Are You Nuts About Pesto?


I'm nuts about pesto. A roving crop of basil, along with a good assortment of nuts to choose from is a pesto party in the making; the possibilities are endless. And this year, my herb garden is bustling with my favorite aromatic herb. Basil varieties like boxwood, Italian, lettuce leaf, Christmas, and Thai are growing happily outside the kitchen windows and next to the heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers in the rooftop garden. 

I even tried my hand at making herb infused compound butters like Christmas (cinnamon) basil and maple syrup. When it comes to pesto, I'm not bias to blending this most beloved herb. I gave cilantro and even the arugula a whirl and the outcome was delicious; cilantro has a bright vibrant flavor, and arugula is spicy, smooth and peppery. I dabbled with almonds for the cilantro pesto (a recipe inspired by my friend Jennifer), walnuts for the arugula pesto, peanuts for the thai basil pesto, and pine nuts for the Italian and lettuce leaf basil pesto (cheese-free option to suffice my good friend Emilio who is on a Paleo diet).

Don't be afraid to experiment with whatever herb or green you may have. Making pesto is very easy, all you need is a handy food processor and your favorite herb. Give these four recipes a spin and I'm sure they will delight folks with the nuttiest of diets.

Pesto Recipes

Italian and Lettuce Basil Pesto

  • 4 cups of "common" basil, washed then dried
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden brown, then cooled.
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, to taste

    note: great for pasta, tomato sandwiches and an omelette


Thai Basil Pesto 

  • 4 cups of Thai basil, washed, then dried
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons of dry roasted peanuts
  • 1.5 tablespoon of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon of crushed pepper
  • pinch of salt and pepper

    note: great for grilled chicken and fish, shellfish, rice and soup.

Cilantro Pesto

  • 4 cups of cilantro, washed, then dried
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of raw almonds, toasted until golden brown, then cooled
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper

    note: great for baked fish, tacos, tomato salad and sandwiches.

Arugula Pesto

  • 4 cups of arugula, washed, then dried
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of walnuts, toasted until fragrant, then cooled
  • 1 cup of pecorino Romano
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper, to taste

    note: great for pasta, tomato salad, sandwiches and bruschetta


For each pesto recipe above the process is the same.

In a food processor purée all ingredients until smooth. Pesto may be made ahead of time and refrigerated. It also freezes well for later use.

How to Make Chive Butter and Oil

I adore my herb garden. I spend a considerable amount of time nurturing the 3- by 11-foot planter bed that sits just outside the kitchen windows. My morning ritual of picking off bugs and dead leaves, running my hands through the oregano and rosemary to release their fragrant aroma, and yes, talking to the plants does not get old. In fact, I find it relaxing, and so does my dog Trixie.

I harvested plenty of herbs for for tea and cooking at the end of summer. Along the way, I learned a valuable lesson to not uproot a perfectly happy pineapple sage—or any plant for that matter—when it is hotter than hell; I dug up and turned the salvia because it looked crooked. Within minutes it wilted and stayed that way for two weeks, I was devastated. The saying, "leave well enough alone" rings so true. By the third week, it made a come back.

It is the last week in October and my herb garden is bustling with lavender, nasturtium, mint, calendula, parsley, lime basil, Christmas basil, Italian basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, pineapple sage, Vietnamese coriander and the subject of this post, chives. My friend Kim Dyla who lives in Southold, N.Y. with her husband Bill on their edible 1/2 acre landscape, inspired me to make flavored vinegars from basil. Kim grows over 150 varieties of plants on her property and makes everything by scratch. The story I wrote about the Dyla's for Edible East End's Fall 2014 Issue can be read here; you may be inspired too.

Besides the infused vinegar made from Christmas and lime basil, I made chive butter (I tried my hand at making homemade butter that is fairly easy to do) and oil. Chives add a nice grassy allium flavor to any dish. Chive butter is great on steak, clams, potatoes, corn on the cob, and fish. Chive oil is a perfect match for pizza, salads, soup, eggs, and bruschetta. Chives are an underused herb, in my opinion, so turn it into something luxurious and silky to spread and pour on everything.

Recipe: Chive Butter


  • 4 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh chives


  1. Pour the cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, process for 10 minutes, or until the butter separates. 
  2. Strain off the liquid (buttermilk) into a small bowl.

    note: you can refrigerate the buttermilk for future use.

  3. Add the chopped chives to the bowl and use the paddle attachment to mix in.

    note: if you do not want to make butter you can use 4 sticks of unsalted butter. At room temperature mash and add the chives.
  4. Spread the butter on plastic wrap and roll the butter into a cylinder inside the plastic wrap. Use a piece of string to tie off the ends.
  5. Keep in refrigerator or freeze for later use.



Recipe: Chive Oil


  • 1 cup of fresh chives
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the chives and blanch for 10 seconds. Drain and transfer to paper towels to remove as much of the water as possible.
  2. Roughly chop the chives and transfer to a food processor or blender. With the machine running, add the oil and salt and process until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate overnight. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing against the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much oil as possible.
  4. Transfer to a jar or squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed.
  5. Bring to room temperature before using.