Fennel Frond and Basil Pesto

I don’t know about you but I hate wasting food. I’ll eat the same thing day in and day out just to avoid tossing anything in the trash. According to NPR, Americans waste 33 million tons of food each year. Worse yet, a new study from Harvard Law School and the Natural Resources Defense Council, found that 22 percent of food waste comes from fruit and vegetables—often the most nutrient-dense and expensive components of our daily diets. Of the fruit and vegetables we buy, we discard 52 percent of them and only consume 48 percent. Yikes!

Understandably, not everyone wants to be a human garbage disposal in the name of saving food from the dumpster. We can, however, all learn to cook in a way that minimizes food waste and helps you get the most out of your vegetables. Deemed “compost cooking” by some, root-to-stalk cooking might just save you money, diversify your nutrient intake and draw out your culinary creativity.

My creativity was recently challenged when I received  a few fennel bulbs in my weekly From the Farmer delivery with a head of fronds that looked like a chia pet on miracle grow. Dedicated to using every ounce of seasonal, local food I receive each week I developed this yummy recipe for Fennel Frond and Basil Pesto. Give it a try and you’ll quickly see how easy and rewarding it is to make use of the parts of vegetables that typically get thrown away. Hopefully this will inspire you to give those dark and dreamy beet greens and silky broccoli and cauliflower leaves a second look before ditching them in the disposal.

 Basil and Fennel Frond Pesto 2

Fennel Frond and Basil Pesto

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 cups firmly packed fennel fronds
  • 2 cups firmly packed basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup manchego cheese, grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 oz pine nuts, toasted*
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

How to Make It:

  1. To toast pine nuts, lay them out in a single layer on a baking tray and bake in a 350 F oven for 5-7 minutes until golden brown.
  2. In a food processor, combine all ingredients—adding the oil and lemon first—and blend until smooth.
  3. Adjust for seasoning and serve over fresh pasta or sautéed Portobello mushrooms baked chicken if you’re avoiding gluten.


Basil and Fennel Frond Pesto

Tasty Tidbit: If you’re not a huge fan of the spiciness (or stinkiness) of raw garlic, you can roast the cloves or lightly sauté them prior to blending.


{This post originally appeared on The DC Ladies Blog, July 30, 2014}