fresh red beets or fresh carrots and get a 2-for-1 deal. The green part of the red beets and carrots can be used in place of the basil to make pesto. Not only that, pesto is one of those sauces that can easily be made and frozen for later use. After I make pesto, I freeze the pesto in ice cube trays, allowing for individual portions. I take these out of the ice cube tray and put them in a freezer safe ziploc bag for later use. And of course the fresh vegetables that I purchased are used as my vegetable for a meal!
Let’s quick talk about nutrition before you check out the recipe. There are a number of different sauces out there – tomato, alfredo, vodka, all sorts of salad dressings, barbecue sauce, ketchup, etc. When I think of pesto, I classify it with the spaghetti sauces – tomato, alfredo, vodka sauce. That’s just where my brain feels it belongs. The latter two sauces, alfredo and vodka are based off of a heavy cream base. Heavy cream is far from healthy, due to the amount of saturated fat in it. Tomato sauce certainly packs a punch of nutrients with the amount of tomatoes. A lot of tomato sauces have an addition of sugar, which most don’t realize. Next time you are in the grocery store, look at the label of a can of spaghetti sauce. You may be surprised! Regardless, tomato sauce is still a nutritious sauce.
Pesto is high in calorie – mainly due to the parmesan cheese and olive oil. However, it still provides nutrients from the greens that it is made of, and is a better alternative than alfredo sauce. The important thing to note is PORTION control. Since this recipe already portions out the pesto in ice cube trays, you are set to go! Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin K which helps with blood clotting. Those of you who are on blood thinners, most likely have been told to avoid greens for this very reason! They are also abundant in beta-carotene which is an important anti-oxidant that helps to fight what are called free radicals in the body. Free radicals are thought to contribute to cancer and heart disease. They also provide vitamin C, copper, manganese, fiber, calcium, vitamin E and magnesium, plus they are low in fat and cholesterol. Need I say more?
Garden Scrap Pesto
2.5 cups of greens (from either red beets or carrots)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
- In a food processor, finely chop the greens.
- While these are chopping place pine nuts in a single layer on a sheet tray and place in an oven at 350F. Toast for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Add toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic to chopped greens. Blend in food processor.
- Slowly add olive oil until it is all incorporated. Sauce will be slightly thick.
- Portion out sauce into ice cube trays. Then freeze for 1 hour.
- Once frozen, remove pesto “cubes” from tray and put in freezer bag. Pesto “cubes” should remove with ease due to the olive oil in the sauce.
- Enjoy on chicken, fish, pasta, or as a sandwich spread!