FARGO — Our region is an oasis for agricultural abundance, and we love to look for new recipes to showcase dishes inspired by the various crops of the Upper Midwest.

This is an easy task for top crops like wheat and corn, which are easy to find and work with and can be featured in a variety of breads, baked goods, appetizers, salads and side dishes. Other crops, like soybeans, can be a little trickier to work into a culinary repertoire.

While most of us are familiar with the use of soy in food products like vegetable oil, margarine, frozen yogurt and soy sauce, we don’t often think of it as an edible food on its own. However, during our first year as the chefs for the annual Banquet in a Field, we discovered how much we enjoy edamame, the beans that are harvested from immature soybean plants.

We fell in love with the mild flavor and crunchy-soft texture of this beautiful green legume, especially once we learned about its superfood properties. A single half-cup of edamame beans is loaded with important nutrients like fiber, protein, iron, vitamins A and C and antioxidants. According to choosemyplate.gov, this same portion is equivalent to 2 ounces of protein and half a cup of vegetables, making edamame an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

Crostini topped with Edamame Pesto and garnished with microgreens makes an easy summer appetizer. David Samson / The Forum
Crostini topped with Edamame Pesto and garnished with microgreens makes an easy summer appetizer. David Samson / The Forum

Our newest edamame creation is a fresh and bright Edamame Pesto, which we served atop flaxseed (another North Dakota top crop) crostini earlier this month at our North Dakota theme dinner at the Coteau des Prairies Lodge. Our guests were greeted with this appetizer upon arrival, and for many in attendance (several of whom were soybean farmers), this was their first experience tasting edamame.

“What is it?” they asked, upon first inspection. “Delicious,” we replied, and knew that they agreed when we saw them return for more.

A typical pesto is made with five key components: a main flavor ingredient; a nut; cheese; garlic; and olive oil. For this pesto, edamame beans are the main ingredients, with additional flavor coming from almonds, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and a bit of fresh basil.

Traditionally, a mortar and pestle were used to mash the ingredients into a pesto, but a food processor also works well to quickly combine the ingredients until the pesto is smooth and slightly chunky. You can find edamame in the frozen section at most grocery stores, and I highly recommend you look for the variety that has already been shelled as this task can be time consuming when done by hand.

Perfect for an easy, elegant appetizer, this edamame pesto is wonderfully fresh in taste and vibrant in presentation and can be made up to a week in advance, or even longer if storing in the freezer. You can serve it atop crostini or as a dip for crudités and hearty chips, and it also works well in sandwiches, pasta and salads.

Vibrant, healthy and delicious, our Edamame Pesto is a great way to celebrate our region’s agriculture.

Serve Sarah's Edamame Pesto as a dip with hearty chips and fresh veggies. David Samson / The Forum
Serve Sarah's Edamame Pesto as a dip with hearty chips and fresh veggies. David Samson / The Forum

Edamame Pesto

Ingredients

2 cups shelled edamame beans, cooked according to directions on package

¼ cup almonds, slivered or whole

1 large garlic clove (about 1½ teaspoons minced garlic)

6 large basil leaves

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

In the bowl of your food processor, add all the ingredients, except the olive oil, and pulse 12 to 15 times until the mixture appears coarsely ground and well combined. Turn the processor on and use the feed tube to slowly add the olive oil until fully incorporated.

If the pesto appears too thick, add more olive oil or even water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Taste the pesto and add more lemon juice, salt and/or pepper as desired, processing until combined.

To store: Store the pesto in an airtight container and place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto to prevent discoloration. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.