The Kale Whisperer

I’ve made quite a reputation for myself lately.  I’ve been approached on the playground, queried via email and stopped in the grocery store.  I’m considering investing in giant sunglasses to wear whenever I go out since I’m kind of a big deal around here.

I wish people were asking me where I got my fabulous haircut or how I managed to raise such angelic children or stay knowledgeable on current events, but I’ve had no such luck.

Instead, I’m known as the chick who eats kale – and likes it.

By now, everyone’s aware of kale’s status as a superfood.  We all know that it should have a permanent spot on our weekly grocery list.  The problem is that it takes a little coaxing to make the leafy green taste good.  Lucky for my legions of students in Kale Studies, I’ve got a great recipe to try: Kale Pesto.

I adapted this recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil’s new cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure.  I bought the book last week and the two recipes I’ve tried so far have been winners.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

This pesto is a great way for the uninitiated to flirt with kale.  The flavors are very similar to traditional basil pesto except that it has a little more heft and depth of flavor.  My husband liked the kale version even better than the original.  My kids just heard “pesto” and happily tucked into their plates of pasta.  Give it a try and let me know what you think… but please, no autographs.

Kale Pesto
Adapted from True Food by Andrew Weil

2 large bunches of kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 large handful (about 2/3 cup) of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
about 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 pinches of kosher salt (taste after the first pinch)
a shake or two of hot red pepper flakes

Blanch the kale in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water for three minutes.  Drain and immediately plunge the kale into a large bowl of ice water to stop it from cooking and help retain its bright green color.  Let it cool for a couple of minutes in the ice water and then squeeze dry — no need to strangle the kale, a little water still on the leaves will mean adding less olive oil later in the recipe.

Put the kale, cheese, pine nuts, garlic, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper flakes into a food processor and using on/off pulses, chop to a coarse mixture.  Then, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream.  Honestly, I don’t measure my olive oil, I just add enough until the consistency looks right.  Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and/or red pepper flakes if needed.

This makes about two cups of pesto.  We mixed the entire batch with a pound of fettuccine to make a generously sauced pasta, just the way we like it.  If you’re like most normal people, start with one cup of pesto per pound of pasta and go from there.