‘Tis the season for kale. But nowdays, when is it not? With the boom of local farmers, CSAs (community supported agriculture) and farmer’s markets, kale can be found year round. Now this is something to be grateful for! I’m a lifelong lover of pesto, but growing up I was a purist in this arena; basil was always better. My mom often tired to convince us that arugula or cilantro pesto would be a wonderful idea, but being the picky child that I was, it never touched my plate. Well, the saying holds true, “mother is always right.” Now I see what I was missing out on; this rustic kale pesto is loaded with fresh flavors that even the pickiest of children will love.
It is hard to find anything wrong with kale; it’s among the best of the green super foods. Kale provides an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamins K and C, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes from macular degeneration. It contains sulforaphane, a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Kale is also rich inindole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and may even to block the growth of cancer cells. These are just a few health benefits attributed to kale’s green goodness.
Kale has a sweet and slightly bitter flavor which creates a great base for a unique and rustic winter pesto. And with all of its health benefits, who wouldn’t want to incorporate it into as many meals as possible? This pesto is a nutrient rich condiment that goes well with just about anything. I mean it! I love it in the morning spread onto a piece of sprouted wheat bread, and topped with a fried egg. Add to some pasta, or better yet a nice grain or quinoa salad. Swirl some into a quiche with mushrooms and ricotta, or add it to a fresh tomato and stone fruit salad. Like I said, I’ve always been a fan of pesto and a believer that it adds a fresh twist to just about anything. This pesto stores well in the fridge for about a week and also freezes, so make a big batch and play with the possibilities!
In this recipe I use nutritional yeast to replace the cheese usually found in traditional pesto. Nutritional yeast is something that I grew up with, but many people are still unfamiliar with this diverse and healthy ingredient. It is a great source of B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. The umami flavors of nutritional yeast add a rich, cheesy flavor to savory dishes. It is becoming more readily available in the health food section of most grocery stores, but you may have to go the bulk section of your local health food store to find it.
1 bunch Lacinato (dinosaur) kale ¼ c packed basil ¼ c walnuts, toasted ¼ c nutritional yeast ½ c olive oil 3 cloves garlic 1 t salt ½ t pepper ¼ t red pepper flakes Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Clean kale, remove stems, and roughly chop. Blanch and shock kale (boil a pot of salted water, drop kale into water for about 30 seconds, remove and immediately place in an ice bath or cold water, drain). You could also make a raw version of this pesto, but blanching the kale softens it and preserves the vibrant green color.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend. If you would like a looser pesto (or more of a sauce) add a little water or oil until the desired consistency is reached. Adjust seasoning to your liking with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Enjoy!