Italian flat-leaf parsley can be used for pesto, replacing fresh basil. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)

Italian flat-leaf parsley can be used for pesto, replacing fresh basil. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)

ON COOKING: Chef Dez does parsley pesto

Pesto traditionally has fresh basil but parsley is a tasty alternative

by Chef Dez

We pass by it all the time in the produce section, but when not being used as a garnish or a minor ingredient, what else can we do with parsley?

Parsley is botanically called petroselinum crispum. This is derived from the Greek word petros, meaning stone, as it was often found growing in and around groups of rocks.

Today this herb, naturally high in vitamin A and C, is usually available in two different varieties. Curly leaf parsley is the most common one we see today at the local grocery store, however in some markets, flat leaf Italian parsley is just as common. The main visual difference between the two is just what the names predict, however flat leaf Italian parsley has a different flavour than its curly common counterpart.

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When parsley is being used for purposes other than garnish, it is usually added as a minor ingredient to characterize a dish with a distinct touch of natural herb flavour and a bit of colour.

However, there are some recipes that use parsley as a main ingredient, such as pesto. Traditionally pesto is prepared by pureeing fresh basil leaves mainly with olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice to form an outstanding pasta sauce.

The basil leaves can be substituted with parsley. This makes the pesto recipe not only more affordable, but also easier to create from scratch all year round, as fresh parsley is more accessible in the markets than fresh basil.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It is one of our favourites, and we actually prefer it to basil pesto.

Parsley Pesto

2/3 cup roasted, salted cashews

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

1 bunch fresh curly leaf parsley, large stems removed

In a food processor, grind the cashews on high speed for approximately 15 seconds.

Continue to process on high speed while slowly adding one quarter cup of the olive oil through the top opening, and then process for another 30 seconds until mixture is almost completely smooth and liquid.

Turn off the processor. Add the cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Turn the processor back on and process on high speed while feeding the parsley through the top opening. When all of the parsley has been added, continue to process on high speed while slowly adding the remaining one quarter cup of olive oil.

Turn off the processor, scrape down the sides, and process for another 10 to 15 seconds.

Toss with hot freshly cooked pasta of your choice, or use in a variety applications such as a pizza or bruschetta topping, or mix it with mayo for a great sandwich spread, or with sour cream for a great veggie dip.

Makes approximately 1.5 cups

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– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4

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