Emerald Ambrosia, or Kale Pesto That Will Rock Your World

kale pesto recipe
Image Credit: Vintage Savoir Faire.

I’m not going to lie. When I read a recipe for kale pesto a few weeks ago, I was more than a little suspicious about kale messing with an otherwise perfect combination of zesty basil, parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. However, it’s definitely not basil season in Denver. Our forecast for Tuesday is looking more than a little snowy. Snow = ridiculously priced basil in my neck of the woods, so I made the pesto adulteration plunge this weekend and snapped up a few bunches of reasonably priced lacinato kale.

exercise jackrabbit
Image Credit: GLiving.com

And I’m very glad I did. Besides being packed with enough vitamins and nutrients to send me sailing along the city running trails like a jackrabbit hopped up on desert sage, this particular pesto recipe tastes almost exactly like the basil pesto I made last September. Maybe I’m less enamored with basil than with its back-up singer ingredients after all.

Below you’ll find a recipe from the True Food cookbook I’ve been raving about for the past few weeks. The ingredients yield a sizable batch of the green ambrosia, which means you can freeze what you don’t use immediately and enjoy it later when you need a quick meal.

I slather pesto on toasted bread and use it as a condiment on salads and sandwiches, not to mention as an simple way to improve even the most humble pasta. What’s your favorite way to use pesto in your cooking?

vegetarian kale pesto recipe
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Emerald Ambrosia, or Kale Pesto That Will Rock Your World (a True Food recipe)
Yields 2 cups

– 8 cups stemmed, chopped kale (about 2 bunches)
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
– 1/4 cup pine nuts
– 4 cloves garlic
– 3/4 cup olive oil
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes
– 1 tsp kosher salt
– 1 tsp black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water.

2. Plunge the kale into the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove the kale to the ice water. (Icy water will preserve the bright green color and instantly stops the cooking process.)

3. After cooling for 3 minutes, strain the kale in a colander and press to get rid of the excess water.

4. Put the kale and the remaining ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

This pesto will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Unless you’re planning a pesto party, I recommend freezing the leftovers in an air-tight container. It can keep up to a month in the freezer.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Jody and Ken says:

    Big fans of kale pesto. It’s good to have alternatives. By the way, kale stands up well to walnuts if you want to keep going in the earthy direction. Good post. Ken

    1. gwynnem says:

      Great idea on the walnut substitute! I’m posting a recipe tomorrow that uses this pesto. I’m curious what you’ll think, Ken. Hope you like sea scallops. 🙂

      1. Jody and Ken says:

        Love sea scallops, as long they’re not pumped full of water. Ken

        1. gwynnem says:

          Tell me more. How do they get pumped with water? Maybe I did this on accident. :/

          1. Jody and Ken says:

            In brief, scallops are about 75% water when they’re harvested from the ocean floor. But many seafood purveyors soak them in a solution of TSP, trisodium phosphate (if that sounds like the cleaning stuff you use to scrub your walls before painting that’s because it is). The solutions causes the scallops to absorb more water, hence they weigh more–and thus cost more. It used to be that you could ask (if not necessarily receive a truthful answer) from your seafood purveyor if the scallops were “dry” or not, meaning if they’d been treated with TSP. But because so many consumers have caught on, large seafood companies now use other compounds which are legally mandated to be identified that can also cause water uptake. I’ll include a link at the end of this where you can get the full story. Aside from cost, there’s a cooking issue to consider. A dry scallop will sear nicely, especially a large sea scallop, leaving the interior medium-rare, which is what it should be. A “wet” scallop however, won’t sear. Instead it releases all of that extra water into the pan, so in essence the scallop steams, not to mention what it potentially does to the flavor. The Boston Globe has done a great job reporting on issues with seafood, particularly mislabeling or misrepresentation on menus (which pisses Jody and me off no end, for obvious reasons). Anyway, they did a piece specifically devoted to scallops. If I were dealing with supermarkets, my inclination would be to trust Whole Foods, while asking questions. Or a fish vendor with whom you have a good relationship. My own experience, living right near where scallops are harvested, is that dry New England scallops are EXPENSIVE, always. Cheap scallops almost always have extra water. Check it out: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/09/23/they-called-scallops-but-some-sold-grocery-stores-are-more-than-percent-water/7h63LZi8SXqKA0PMXoAC9H/story.html

            Good luck. Ken

  2. Ingrid says:

    I’ll need to give the kale a try. I’ve used a spinach/arugula mix that made a good pesto. Hope this blizzard passes soon and spring will finally arrive in Colorado.

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks for the well wishes on the weather, Ingrid. It’s been snowing on and off since the wee hours of this morning. Spring in Denver = Running in shorts and a tank top one day and wearing thermal underwear and a wool coat the next.

      I’ll have to give the spinach/arugula mix a try, too.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. Have neither tried making pesto nor had any other than the ‘real thing’, if that makes sense. Do love the idea of trying this if I could get my paws on some kale. Darn, it’s one of my favourite greens but I can’t get it here.

    1. gwynnem says:

      I had thought you’d be able to get all kinds of tasty fall and winter greens in your neck of the woods, but maybe it’s just too cold and dark for them to grow in the winter in your area?

      1. One of my local stores used to sell bags of chopped up kale that I didn’t like as I never wanted all of those thick stems. Now, they don’t even sell those. The irony is I’m living in what is known as The Garden of England! I suppose the stores only sell what sells.

        1. gwynnem says:

          Bummer. Do you have any yard space? Might be time to grow these rascals. 🙂

          1. Not even! I’ll tend to my little pots of herbs with lots of fussing going on instead. 🙂

          2. gwynnem says:

            Basil pesto is still my favorite. Hopefully you’ve got a few pots of those nestled in your windowsill.

  4. gwynnem says:

    Thanks, Ken. That’s helpful, though now I’m royally annoyed with the grossness of TSP.

    I could not get ours to sear. I thought it was because I’d rinsed them with water, but now I’m wondering if they were also treated with TSP.

  5. Lilly Sue says:

    I love pesto so much! Made some recently 🙂 I haven’t substituted kale yet but I am sure it is awesome!

  6. leroywatson4 says:

    Love this take on pesto. Raw kale has such a potent flavour. Thanks for sharing. Peace, lee

  7. afracooking says:

    Such a fabulous spin on the standard pesto! Must try this!

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