Less Noise, More Green: Shiso and Shiso Pesto

Friday, August 29, 2014

Shiso and Shiso Pesto

Shiso, Shiso Pesto, gardening, recipes
One of the pleasures of edible gardening for me is growing new plants and finding ways to incorporate their uniqueness into meals. Sometimes the anticipation is better than the reality (New Zealand Spinach, I'm talking to you) and sometimes you find something new that adds a different twist to favorite dishes and inspires creativity in the kitchen. Shiso, or Perilla, is a new herb in my garden this year and has been fun to grow and experiment with.

shiso, Shiso Pestp, gardening, recipes
Shiso (Perilla frutescens) is a member of the mint family and comes in a green or purple variation. This herb has the reputation of being hard to germinate and I almost gave up on it after I direct seeded and waited a month for it to make an appearance! The trick with this herb is it needs light to germinate. By just pressing the seeds gently into the soil, the seeds will eventually take root. As gardeners, we can't resist covering our seeds with a little soil! The irony is, although an annual, Shiso is a prolific self seeder and will take over if allowed to flower and go to seed.

Shiso has a unique taste. I have heard it described as citrus-like or with hints of basil and mint, but I don't think either of those is right. On it's own, Shiso is not appealing, the magic comes when you pair it with other things. A staple of Asian cooking, if you have been to a sushi restaurant, you have probably eaten Shiso. It pairs really well with rice vinegar and ginger and soy, making it a good addition to stir fries. It also pairs well with tuna.

Here are some ways we have enjoyed Shiso this summer:
  • In cucumber salads with a rice vinegar based vinaigrette
  • Instead of lettuce in tuna sandwiches or roll ups
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs
  • Finely chopped on fruit salad
I'm not done experimenting with the herb. I have seen recipes for Shiso Mojitos, which sounds intriguing and I will dry some Shiso for winter use in rice and as an addition to carrot and ginger soup.

I grew a lot of Shiso this year. One of the ways I've been using it up is in a pesto. Here is my version of Shiso pesto, using cashews and ricotta which balances out the strong Shiso flavor.

Shiso Pesto, recipe
Shiso  Pesto over pasta with summer squash and chicken.
Shiso Pesto

2 cups of Shiso
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil

Place all the ingredients, except for the oil,  in a food processor . Drizzle in a little oil and pulse the machine until the ingredients are combined. Turn the processor on and using the opening, add the oil a little at a time until the pesto reaches the consistency you like.

This recipe makes a lot of pesto! Freeze some for later.

See you in the kitchen,


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