When I think of spring, I think of crispy asparagus, radishes and light pasta dishes tossed with fresh herbs
and lemon. It’s an exciting time for cooks to transition from comforting meals to fresh dishes that nourish while also gently cleansing and resetting your digestive and immune systems. 

Spring Cooking 

Now that our bodies are coming out of hibernation mode, we are thirsty for foods that pack lots of water   and are light and tasty. And for that reason, spring cooking is something I definitely look forward to every year. So, it’s time to start working our way into the warmer days of the year and focus on cooking with the food that spring gifts us. 

When you cook with the seasons, you get the best value for your grocery money. Fresh vegetables and fruits help us shrug off the heaviness of colder months. 

Spoiler alert: I’ve just completed an assignment for the next issue of Brick & Elm, and one of the shining stars is a gorgeous fresh pesto.

I must confess, I make a batch of pesto every single week because I have to have it for toast, salad dressings, spreads for sandwiches and paninis, soups, and I could go on and on. It’s so versatile and divine. How do I not get tired of it week after week? I switch out the nuts and cheeses! My favorite combination, as of late, is pistachios and asiago. 

Three Secrets for Great Pesto

There are three secrets to great pesto: using the freshest ingredients, making it by hand and doing it with passion. This means using fresh basil leaves that are vibrant green and aromatic, high-quality Parmesan or pecorino cheese, good-quality pine nuts or walnuts, and fresh garlic. Avoid using wilted basil or stale nuts and cheese, as these can negatively impact the flavor and overall quality of your pesto.

Making pesto by hand rather than using a food processor can make a noticeable difference in the final taste and texture. Hand-chopping the basil leaves, garlic, and nuts allows you to control the consistency and ensures that the flavors blend harmoniously. It also prevents over-processing, which can lead to a paste-like texture rather than a slightly coarse and vibrant pesto. If you have a mortar and pestle, you can really connect with your ingredients and process them by hand. You’ll appreciate the effort! But, of course, don’t sweat it if you don’t. (No one will shame you for using a food processor.)

The third secret is to approach the process with passion and attention to detail. Take time to carefully select and prepare each ingredient, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as you go. Infuse your pesto-making with love and enthusiasm, as this can truly elevate the final result. Remember, cooking is not just about following a recipe, but also about putting your heart into the dish.

Traditional pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan Reggiano, pecorino, olive oil, and sea salt. As I mentioned before, I like to break the rules and experiment with different nuts and cheese. However, I do love everything about staying true to recipes and their cultural authenticity. For a vegan option, simply leave out the cheese and add nutritional yeast for a dash of cheesy flavor.   

I won’t spill the beans about how we used pesto in the magazine, but here’s a recipe for a beautiful pasta salad. This very addictive salad is one of my favorites, and can serve as a meal or a side dish. 

Keep an eye out for my latest “Kitch” feature in the May/June issue, for the best pesto recipe you’ve ever tried! 

Pesto Farfalle Salad
Serves 4 to 6 

Your choice of pesto 
1 box bowtie pasta or gluten-free pasta 
Olive oil (optional) 
Kosher salt and black pepper 
Fresh dill 
2 fresh corn cobs or 1 bag of frozen corn 
Sugar snap peas, left whole or sliced thin 
1 bunch of red or purple grapes 
¼ cup each of rice wine vinegar and orange juice
1/8 cup olive oil
Food processor 
Rubber spatula 
Small and large bowls 

Prepare pesto and cook the pasta according to package directions. Set aside the pasta to cool. 

Place pasta and a few heaping tablespoons of pesto into a large bowl. Add in salt, pepper, dill, corn kernels and grapes. 

Whisk together red wine vinegar and orange juice, then drizzle onto the pasta. Gently toss with your fingers until fully incorporated. Adjust seasoning and vinegar mixture to taste. 

Author

  • Ruthie Martinez

    Ruthie owns Black Fig Food catering and is proprietor of the online cooking platform Elevated Plant Plate. Learn more at blackfigfoodprograms.com and blackfigfood.com.

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