Monday, June 4, 2012

Two for One Kale Pesto

HI!! Sorry I’ve been a little MIA from the blog for the past few days. I was off to the beach to watch some of my friends get hitched. I got to spend an extended weekend with some friends from grad school that I haven't seen for a while. We had a great time on the beach, ate some yummy food, drank some beers and enjoyed our time together. Of course, as always, when I get back from a vacation, I feel like I need another vacation to just catch up on sleep. Anyone else feel that way after trips?

But I’m back in town and back to the grind in lab and in the kitchen. 

I’ve been wanting to post this recipe (actually, multiple recipes) for a little while. I was debating calling the post “One for Two Kale Pesto” but then I thought you would think I was gypping you out of a recipe so I went with the more traditional “Two for One.” Technically, I could have called it “A Pesto for All Occasions”.

Okay, I’m rambling…

So I need to give a few stories/lessons before I jump into the cooking:

1. I DO NOT HAVE A GREEN THUMB! I continue to try (this year I’m hoping for some herbs and a variety of peppers to survive my mini apartment garden), but I just am not the best. You would think I would be better because when I was younger I convinced my parents on convert a third of our sandbox in the backyard into a garden so I could grow some vegetables. Okay, maybe that was the first sign- we only kept the garden for one summer. Anyway, I have killed almost every basil plant I’ve tried to keep alive (this year, so far so good). While a number of friends always seem to be swimming in basil and making pesto left and right, my little green leaves tend to dry up and die. I think I’ll blame it on my lack of sun in my apartment(s) over the years. That sounds like a good excuse.

2. When we were doing the CSA box last summer, we kept getting kale. I didn’t really know what to do with this green (we didn’t really eat hearty greens growing up) so I went searching for some new recipes. In one of my “Everyday with Rachael Ray” magazines, I found this great pesto recipe using kale in place of the pesto.

3. I have come to learn that you can use many different greens (basil, kale, spinach, etc.) with a variety of toasted nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, etc.) to make a fresh and great pesto.

4. Pesto is not only great on pasta but as a base for pizza, pies or as a dip for veggies. Be creative and think outside the box (hmm… I think this may be my cooking mantra).

Here I’m sharing with you the recipe for the pesto and two different meals I’ve used it in- pasta and calzone. I also make the pesto and freeze it in smaller portions to use whenever I want.

Kale and Walnut Pesto (adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray)
1/2 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling**
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot of salted water, cook the kale until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze kale to remove the excess water.

In a food processor, combine kale, walnuts, garlic and parmesan until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper. With the machine running, add the olive oil.
Use pesto immediately or freeze for later.

**It is important here to use good quality parmesan cheese. Get the stuff from the refrigerated section that is strongly flavored.

Pesto Pasta with Kielbasa
1/3 cup Kale and Walnut Pesto (see above)
½ lb pasta (any kind will work, I used rotini)
½ kielbasa sausage, cut into ¼ inch pieces
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Cook pasta according to package. Drain, reserving approximately ¼ cup cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, add the kielbasa to a skillet and cook over medium heat until browned, flipping the pieces, approximately 7-8 minutes.

Mix the pasta, kielbasa and pesto in a bowl. Add the reserved cooking water and toss to coat everything completely. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese.

Serves 2.

Pesto and Vegetable Calzones
Individual size pizza crust (homemade, or 1/3 to ½ of refrigerated tube)
1/4 cup Kale and Walnut Pesto (see above)
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small tomato, sliced thinly
¼ mozzarella cheese, shredded
Cornmeal, for dusting

Preheat oven to 500 F. Preheat a baking stone (or upside down baking sheet) in the oven as well.

Cook the mushrooms in a skillet over medium heat until soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Sprinkle a work surface with cornmeal and roll out the pizza crust. Spread the pesto over half of the crust and cover with mushroom, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Fold other half of crust over and seal.

Transfer to the heated baking stone and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Serves 1.

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