Summer is upon us and one of our favorite seasonal condiments is pesto!
You can make pesto with almost anything. If you have any herbs, lettuces or greens that aren’t ripe enough to serve in a salad, breathe a second life into them by using them as a key ingredient for pesto. We chatted with Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra Pizzeria and M Street Kitchen chef/ partner Jeff Mahin who gave us some creative riffs on traditional pestos and ideas of what to do with summer greens as they begin to go out of season.
“It’s all about balance of flavors of peppery notes of the greens, acidity from a lemon and fat from cheese and nuts; balance of nutty, acidic, peppery and herbal and voila!”
“Don’t be afraid to think outside of the basil box and use different herbs like parsley and cilantro. A great Mexican-inspired pesto could include jalapeño, cilantro, lime, cashew or raw almond.”
Chef trick: Peel the jalapeño with an apple peeler and remove the seeds to get the true flavor of the jalapeño without the intense heat.
“Switch it up from your typical parmesan with a pecorino or an aged Gouda.”
Chef trick: Get the most out of your hard cheeses and use a microplane to grate the rind (the outer part of the cheese). The rind is still packed with flavor.
Chef trick: If you’re opting for a soft cheese like goat or a triple crème, freeze it and use a cheese grater on the frozen block. Fold into your pesto for lumps of gooey cheese.
“Get away from traditional pine nuts and using things like almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds and pecans to alter the taste and texture of your pesto.”
Chef trick: Make sure to toast the nuts ahead of time to bring out the nutty flavor.
While you can use a handheld food processor to make pesto, Chef Mahin recommends a mortar and pestle to yield the best texture and flavor.
Now you’ve made your pesto – what do you serve it with?
“Pestos really go with any type of meat like fish, chicken, lamb, steak. I like to use cilantro and lime for a fish pesto, and more mint and parsley for lamb. For chicken, add some spice to it with chili flakes or chipotle powder and basil, and for steak, I like the peppery-ness of adding arugula to the basil pesto.”
At Summer House Santa Monica, Chef Mahin serves jalapeño pesto with Roasted Cauliflower.
Chef Mahin serves an Avocado and Arugula Pesto Pizza with goat cheese, parmesan, pecorino and chili flakes. Check out the recipe for the Avocado and Arugula Pesto Pizza*.
Do try these pesto recipes at home!
Jalapeño Pesto Recipe
200 grams jalapeno flesh (about 2 cups, peeled & seeded)
25 grams parsley leaves
200 grams olive oil
20 grams lemon juice
6 grams salt
Bowl of ice
1. Peel the jalapenos with an apple peeler; cut in half then remove the seeds and stem.
2. Weigh jalapeno flesh and set aside.
3. Chill the olive oil in the freezer.
4. Pick the leaves only of the parsley.
5. In a blender, place the olive oil and puree on low.
6. Slowly add the jalapeno and parsley to the blender, making sure the herbs are fully blended before adding more.
7. Slowly increase the speed of the blender to high. Puree the sauce until smooth.
8. Transfer the puree into a bowl over an ice bath.
9. Whisk in the salt and lemon juice.
10. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Chilling the olive oil is a very important step in the process. If the olive oil gets too hot, it starts to change flavors.
It is important to use a scale for this recipe.
Arugula Pesto Recipe
100 grams parsley
50 grams basil
200 grams arugula
2 cloves of garlic
1 ½ cups olive oil
1 Tbsp. grams salt
¼ cup lemon juice
5 Tbsp. parmesan cheese, grated
1. Chill the olive oil in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
2. In a blender or food processor, place the garlic and olive oil on low. Slowly add the herbs to the blender, making sure they are fully blended before adding more.
3. Slowly increase the speed of the blender to high, pureeing the sauce until smooth.
4. Transfer the puree into an ice bath. Whisk in the salt and cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Chef Mychael Bonner’s Classic Basil Pesto
Serving Size: 7½ cups
Use Chef Bonner’s classic pesto recipe to re-create Petterino’s Fried Burrata! Check out the recipe below. *
*Avocado and Arugula Pesto Pizza Recipe from Chef Jeff Mahin
1 store bought pizza dough
3 Tbsp. store bought Alfredo sauce or 2 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 Tbsp. arugula pesto (recipe above)
4 oz. goat cheese
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. pecorino cheese, grated
1 pinch chili flakes
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. scallion, chopped
1/2 avocado, sliced thing
Lemon zest from half a lemon
Arugula, about 1/2 cup
1. Preheat oven to 500-550º, depending on how crispy you like your crust
2. Stretch one pizza dough out to 12 inches and place on pizza stone or cast-iron skillet or pan
3. Spoon white sauce into the center of the pizza followed by the pesto. Using the back of a spoon, evenly spread out the sauce to the edges of the dough
4. Sprinkle pizza with the parmesan, pecorino, then goat cheese.
5. Sprinkle with chili flakes with caution — it can be spicy. Finish by sprinkling parsley on scallions on top.
6. Sprinkle parsley and scallions
7. Place into oven and bake for 7-12 minutes until bottom is crispy and cheese has melted.
8. Remove pizza from oven and let cool slightly.
9. Evenly place the sliced avocado around the pizza
10. Drizzle olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and lemon zest
11. Cut into 8 slices and garnish with a light amount of arugula
Chef’s Tips: Lemon zest can be strong, be careful of the amount you use
*Petterino’s Fried Burrata with Pesto from Chef Mychael Bonner
To download this Petterino’s recipe, click here.
6 – 3 ounce Burrata balls
1 cup cold soda water
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbs chopped parsley
6 ounces marinara (heated)
Torn basil to garnish
2 Tbs pesto to garnish
Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 Preheat pot with oil to 350⁰.
2. Place ½ cup of flour into a small bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together ¾ cup soda, 1 cup flour and salt to create a slurry with a batter consistency. The remaining soda can be added to adjust the consistency as needed.
4. Combine panko, parmesan and parsley in a separate bowl.
5. Line up the 3 bowls for assembly.
6. Carefully dredge 1 piece of Burrata in flour. Shake off excess.
7. Spoon dip the floured Burrata into the slurry. Tilt spoon to drain off excess liquid.
8. Gently place the Burrata into the panko-parmesan mix. Roll to coat, gently shake off excess and remove.
9. Repeat steps until all 6 pieces are prepared.
10. Gently place Burrata into heated frying oil, being careful not to splash or crowd in pot. Fry in batches if using a small pot.
11. While Burrata is cooking, spread the heated marinara sauce on to a serving plate.
12. Fry the Burrata until golden brown, approximately 3 – 4 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon.
14. Arranging the Burrata on top of the Marinara sauce. Drizzle with Pesto sauce, Balsamic and torn basil to garnish. Serve immediately.