I tried to grow all sorts of things on my balcony this year - thyme, rosemary, beets, strawberries, peppers, basil... Between late frost, two hail storms and a lot of rain this year on the one hand and a very enthusiastic, helpful toddler on the other, not much survived. The carrots did though. I had to bail them out at times, but I grew them from seed and was excited to watch them grow taller and taller. Eventually, by early November, the carrot tops were each about 2 cm wide, if not bigger, and the greens were easily 40cm tall. I excitedly kept an eye on them and left them in the ground, figuring them I would harvest them in time for Thanksgiving. When I did harvest them on the Thursday of Thanksgiving, two days before our dinner, I was rather bewildered when the first one left the ground. Had I broken it? No. There were root hairs hanging from the bottom of the carrot. That was all there was. Each of the carrots, 2 cm or more at the top, was only 2 to 3 cm long. I cleaned them up and supplemented them with store-bought carrots for Thanksgiving dinner and laughed off the failure.
The tops were big and bushy though. I didn't want to just chuck them in the compost, especially given how meagre the carrot harvest had been. Some went into the stuffing instead of celery - which couldn't be had even for ready money - but that still left me with a big bunch. Needing to clear it off the counter before cooking Thanksgiving dinner, the cleaned greens went in the blender with olive oil, lemon juice and water and became Proto-Pesto. For a while, that is all it was, as we ate through leftovers. This proto-pesto proved very handy though, on savoury French toast, in the Leek and Cheese Tart, and the Pumpkin and Stuffing Casserole, and in little leftover pies.
The Proto-Pesto then went in the freezer to await the end of the festive season, with all its traditional meals, time away and masses of food. This week I pulled it back out though and turned it into pesto. It is tasty as a dip for tortilla chips, or spread on little puff pastries with tomato paste and parma ham, with or without cheese, and of course, the classic, with pasta. I still have some left, so we'll see what we use it for!
1 very large bunch of carrot greens (6 ish cups when chopped)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c water (or enough for the blender to be able to run)
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c parmesan
1/4 c ground hazelnuts
1 tbsp sumac
1 tsp dried orange peel
Salt to taste
1) Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Taste test and adjust as necessary. Add to pastry or pasta, use as a spread, or simply dip. Enjoy.
This one has been a while in the making, given that I started it way back at Thanksgiving, but it was worth it. I enjoyed it every way we've tried it so far.
Book Pairing: When I first made the Proto-Pesto, I was listening to the Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell. I enjoyed it, but it is definitely Grit Lit, which I sometimes have to be in the mood for. Finishing this Pesto and making my little Pastry Swirls, I was listening to Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I didn't really think about it while cooking yesterday (there was rather a lot else going on), but reflecting back now, the difference in tone in these two books is striking. I enjoyed both a great deal, but in very different ways and for very different reasons.