Tuesday, June 12, 2012

it's the balm!

Hydrangea in bloom to decorate the table, radishes harvested to decorate the salad.

Outdoor dining is here at last. The balmy late days of spring are perfect for enjoying  extended sunlight and the profusion of leafy enticements.

Tender greens are now readily available - I can plunder my own garden for new growth and actually begin to put a meal together from some humble backyard plants.

Garden pesto is a versatile use of just about any edible leafy green and tender herb.

My patch of backyard lemon balm is huge this year. It grows easily and spreads where ever it has a place to go. By mid-summer the leaves are spotty and crisp, not very appetizing, but right now the plant is ever so delectable! I tuck a sprig or two into my iced tea and tear up the smallest leaves to go into salads.  It had never occurred to me to use lemon balm as the base of a pesto, but with the profusion of growth and my basil still barely inches high I decide to give lemon balm a spin in the food processor to see how it would come out.
To add a little dimension to the pesto I included some chives, sorrel, mint and oregano, seeking out the smallest and softest leaves I could harvest. The pesto was so good! I half expected the lemon balm to taste soapy or too perfumey but the young leaves gave a pleasant green bite with the barest hint of lemon.
Night one, I mixed the pesto with spaghetti and roasted peppers. It looked so pretty and tasted great! Night two, I made it for friends and served it over Israeli couscous, adding some grilled vegetables. The two pickiest eaters at the table both announced it "really good" so please don't share this recipe with them because if they knew what was in it (green stuff and cheese) they would never have tried it in the first place.

Garden Pesto with Israeli Couscous & Grilled Vegetables
For the pesto:
2 cups of fresh herbs or leafy greens-any mix of basil, mint, sorrel, chives, lemon balm, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, spinach, arugula, young kale, chard
2 Tbs. walnuts, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt

-put all ingredients in food processor and blend till smooth

For the couscous:
1 cup of Israeli couscous
1 Tbs olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
In a sauce pan heat the oil and toast the couscous, stirring for about five minutes. Add the water and the salt, cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for ten minutes. Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork.

For the grilled Vegetables:
1 cup of carrots sliced thin
1 cup of zucchini sliced thin
1 cup of bell peppers sliced into strips
2 Tbs olive oil
- toss vegetables with the oil and lay over a hot grill. Cook on each side till vegetables get some grill marks. They can be crispy. Take vegetables off the grill and chop into bite sized pieces if they are large.

Combine the pesto with the couscous and vegetables. Can be served hot or cold.

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