Choose fresh greens, clean and well-dried
Make sure the herbs are clean and dry before you start. Drying them in a salad spinner, then gently blotting them with a paper towel works well. If I feel pretty confident that the herbs are free of dirt, sand, bugs and pesticide residue, I’ll skip washing them altogether.
Getting a vibrant color
To make a really green pesto, try adding some herbs that hold onto their bright green color. To help keep basil pesto looking fresh, for example, you can mix in some parsley.
Another way to preserve the brightness is to cover the finished pesto with a thin layer of oil before storing.
Pick garlic or other well-paired aromatics
Keep in mind that the raw garlic flavor will grow after infusing in the pesto for a bit. Milder alternatives to raw garlic are roasted garlic, ramps, and garlic scapes.
You can also take a completely different aromatic route: try ginger, shallots, peppers, mushrooms. Or use some tapenade-style ingredients and add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, or anchovies to the mix.
Give the aromatics a rough chop.
Toasted nuts add body and richness
Choose an oil that works with your ingredients
Cheese is optional
Grate the cheese before adding it in with the other pesto ingredients.
If you're freezing pesto, hold the cheese and stir it in after defrosting for the best texture.
Pulverize the ingredients with some oil
Give larger nuts and aromatics a head start by giving them a few pulses in the food processor. Then add in the other ingredients along with a little bit of oil to help move things along. Pulse a few more times and scrape down the sides.
Drizzle in oil
Possibilities to consider
-Fennel fronds, garlic, parmesan, pistachios, olive oil with pasta and peas.
-Cilantro, ginger, garlic, cashews, grape seed oil, kumquats with rice vermicelli and shrimp.
-Watercress, sesame seeds, grape seed oil, mirin, and soy sauce over grilled chicken.
Oddly, a pesto that I loved but neglected to photograph was a pesto of sorrel, walnuts, fromage blanc, and walnut oil. I spread it on a burger, made a soup of it with leftover rice and chicken broth, and dipped into it with crackers. I guess I was too busy eating it to take a picture…