Radish Leaf Pesto

Radish Leaf Pesto

Radish leaf pesto.  Sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?  Last year when radishes were in season I learned that the leaves of radishes are completely edible.  I thought that this was great news.  I love radishes, and I like green leafy things.    (n.b. I have to totally disagree with the Texas A&M Ag Department that they aren’t very palatable.  They must be picky eaters!)  Now, wherever I stumbled upon that bit of radish trivia suggested sauteing the leaves with garlic.  That sounded OK to me, but I thought that a great thing to do with a bitter leafy green would be pesto.  The nuttiness and creaminess of the pesto would contrast with the bitter leaves nicely, I figured.  Arugula pesto is delicious; why not radish leaf?

Now, when I picked up radishes at the farmer’s market, I knew that this time I would eat the leaves in pesto.  I also happened to have some garlic scapes.  I thought that the fresh, green, and strong garlic flavor of the scapes would really bring flavor to the pesto in a way that would stand up to the boldness of the radish leaves.

As I had several questions regarding scapes after posting my Asparagus and Garlic Scape Tart, I thought I would provide a little info regarding the scapes.  Garlic scapes are the flower stems that shoot up from garlic as it begins to mature.  Much as an herb gardener snips off flowers to keep herbs flavorful and in season longer, garlic gardeners snip off the scapes to force a longer maturing period in the garlic.  This produces garlic with better flavor and longer bulbs.  The side benefit of this is the tender green scapes.  They are full of garlic flavor.  All scapes differ in flavor, and some are stronger than others.  They cook much like asparagus, so they roast and grill well.  They can also be used to add a green, garlic flavor to other foods.  Like pesto. Garlic scape pesto as a standalone dish would be very good, too.

In addition to using the radish leaves and the garlic scapes in this dish, I veered from my usual choice of pine nuts for the pesto.  Pine nuts are delicate and sweet.  I wanted something a little earthier and nuttier that enhance these deep flavors better. I chose hazelnuts, and I think they worked beautifully.  Walnuts would be good here also.  You could use regular garlic in place of the scapes, should those not be available.  Just chop up a few cloves and add them to the food processor.  Whatever you do, though, don’t toss out those radish leaves!  Their peppery, bitter flavor produces great pesto.

I’m submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging #187, hosted by Katie of Eat This.  Eat those radish greens!

Radish Leaf Pesto

  • 1 C radish leaves, stems removed
  • 1/4 C garlic scapes, chopped
  • 2 T marjoram, oregano, basil, or parsley
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 C chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • fat pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 C extra virgin olive oil

Run your knife through the radish greens to chop them up a bit.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the radish leaves, garlic scapes, your choice of the herbs, lemon juice, nuts, salt, and pepper. Pulse everything once or twice.  Slowly drizzle in 1/2 C of extra virgin olive oil into the food processor while pulsing constantly.  Remove the lid, and check the flavor.  Season with more salt if necessary.  Pulse the pesto with more oil if you desire a creamier flavor.  If serving with pasta, thin the pesto with a splash of pasta cooking water before tossing with the pasta.  Best served with farfalle or penne.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto.

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Asparagus and Garlic Scape Tart with Polenta Crust

Asparagus Tart

Last weekend I found myself in Blacksburg, VA on Saturday morning, with a long drive ahead of me back to West Point.  I decided to check out their farmers’ market so I wouldn’t miss out on a week of local shopping.  It was quite possibly the best market I have been to.  After making the rounds at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, I ended up with a huge bounty of beautiful produce to take home, and we only went $2 over our $20 spending limit!  (I have to impose spending limits at the market, or else I will buy more food than we can eat before it spoils).  Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, rhubarb, butter lettuce, asparagus, garlic scapes, radishes, herbs– I couldn’t believe what I came away with.  I knew I would use these foods to concoct a meal for this year’s One Local Summer challenge.

Now, I have to admit I cheated a bit with the meal.  Generally, the meals are restricted to only local foods with spices, oils, vinegars, and things of that nature also allowed.  I am a little fuzzy on the rules for dry goods, but as I had them filling my pantry, I decided I would go ahead and use them.  After my Anadama Bread, I have a lot of polenta left, so I wanted to use it.  You can use any polenta recipe you like to make this tart crust.  The polenta is full of flavor and adds texture to the recipe, bringing a richness to the tart.  This plays off the green flavors of the asparagus and garlic scapes, which are slowly roasted in the oven as the tart cooks.  This tart is a simple concotion, but it bursts with spring flavors.  It’s a great way to show off new produce!

Asparagus and Garlic Scape Tart with Polenta Crust

for the polenta crust:

  • 1 C polenta
  • 1/2 C chicken stock (veggie stock to make it vegan)
  • 2 1/2 C water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (or a blend of rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, and oregano)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

for the tart filling

  • 1/2 lbs of fresh asparagus
  • 1/2 lbs of garlic scapes
  • 1 onion
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Start by cooking the polenta.  Bring the water and stock to a boil.  Slowly pour in the polenta while whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Season the polenta with the salt, Italian seasoning, and peppers.  Reduce the temperature on the polenta so that it is barely simmering.  Cook, stirring very frequently for one hour.  Be careful, as the polenta will have a tendency to bubble and pop, and it will be very hot and sticky!  After an hour, remove the polenta from the heat and let it cool a bit.  You may drizzle in some olive oil or add some butter if you’d like.  Spray a tart pan with spray oil.  When the polenta is cool enough to handle, spread it about 1/4 inch thick on the bottom of a tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press polenta up the sides of the pan, as well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the crust until you are ready to bake the tart– up to one day.  You can also double the polenta recipe and use half for the tart crust and the rest for another recipe.

When you are ready to begin preparing the tart, preheat your oven to 425º.  Remove the crust from the refrigerator, dock the bottom with a fork, and lightly drizzle olive oil on the crust.  Bake until the crust is golden and crispy– about 25 minutes.

While the tart crust bakes, trim the tough ends from the asparagus.  Cut all asparagus to roughly the same length.  Then, cut the garlic scapes to match.  Toss with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.  Slice the onion into thin half moons.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet, and saute the onion until it is very clear and translucent, and just beginning to caramelize– about 10 minutes.  Remove the onion from the heat.

After you remove the tart crust from the oven, fill the tart with the onion.  Arrange the garlic scapes on top of the of onion in a circle.  Then, layer the asparagus on top of that with the tips facing the same direction.  Bake the tart at 425º for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350º and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.  The tart will be a little tricky to slice, so use a sharp knife and have something to lift it out of the pan.

Serves 6 as part of a meal, or 2-3 as a standalone dish.

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