Photo: Kelly Rossiter
As I've said before, you can make pesto out of anything you like. When I came home from my summer at the cottage to see that my garden was overrun with kale, it seemed like making pesto was a good plan. My husband puts up with kale, but it isn't his favourite vegetable. However, once you've added it to a pasta dish with some Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper on top, he's pretty okay with it. I've made pesto with asparagus, wild leeks, garlic scapes, with Swiss chard and now with kale, but the classic basil pesto is still my absolute favourite. But having said that, this is a pretty tasty dish, and it packs a bigger nutritional punch than basil. It's also less expensive because this recipe uses walnuts which are significantly cheaper than pine nuts. I've been leery of pine nuts lately because my daughter and I both had a terrible case of pine mouth after eating her fantastic vegan potato salad. Oddly enough, my husband was totally unaffected. Pine mouth is deeply unpleasant because you have this metallic taste in your mouth all the time and everything you eat and drink tastes awful. It lasted about a week for me, and it isn't something I want to repeat. Luckily my daughter found some organic Canadian pine nuts that are just fine, so from now on I'll be looking at the labels carefully.
Photo: Kelly Rossiter
This takes a bit longer because the kale must cook a bit before you blend it with the rest of the ingredients, but it is still a very quick recipe. Like any of the other pestos you can use it on grilled tofu and it is particularly delicious in grilled vegetable sandwiches. If you have as much kale in your garden as I do you could make a double batch and use it in a few different dishes over the week. I tossed a couple of spoonfuls of it into a pot of vegetable soup as well. If you are using it for pasta, I find when that you get more of a sauce if you take a bit of the cooking water from the pasta and add it to the pesto. You don't want it too wet, just enough liquid so it will stick to the pasta. This recipe calls for a lot of olive oil, so add it slowly until you have the consistency you want. If you want to make a vegan version of this substitute white miso for the Parmesan cheese. I got that tip from the wonderful website Limes and Lycopene.
I got this recipe from a new cookbook called The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel. She also uses arugula for pesto, which I'm sure would be delicious as well. There are lots of interesting recipes in this book so I'll be dipping into it a lot over the next couple of weeks.
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups Lacinato kale, stems removed, chopped coarsely
1 1/2 - 2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
ground black pepper
1. Toast the chopped walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over medium-high heat stirring constantly, until they start to brown and become fragrant. Keep an eye on the nuts - they burn quickly and will become bitter.
2. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, then add the kale. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain.
3. In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts, and drained kale and whiz until well mixed. Pour int he oil in a steady stream, and pulse until combined. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the slat, pulse, then taste. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt if necessary.
4. Transfer the pesto to a medium-size bowl and stir in the cheese and pepper.