Simple Snazzy Herb Sauces-Way Beyond Pesto



Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Last Saturday we had lots of activities happening at Homestead Gardens, Davidsonville. If you missed the action and fun, here is a recap of the sauces I made SANS any basil. It was called, “Beyond Basil”. Now I did talk about the new ‘Valentino’ basil-pretty cool being large and great for drying-ya’ just gotta see it-only at Homestead Gardens!

Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto Sauce (Shrimp in Pumpkin Seed Sauce)

Makes: 4-6 servings

For Cinco de Mayo, use this lush sauce to highlight the celebration. This recipe, published in “Recipes From the Regional Cooks o


Mexico” and “Nothing Fancy,” is cookbook author Diana Kennedy’s version of a sauce from Tampico in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, along the Gulf of Mexico.

Make sure to test the heat of the chilies. I only used half of 1 small serrano and the sauce still had a kick.

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
  • 1  1/2 cups water
  • Salt
  • 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, raw (no salt)
  • 3 serrano chilies
  • 1/4 medium sweet white onion, chopped
  • 8 sprigs cilantro or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

Put shrimp shells, water and salt to taste in a saucepan; cook over medium heat, 15 minutes. Strain, reserving broth; discard shells. Heat shrimp in broth to a simmer; cook, 2 minutes. Strain, reserving the broth. Set shrimp aside.

Lightly toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet or toaster oven-watch carefully!. The seeds should puff up a little but not brown. Puree the broth, pumpkin seeds, chilies, onion and cilantro in a blender until smooth.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes lumpy, return to blender; blend until smooth. Stir in the creme fraiche and shrimp; heat through.


Sugar Snaps and Asparagus with Pistachio Arugula Pesto

Serves 4

The lemon juice only is tossed at the end with more arugula. If you added it to the pesto, you would have a brown puree. It’s best to keep all green and fresh and add it at the end.

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 5 ounces small peppery arugula leaves (about 5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated Manchego cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound. sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed and tough ends snapped
  • Lemon juice, to taste

In a food processor, combine the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 4 ounces of the arugula, the pistachios and the garlic and pulse a few times until the arugula is roughly chopped. Add the Manchego and turn on the processor. Slowly drizzle in the 1/4 cup olive oil until a smooth paste forms, adding more olive oil as needed. Do not overprocess. Scrape the pesto into a bowl. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Set the pesto aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a bowl of salted ice water.

Add the snap peas to the boiling water and cook for 10 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until slightly pliable, about 2 minutes, then transfer to the ice bath. Drain the snap peas and asparagus and place on towels to dry.

Transfer the snap peas and asparagus to a large bowl, add the pesto and toss to coat well. Place the remaining 1 oz. arugula in a small bowl and lightly dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

To serve, place asparagus spears and pile a of snap peas on each plate or on a platter. Scatter a few of the arugula leaves around the plates and serve immediately.

Mint Pesto for Greek Foods, Lamb Chops or Chicken 

Serves 10 as a dip

We tasted this fabulous dip or topper with cucumbers and a bit of Greek yogurt. It seemed to be the winner of the other sauces. Very yummy!

We decided that increasing the almonds a bit lends an even nuttier flavor yet doesn’t overwhelm the powerful mint.

  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, from about 2 large bunches
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 lemon, zested, plus juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Crunchy pita chips

Put the mint, almonds, zest, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, add the lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the oil until thick and smooth. Add about 2 tablespoons water until a thick but spreadable paste forms; continue adding water until desired consistency. Taste pesto and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Place the yogurt in a medium size bowl. Place the mint pesto in blobs (yes, blobs) on top of the yogurt. With a flat knife swirl the two together to create a nice pattern. Don’t over mix. Serve with sliced cucumber and crunchy pita chips on the platter around the bowl of mint pesto and yogurt.