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Basil and Fennel Frond Pesto


As a little girl growing up in Sonoma County, CA, fennel was a common sight. Many of my friends loved to eat the black licorice tasting leaves. I would thought it was disgusting. It wasn’t until years later dining out in San Francisco that I had the pleasure of eating braised fennel bulb, and so began a love affair with the roots of the black licorice weed from my childhood. And then I learned to love the leaves as well. 

Fennel is loaded with polyphenols, including antioxidants, anti-microbial vitamin C, folate, fiber, and potassium. It can be eaten in salads, braised as a vegan main dish, and most wouldn’t know it makes a delicious pesto. This recipe is adapted from a cooking class I taught years ago with my friend and then boss Leah Brooks. It’s a bit more of a Spring recipe than a Fall one, but in Maui where I live now everything seems to be in season all the time, including macadamia nuts.



  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fennel fronds
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt


In a food processor, pulse together all ingredients. I prefer my pesto chunky but yours is up to you! To brighten the flavor, add more lemon. If it is to acidic, add olive oil. If it needs more flavor, add a pinch of salt.

Use this pesto on crustinis for an appetizer, as a salad dressing, to sauce your pasta primavera, or with pan-seared white fish or tofu.

Makes 2 cups of green gold.