The ribbing in my household over my statement that I have rarely met a vegetable I didn’t want to roast is rivaled only by my interest in pesto. I mean “pesto” in the generic sense of a mix of ingredients that is pounded. The word comes from the Latin “pinsere,” which led to various iterations and ended in the word pesto, plus variations. Variations include “pestle,” the object used in a mortar to crush the greens. Well, that briefly sums the origins of the idea, and begs the questions of pesto’s being associated only with basil.
I of course make pesto made from basil, the most common iteration, but also from arugula, garlic scapes, dandelion, dill, parsley, cilantro, lovage, you name it, and in the spring, radish greens. I lightly puree herbs and other raw greens to keep in little paper tubes in the freezer over winter, but when spring comes, I crave the freshest greens served raw and only lightly dressed. I do not, contrary to tradition, see oil as a major ingredient in my pesto. I like it well chopped but slightly rough, complemented by garlic when appropriate, nuts to thicken, a little salt maybe, possibly some citrus zest and/or grated cheese, and enough oil to bind but not to overwhelm. Micro salad. Here, with well washed and tender radish greens, I used only a couple of walnuts, a little walnut oil, a tad of garlic, a pinch of salt (another over used ingredient in most pesto) and a few sprigs of mint. In retrospect, I would have preferred green garlic to the tiny clove.
Served with whole wheat spaghetti and thin crispy sliced radish bulbs, this was a delicious and refreshing spring meal. The pesto would also be delicious with steamed new potatoes.
Pesto of Radish Greens, Mint and Walnuts
Greens from 1 bunch of very fresh young radishes (1 – 1 ½ c)
8 medium large mint leaves (I used spearmint)
1 tbsp fresh walnuts
2 tsp walnut oil
Optional: 1 tsp vegetable oil or light olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp or less)
¼ – ½ tsp salt
1/3 – ½ lb whole wheat spaghetti, cooked and tossed in a little olive oil and salt
2-3 radish bulbs, very thinly sliced
Whole mint leaves
Carefully wash and dry the greens, picking them over to select the most tender leaves. A few tender stems are fine. Place the greens (which can be slightly damp) in a food processor with the mint, walnuts, oil, garlic and salt, and process until well chopped. Add a little more oil if necessary.
Toss with warm spaghetti and garnish with thinly sliced radishes and mint leaves. Or with steamed new potatoes.