Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Broccoli Pesto

This is the second left-of-center pesto sauce I've made in the last few days.

I've always lamented the loss of so much vegetable whenever I throw out broccoli stems. You can't really use them for stocks and they have a tough, fibrous peel. So I've been brainstorming ideas on how to use them so I don't have to throw away half of the weight of the broccoli, and one of those ideas was this pesto sauce.

I made this specifically to go with Cruciferous Rice and Quinoa, but I imagine it could be used wherever else you might use pesto. It has a much lighter flavor than typical pesto sauces, with bright tones of lemon and raw garlic. I'm imagining it mixed with mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt as a dip for crudites, as a spread on a pita sandwich, or mixed into a hot bowl of plain rice or pasta.

If anyone else has any ideas for how to use broccoli stems, please let me in on your secret!

Broccoli Pesto
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 2-3 broccoli stems, florets removed
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • about 1 cup of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice 
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cut off the ends of the broccoli stems and remove all branches until you have just the stem. Using a sharp knife (be careful!), remove the tough, fibrous outside layer of the stem. The inside should be a very light green color, almost white. You can test whether or not you've gotten off all the tough pieces by pricking them stem with a fork - it will pierce the fibrous skin but will poke into the inner layers easier. Repeat this with all large portions of the branches, using a paring knife if you'd like, discarding ones that are too small to safely cut. Dice the stems into smaller pieces.

Heat a quarter of a cup or so of water in a medium pan and add in the broccoli stems. Cover and steam until they are tender but not mushy - about ten minutes. Remove from heat and chill to room temperature.

Add the chilled broccoli stems, cashews, garlic and spinach to a food processor. Give it a few pulses to chop everything, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Once it is chopped, set the processor to on and stream in the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil through the top. Let mix until a paste forms. If you desire a thinner sauce, add in more lemon juice, olive oil or water or vegetable stock.

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