The season is changing. This was clear as we slipped past the equinox over the weekend; a sunny Saturday gave way to a stormy Sunday, complete with flashes of lightening and thunder so loud and close it shook the windows of our apartment.
On Saturday, while it was still nice out, I did a fly-by stop at the farmer’s market (I was on my way to pick up some nail polish. Have you seen OPI’s new Nordic line? Obsessed!) Where tomatoes, corn, and berries have given way to winter squash, cabbage, and kale.
So. Much. Kale.
One stand, which typically has the longest line-up of any at the market, now has at least 70% of its real estate dedicated to kale.
Accordingly, I had a bit of a kale overload on my hands. I’m kind of over kale salads at the mo (but don’t worry, they’ll be back) and was in the mood for something warm (see: changing season) so I made a big batch of kale and walnut pesto.
Pesto is a great way to use up pretty much anything green and leafy that you have a lot of. This is a bit of a departure from the traditional basil and pine nut pesto, but one I enjoy very much. The kale is quickly blanched, which both tenderizes it and makes some of the nutrients more bioavailable, and it shrinks the kale down to a manageable volume to work with – as you can see, a lot becomes a little. While this is happening walnuts get toasted, bringing out fragrant nutty flavours. It all comes together in a food processor, blitzed up with freshly grated Parmesan, garlic, olive oil, and some lemon juice.
This recipe yields a good amount of pesto – about 2 cups. We enjoyed some of it over the weekend tossed with whole-wheat spaghettini and topped with a soft cooked egg. The rest went into the freezer for future meals. I think a bit of pesto in the freezer is a brilliant thing. It means a quick, easy, and flavourful meal is only moments away.
Rather than using ice cube trays I froze the pesto in a large freezer bag, flattened into a thin layer. Once frozen you can break it into chunks; a good smash will do it all at once, or you can break it off bit by bit.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse! It is extraordinarily rich in micronutrients, dietary fiber, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and cancer fighting glucosinolates. Kale is a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and contains nearly twice the vitamin K (essential for blood clotting and also an important anti-inflammatory agent) than any other cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, etc). Iron, magnesium, vitamin E, folate, and phosphorous are among the complement of vital minerals found in kale. The dietary fiber in kale is known to reduce blood cholesterol levels. One recent study showed that this benefit may be improved by lightly steaming kale for about 5 minutes before consuming.
kale and walnut pesto
- 8 cups kale pulled from it's stems and roughly chopped (about 1 large bunch)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup walnuts lightly toasted
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tsp salt
- Put a large pot of water on to boil.
- Pull the kale from the stems, and roughly chop. You should have about 8 cups of kale at this point.
- While you are waiting for the water to boil you can toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss them frequently, and remove from the heat once they are beginning to smell fragrant and look slightly brown. Be very careful not to burn them.
- When the water is boiling vigorously, add the kale. Stir so that it all submerges, and boil for about 2 minutes.
- Remove the kale from the pot into a colander, and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. The kale should be bright green and quite cool.
- Squeeze as much water as you can from the kale. This can be done all at once in a clean kitchen towel, or in small batches with your hands.
- Place the kale, Parmesan, 3/4 cup of olive oil, toasted walnuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then run the processor until you've got a smooth paste. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.
- If the pesto is a bit too chunky for you, you may choose to add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- Pesto will last about 3 days in the fridge, and freezes well either in ice cube trays, or in a flat layer in a freezer bag - you can easily break off a chunk later.