A bundle of basil showed up in my CSA share this week. I shuddered a bit thinking about that same herb growing somewhat recklessly in our backyard, used sparingly for sandwiches and seasonings. But with an additional bundle wrapped and ready for use, I needed a recipe to quell the basil surplus.
Food surplus remains a focal point for the debate over the health of our country and our food supply. Many experts argue that U.S. agriculture policy has promoted the overproduction of certain farm commodities, like corn and soybeans. As with most items in excess, you look for new and novel ways to use it. For the food industry, this meant converting commodity items into ingredients for calorie-laden, nutritionally-void processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages that have infiltrated television advertisements, supermarket and convenience store shelves. Quite simply, this overproduction has led to excess consumption accelerating the obesity dilemma we face today.
If you have time, check out the recent report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that attests to the struggle fruit and vegetable growers confront under current federal agriculture policies. The report examines the current Farm Bill and includes recommendations for policy change in many different areas to help ensure a plentiful supply of healthy foods well into the future. I found this statement in a research article published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition particularly powerful:
“If tomorrow every American woke up and refused to consume anything but the foods recommended by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there would be a catastrophic food shortage. Although the USDA guidelines recommend the consumption of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, the food system falls drastically short of providing enough fresh fruits and vegetables to meet their recommendations.”
In digesting all of this information, I can’t help but feel spoiled and very fortunate. While processed foods and tempting treats indeed crowd the supermarket aisles where I live, healthy, fresh options also abound – nary a sign of a suffering fruit and vegetable industry. With a weekly CSA share, numerous farmers’ market options, and a nice amount of basil and tomatoes growing in my backyard, it seems I’m never at a loss for nutritious food. There’s even a surplus at times; and that’s when I’m in the kitchen the most — because, like modern agriculture, I need to find a new and novel way to use the excess food.
So my food processor and I meet again to create this pesto, an orchestration of only 6 ingredients. Without the signature pine nuts on hand to make a traditional pesto, I found a stash of mixed nuts that J hadn’t quite made his way through yet (he loves salty snacks). Consequently, I omitted the salt the original recipe calls for. I noticed the mix was mostly peanuts and a few almonds, so I deemed this recipe a Peanut Pesto. Working with what I had on hand, I reduced the amount of garlic cloves from 3 to 2 and increased the amount of basil since rationing was not the intent here. Plus, research shows that basil has an array of flavenoids which help protect cells and chromosomes from damage. The more the merrier.
This recipe requires few ingredients and comes together very quickly. Peanut Pesto is a flavorful spread for whole grain toast, capable of sprucing up a grilled cheese sandwich, a summer pasta salad or grilled chicken. And while the recipe states it’s enough for 6 servings or a pound of pasta, I can tell you I wish I had more.
Funny how surplus works – no matter how much you have, there never seems to be enough.
Easy Peanut Pesto
Adapted from True Food Movement recipe
- 1/4 cup mixed nuts (you can use all peanuts, or experiment with different nuts)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
- pepper, to taste
- Lightly chop the basil leaves. Peel and loosely crush the garlic.
- Take all the ingredients and throw them in a food processor. Pulse until a paste forms.
- Store pesto in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for about six months.