This is my favorite pesto sauce ever.
This time I talk about what to do with the herbs in my garden, how to keep herbs fresh in your kitchen, and this amazing pesto with walnuts, lemon zest and all the herbs in my garden.
It’s the middle of summer and this means all the garden herbs, especially basil plants, are growing in abundance. Living in Tennessee, I discovered I could have an herbal garden year round. Rosemary, sage, pineapple sage, and thyme will grow and provide fresh herbs year round. Basil, chives, parsley and dill are annuals and when planted in the Spring, can be enjoyed for several months. Among all of the herbs for planting, basil is one of the most popular, pairing so well with tomatoes for bruschetta and as the main herb in pesto.
Pesto is typically made with basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. This garden pesto, however, is a creative variation using all the herbs I’ve grown myself, along with toasted walnuts. The garden pesto was inspired by the herbal bouquets I keep in the kitchen. Basil is more delicate than many of the other herbs, and as the leaves quickly grow, they may begin to wilt in hot temperatures. I snip them from the outside, before they begin to flower. Once basil begins to flower, the taste becomes much stronger. herbal bouquet
I discovered the best way for me to keep the basil fresh in the kitchen is to keep it in a watered vase at room temperature. Fresh basil doesn’t last nearly as long in the refrigerator as it does sitting out in vase. Making basil bouquets is one way to use the basil and have it ready for cooking.
Make sure to trim all the leaves off where the stems will touch water. Place in cool water and add in other herbs such as sage and parsley.
I am currently growing basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary, dill, chives, pineapple sage and sage. I use at least one herb in every dish I make.
If you only plant one herb, make it thyme because this herb is fragrant and not overpowering. It works in almost every dish, even some desserts. When planting thyme, cut it back in Spring, so it doesn’t get too woody. It’s hardy and grows well in the South.
Rosemary is an evergreen and can also be grown year round. Simply slip the rosemary off of the stem. Grow in the ground or in pots. Rosemary is strong and a little goes a long way. It pairs wonderfully with thyme and parsley, can be used in cooking, roasting and is great as a finishing herb used fresh right before serving.
Sage is often used in fall dishes and shows up at the Thanksgiving dinner, but it grows all year, multiplies quickly and is hardy. Sage adds earthiness to dishes, especially lamb, pork and chicken, but try frying sage leaves or chopping into vegetables. Use together with rosemary and thyme for a pork roast. I also have a pineapple sage that is sweetly fragrant. Chop it up for any savory dish and remember it for fruit salad. Sage flowers attract hummingbirds and the leaves attract lady bugs, which help to keep unwanted insects away.
Dill is an annual that you will have to plant in the Spring and does well in containers. Dill brightens vegetable and potato dishes, seafood, tuna salad and, of course is used for pickles.
Chives are perennials and once rooted will come back every Spring. Add them at the very end of the dish as heat kills their flavor. Chives also sprout pretty edible purple flowers, which I use to make chive vinegar.
Italian parsley, like thyme, is good in so many different dishes, in cooking and in finishing a dish. The Italian parsley is the flat one, and preferred over curly.
Basil is often found in summery Italian food, especially in making caprese salad, tomato sauce, and basil pesto. It’s a natural pairing for tomatoes, but also is wonderful in fruit salads. It’s planted annually and often right next to tomato plants adding to their flavor and helping to keep insects away. Toss into soups, salads, sauces, or use as a garnish. Add to a watermelon salad or a summer cocktail.
This recipe is a combination of all of the herbs in my garden along with lemon, lemon zest and toasted walnuts. It’s so good because you can actually taste the different herbs. This pesto can be used on toasted bread, pasta, potatoes, fish, chicken, pork and beef. It’s that versatile.
- 2-3 handfuls of basil leaves
- 1 handful of flat Italian parsley
- 2-4 leaves of sage
- ½ teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh dill
- 2-4 sprigs of thyme (remove from stem)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
- lemon juice of ½ lemon
- lemon zest of ½ lemon
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup toasted walnuts
- Put herbs, salt, pepper, lemon juice, walnuts in food processor, adding oil a little at a time, pulsing until the pesto is chunky but mixed well enough to spread. Don’t over mix. Stir in lemon zest at the end.
- Recipe Notes: This can be made with just basil or a mix of basil and parsley. Use the additional herbs if you happen to have them on hand, and only in small amounts. Be sure to chop the chives very fine by hand before adding to the pesto.
- The pesto can sit outside of refrigerator for several hours, but do refrigerate overnight.