Lemony Parsley and Mint Pesto
Some people have spacious kitchens. The kind where the counters go on for days and you can spread out an assortment of dishes and bowls every time you need to make something. A space where you could spread out your cookbooks and find inspiration.
This is not my kitchen.
My kitchen is small, the kind that necessitates dish washing as you cook, a continuous cycle of getting rid of one dirty dish to make room for a clean one. The counter is a golden color of smooth wood; when it’s clean you run your hand over it while your thoughts ponder. The pots are stacked on a shelf high above. If I’ve thought ahead about the fact that I am going to cook something, then I’ve cleaned it, making room for culinary creation. But that rarely happens.
This however is not a story of maximizing space, or mastering the art of tiny kitchen cooking. The internet is already full of those. No, this is a story of a love of fresh herbs.
If there is anything that brightens a kitchen, especially a small one, it’s a glass jar filled with a bit of water and stuffed with a bundle of fresh herbs.
It has become a weekly ritual to go to the market and come back with a handful of herbs. Parsley, mint, cilantro, dill. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s green and has a fresh smell. I sometimes have to stop myself from burying my face in the market bag to take it all in.
That is the best part of Saturday; when the market bag is full and I bike back home, concocting recipes in my head to put the fresh produce and herbs to good use. Upon return I fill my recycled glass jars, formerly jam, or yogurt or mustard containers, now with the label diligently scrubbed off, with water and give the bunches of herbs a new home. I stand in the kitchen and look at them. They make this little corner of the apartment come alive.
The sun streams through the southwest facing window. When it hits just right, I can almost imagine myself in a big sunny kitchen in the countryside, with the herbs, grown from seed and picked freshly from the garden. But this is urban living, and for now market herbs will have to suffice.
And just as every Saturday morning involves a market run, it also involves making pesto.
I never use a recipe. It’s a simple process of picking off the leaves of the herbs that I have bought and putting them in the food processor until I know that I have enough. Sometimes it’s mostly parsley with a little bit of mint, sometimes it’s the opposite. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that it’s a beautiful blend of bold herbs and smooth olive oil. A dash of lemon juice helps brighten it, just like the sun that’s streaming through the window.
Spread it on bread. Serve it over polenta. Eat a spoonful out of the jar.
Lemony Parsley and Mint Pesto
About 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
Juice of half a lemon, about 2 tablespoons
Dash of salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Place the parsley, mint, hazelnuts, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a food processor and mix until the parsley and mint are finely chopped. You may need to take scrape the sides of the food processor a few times with a spatula so that everything gets evenly chopped. Then add in the olive oil and mix until you get desired consistency. Add additional olive oil as needed. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Store in a glass jar or airtight in the refrigerator. This pesto keeps for about a week – if you manage not to eat it all before that.
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