Staple Recipe: Kale Pesto

My mother doesn’t think people eat kale. Yes, you read that right – she seems to think it sits in the grocery store for sheer presentation, that it never even goes home. So it should comes as no surprise that it wasn’t one of the vegetables I grew up eating. Now, however, I eat an awful lot of it. I’m a kale convert, but I can’t even convince my mom it’s a legitimate food.

Still, after endlessly sautéing the green and wilting it over hot dishes, I started to get a little bored. What else could I do with this kitchen staple? I’m not much for kale

kale
Credit: Bicycle Times

salad – I find it too chewy (don’t tell me to massage it – I can’t be bothered). Kale chips are a pain to store and they aren’t really a dinner food. But kale pesto – now that’s good for a lot of things.

Kale pesto has become a kitchen staple in my house precisely because you can do quite a lot with it. You could hypothetically put it on pasta like any other pesto, but we also enjoy this topping on pizza and in quinoa salad. I make the quinoa salad in bulk because it’s great hot with a fried egg tossed on top or cold for lunch or at a picnic with some goat cheese on top.

The recipe is simple and flavorful and you probably have almost everything you need in the house already.

  • 1-2 bunches of kale or bagged cooking kale
  • 4 (or more) cloves of garlic to taste
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Pine nuts (you can also use cashews or walnuts)
  • Kosher salt
  • pepper
  • Hard cheese of your choosing (totally optional! Most recipes call for Parmesan, but I don’t eat cow’s milk products and generally skip it entirely in this recipe. A Manchego would work well, though.)

Supply wise, all you’ll need is a food processor or blender and a spoon.

  1. Remove the stems from your kale and add the leaves to your food processor. They’ll take up a lot of space at first. Add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and nuts. Blend.
  2. Once the kale starts to break down, you can add more – it generally takes 2 or 3 additions for me to get all the kale in if I want to avoid overfilling the food processor. Add another 1-2 Tbsp of oil each time to smooth the blending process.
  3. Once you’ve added all the kale, the rest if a matter of taste and texture. I generally find that pesto is best when liberally salted and with plenty of lemon – the acid gives it a necessary flavor lift. Similarly, you may like more or less garlic in yours and you’ll need more oil for bigger bunches of kale/more pesto.
  4. If you’re using it, add the cheese at the end as you balance out the other seasonings.
  5. Give everything a final stir – beware large pieces of garlic that have escaped the blades! – and add to the dish of your choosing. Enjoy!

How great is this recipe? I generally just make two cups of quinoa in my rice cooker, mix it all together, and my wife the ShelterButch and I eat it for dinner that night with an egg and then for several days of lunch with goat cheese. It’s also a perfect side dish or potluck option!

 

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