If you are like me, you probably thought that the greens leftover from your carrots were only good as fodder for your animals, or a direct contribution to the compost pile, but no! Carrot tops can be used as a base green for making pesto. This pesto is both delicious, and a frugal variation that uses sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts and nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese!
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Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment:
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup hemp seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (soaked in water)
- 1/2 - 1 tsp sea salt (add to taste)
- 8 garlic cloves (probably 4 times as many as most people might use :)
- 1/2 cup+ olive oil
- 1 cup sorrel
- 2 or 3 cups carrot tops
- food processor
- mason jar and extra olive oil (optional for keeping pesto fresh in the fridge)
Step 2: Prepare and Measure Out Your Ingredients
I prefer to gather ingredients and prepare them in advance, so that everything is ready to go before starting. This helps confirm that I have enough of everything I need, and/or gives me a chance to identify substitute ingredients. Since I really! don't like to spend any extra time soaking and/or scrubbing off baked on or dried food from dishes, I also try to put things away and clean up as I go, which saves time in the long run and has the added bonus of the kitchen being already clean when the food is ready to be eaten!
Most of the ingredients in this recipe need very little preparation:
- Carrot tops and sorrel should be rinsed after they are harvested, and spun dry in a lettuce spinner or patted dry with a tea towel - you are aiming for clean and not dripping wet.
- Garlic cloves need to be peeled.
- Sunflower seeds need to be measured, and if possible, covered with warm water and left to soak over night or at least a couple of hours. Seeds (and other foods) contain phytic acid which helps to protect the seed, but can make some nutrients more difficult to absorb. Soaking seeds (and nuts) apparently reduces the amount of phytic acid which acts to improve the availability of nutrients. So, if you don't have a lot of time to soak your seeds, just do it as long as you can, a couple of hours will help, over night is good and not soaking at all, well, that is how a lot of people eat their seeds.
- All the other ingredients just needs to be measured.
Step 3: Chop the Garlic
Throw your peeled garlic cloves in a food processor and chop them up into finer pieces by pulsing a few times - they will get pureed later.
If you don't have a food processor, making pesto might be a bit more challenging for you, but I have used a hand held blender and a juice blender in the past and it worked fine. If you are using a less powerful pulverizing machine, you can help yourself by taking advantage of all the hand tools you have that will break up ingredients in advance as much as possible, for example, garlic cloves can be squished with a garlic press before adding them.
Note: I admit, that I love the taste of garlic, so, you may want to reduce the number of cloves a bit, especially if you are planning on spending any time with people who aren't eating this pesto with you!
Step 4: Add More Ingredients
Add the oil, salt, hemps seeds, and nutritional yeast and blend them all up. Puree to your hearts content.
Drain the sunflower seeds and add them next. Continue to blend until you get an even, but still a bit chunky mix - it will get blended more when you add the greens.
Step 5: Adding the Greens
There is no real trick to adding the greens, pack the food processor full, pulsed it a bit until you can fit in more greens and continue to do that, until they all fit.
Blend your pesto mixture for a while and then stop and scrape down the sides. Grab a spoon and scoop out a little taste, to see if it needs a bit more salt. Add salt if needed. If its too thick, add a bit more olive oil.
Repeat this a few times, until you are happy with the taste and texture.
Step 6: Storing Your Pesto
If this is for tonight's dinner, you are good to go!
If you want to keep your pesto on hand for use as a dip or sandwich spread, you can keep it fresh in the fridge for quite a long time.
Fill a mason jar with your fresh pesto (photo 1 & 2) and cover the top surface completely with a layer of olive oil to keep it sealed from oxygen (photo 3). When you want to use some, scoop out what you need through the now solidified layer of oil, and add a topup of olive oil to keep the pesto sealed from oxygen, before returning it to the fridge.
Alternatively, you can fill an ice cube tray with pesto, freeze it, pop out the pesto cubes and store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for easy access.