The title of this post pretty much says it all: kale--raw kale--makes for a great pesto. It's yummy, easy to whip up, a lovely green and surprisingly flexible. It's great to make when it's too hot to really cook, or when you're feeling a little lazy, or when you want vegetables in a form that doesn't involve chewing. It stores well, too, so it's good way to use up a bunch of greens that are going to turn the corner soon, even if you don't plan on eating them right away.
I came up with this kale magic on my very own, and then later realized lots of other folks, including 101 Cookbooks and Love & Lemons, have posted super-similar recipes with far nicer pictures. I think for some of us, a bunch of greens, a Cuisinart and 15 minutes in a row just shouts, "Kale pesto!"
Anyway, here's the recipe, which takes 15 - 20 minutes, including cleanup, and makes 1 - 2 cups of pesto (or enough for at least pasta for four):
- A handful (maybe 1/2 cup) any kind of nuts, toasted. Walnuts, pinenuts, almonds, pecans are all good candidates, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.
- A clove of garlic, roughly chopped.
- A sprinkle of salt.
- 1 bunch any kind of kale; washed, dried and very loosely chopped (or loosely chop it and then wash and dry in a salad spinner); don't tell anyone, but I don't bother to remove the stems. This recipe also works nicely with arugula, baby collards, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens and their friends. It even works with asparagus and snap peas.
- Olive oil--maybe 1/3 cup.
- Juice of a half lemon, plus zest of the whole lemon.
- About 1/2 cup or so grated parmesan (or one of its cousins--asiago, pecorino romano, etc); optional.
Into a food processor, toss the nuts, garlic and a little salt. Whir it briefly to get a grainy paste, then throw in the kale. While the greens are twirling their way down, slowly pour in a little olive oil to make it creamy, and then add a splash of lemon juice and the lemon zest. At this point, you can add grated parmesan into the mix, or you can leave that out for a vegan/freezable version. Taste and adjust salt/lemon/olive oil as needed. Presto: pesto.
Bonus for lethargy over-acheivers: If you're adding grated cheese, you can pulse it in the food processor before you start everything else (remove it before the first step above, and then add it back in at the end, or it all gets a bit gunky). Although the food processor turns hard cheese into tiny pebbles, rather than ethereal flakes, it's tough to notice that in a pesto, and this method saves you from having to wash the grater.
Bonus for actual over-acheivers and people who find raw greens to be bitter: you could blanch the greens first to leach out the bitterness and then proceed. I don't taste the bitter note in greens, so I never do this.
Here's what you can do with this pesto:
* Have it over pasta--regular or whole wheat or whatever--or over polenta or over rice. Include some steamed or sauteed veggies, or not. Serve with parmesan or one of its cousins. (If you serve it over pasta, scoop out a little pasta water, maybe 1/2 cup, to drizzle over the pesto/pasta combo and make it creamier.)
* Make it the basis of the dressing for a white bean and/or chickpea salad and/or grain salad (try white wine vinegar or more lemon here).
* Slather it on toasted bread with slices of tofu or cheese or a handful of white beans.
* Add dollops of it to a plain frittata, as shown here, or an omelette.
* Freeze it and use it later. Real recipe writers always say that things like, "Pesto lasts for up to a month frozen." I have tested those limits and found that pesto will go six months, really no prob.
* If you want to store it in the fridge--where it will last happily for about a week, give or take--put it in a container, and then slick the top with olive oil, which will keep it nice and green.