For now, anyway, it looks like we’re getting an early Spring on the Palouse. Of course, in this microclimate the weather could turn on a dime, and the ground be covered with snow in late or mid-April. But for now, it’s here. While I can’t gather ye rosebuds while ye may just yet, since my roses haven’t even leafed out, I can jump up and down to see the Red Russian kale reseeding and volunteering all over one of my vegetable garden beds. I may have gotten carried away with this, but folks, it’s a happy sight, so here are a few more views:
I’d like to tell you I made this pesto recipe with my very own kale, but I can’t. That will come later in the season. But I did find some beautiful organic lacinato kale on special at my co-op, and it was a perfect choice for what I was dreaming up. Once again, my recipe dream was helped along by a recipe I saw at Roxane’s Kitchen for Kale Hemp Seed Pesto. But I didn’t have any hemp seeds, and I wanted it to be low fat. So I went in a different direction, inspired by a couple of Esselstyn style treatments of kale that I especially like. In Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease there’s a recipe for what they call “Miraculous Walnut Sauce.” It’s very rich, and not recommended if you have heart disease, and should be eaten in small quantities even if you don’t. It’s absolutely heavenly on kale. So I thought why not use the flavors of walnut sauce to accompany and blend in with the kale? Then I remembered that what gives a low fat spinach pesto recipe I’ve adapted from Short Cut Vegetarian its special tang is some fresh lemon juice. And the Esselstyns make kale and lemon sandwiches. From them, too, I’ve learned the trick that lemon zest brightens many a fat free sauce and dressing.
It seems to me that cooking is a lot like writing. In both activities, often the best ideas are “stolen”; that is, adapted and morphed into something new as a result of the inspiration they prompt. That’s why we’re so lucky to have such a vibrant internet community of plant-based eaters. It’s like an art gallery or a poetry slam full of colorful, tasty catalysts, urging us on to innovative permutations on a theme. I like to think we’re all making an intricate quilt of tastes and connections that weave us together in our quest for good food and good health.
When I find something I like, my four year old self that wanted to eat the same thing every day reasserts herself. The dinner she asked for most often was lamb chops, spinach and hubbard squash. Lambchops notwithstanding, I have always truly loved greens. I probably have Popeye to thank for that, who was one of my very first heroes. As a chubby girl with a brace on my leg, I longed to be able to pop open a can of spinach and become instantly strong. Over the course of my life, I’ve always returned to greens for renewal and strength, even the dandelion greens in the garden, which my Italian relatives taught me to pick and use in soup, or saute with garlic, and, of course, olive oil. I ‘ve had to make a few changes in the treatment, but greens in all shapes and sizes are my constant love. I jump up and down when I see them coming back in the garden because they make me ABLE to jump up and down. Powerful food the color of the heart chakra. In the coming months I look forward to picking whole handfuls out of the generous earth.
Lemony Kale Pesto
This makes about 1 cup of pesto, which, for me, amounted to about 3 large servings mixed in with quinoa. To feed a larger crowd, double the recipe.
3 cups of coarsely torn or chopped kale (I used lacinato kale, but curly green kale should work fine too)
1 heaping tablespoon of walnut pieces
1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (I use about 1 1/2 tbs.)
1 teaspoon of lemon zest (or to taste)
1 teaspoon of chickpea miso (I used Miso Master Chickpea Miso)
2 garlic cloves, grated (about half a tablespoon) or same amount of shallot, red onion,or a combination of all three
1-2 tablespoon of peeled cooked Japanese sweet potato (or an extra tbs or walnut pieces)
(optional: a teaspoon of coconut aminos)
Tear the kale off the stems and coarsely tear or chop the leaves. Put the walnut pieces in the food processor and process for a minute. Heat a small amount of water, about 3 tablespoons, in a stainless steel or non-stick skillet. When the water is bubbling, stir in the kale pieces and saute, stirring until wilted and soft but still a rich green. Add the cooked kale and the rest of the ingredients and process until blended. (It’s alright if there is a bit of remaining water with the kale and it goes into the food processor with it.) If needed, add an extra tbs of water or two, a little at a time, (or a bit more lemon juice) to make a smooth paste. Add more lemon zest or garlic or shallot or even a bit of red onion to taste if desired.
To serve, place a handful of baby greens in a bowl. Top with warm quinoa (or pasta or whatever other grain or faux grain you’d like to eat). Add some pesto and mix it all together, wilting the baby greens as you go. Dig in.
Notes: This recipe is malleable to your tastes. So if you want it saltier, add some coconut aminos, or a bit more chickpea miso. If you like a lot of lemon, add more lemon juice and zest. If you want it higher fat, add more walnuts. If you want it creamier without higher fat, add more cooked Japanese Sweet Potato. If you want a fun twist, add a little raspberry vinegar along with the lemon juice. Shallot will make it sweeter than just garlic. Play with it. Dip your finger in the bowl and taste. Just remember it’s easier to add than to subtract.
I accidentally discovered this is as good cold as it is warm, which means I can keep eating it well into Summer as a cold salad, perhaps with a few cherry tomatoes thrown in. That’s just the kind of thing my inner four year old likes to know.