It’s that time of year – our young cooks welcomed the first *official* week of fall with a warming risotto and fresh pepita pesto. Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are a nutrient-dense way to incorporate autumnal flavors into your cooking as we move from summer into the cooler seasons.

The biggest highlight of Week 2? At least one student had a change of heart concerning greens this week. Erika at Spruce Street School told us that one of her students started class by stating, “I don’t eat anything green.” This is why we do what we do – that statement became a different story once the class whipped up the pepita pesto.

“Once he saw the rest of the group devouring cucumbers with pesto he bit in and ate four!,” Erika said. We call that two thumbs up.

The pepita pesto also gave our educators a chance to cover a variety of skills and topics.

Erika incorporated information about how the environment affects crops in her class at Spruce Street School. “We talked about climate and how it lends itself to certain crops – in this case basil growing in abundance in Mediterranean climate,” she explained.

Sarde at Williamsburg Northside School also prepared pepita pesto with her elementary schoolers this week. “We did an activity involving tasting and smelling herbs (we used basil, mint, and parsley) and talked about similarities and likes and dislikes. After that, we split into three groups where one group tore up the basil, another measured ingredients, and the last one peeled garlic cloves. We then came together to blend everything together, cleaned up, and tasted the recipe over pasta,” she reported.

At the Computer School, McKenzie’s students were also given an introduction to food science.

“I introduced the recipe and talked briefly about macronutrients and carbohydrates, which are abundant in the pasta we were about to make. The students were a little confused about carbs, as they have heard carbs and sugar are bad. However, I explained that carbs are actually needed for proper body function, in the right amounts,” she told us. 

Pepita Pesto

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, greens, pesto
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh leaves, perhaps chickweed or ramps
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • toasted bread, to serve

Instructions

  1. Add the olive oil, pepitas, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor. Blend until it is a thick paste, scraping sides of processor with a spatula. Add leaves and parmesan cheese. Blend until basil is well incorporated. Serve with crusty toasted bread. Keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Can be frozen.  

At 75 Morton, Amanda turned rice variety improvisation in the risotto into an opportunity for a science lesson, explaining, “We made pesto risotto and talked about how the starch in rice helps absorb water and make the risotto creamy. I couldn’t find arborio rice at my grocery store, so we had to use basmati instead, so we made hypotheses about how using long-grain rice instead of short-grain would affect the recipe.”

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini (and Pepita Pesto)

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6

Ingredients

Risotto and Roasted Zucchini

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 zucchinis or summer squashes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tbsp herbs de provence (or 1 teaspoon each thyme, oregano, and/or basil, pick one if desired)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 6-7 cups vegetable broth
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup pepita pesto (see recipe below)

Pepita Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed), or another green of choice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of sea salt, and herbs on a baking sheet, taking care not to overcrowd. Roast until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

  2. While the zucchini roast, prepare the ingredients for the risotto. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt and saute until it begins to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more, then pour in the rice. Cook until the grains begin to separate, about two minutes longer.

  3. Begin adding the vegetable stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. Once each ½ cup is near fully absorbed, add another half cup. Keep going  until the rice is creamy and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Prepare Pepita Pesto:

  1. Add the olive oil, pepitas, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor. Blend until it is a thick paste, scraping sides of processor with a spatula.  Add basil leaves and Parmesan cheese. Blend until basil is well incorporated. Keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Can be frozen.

Incorporate:

  1. Stir ⅓-½ cup of the pesto into the risotto, once it has finished cooking. Top with roasted zucchini and serve immediately.

Like the pesto, the risotto was given rave reviews. As Amanda  told us, “The kids really enjoyed this one!”

We hope you love cooking these recipes at home too!

Until next week,

The Allergic to Salad Team

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