Signs of Spring (and Lemony Kale Pesto)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on April 5, 2013

baby kale

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:

baby kale 2

Baby Kale 5

Baby Kale and Mamma Kale

Baby Kale and Mamma Kale

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.

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.


Maria (moowatcher)



Leave a Comment

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susan Voisin April 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm

This looks delicious, Maria! I love the addition of the miso. That and the Japanese sweet potato are two ingredients I’ve never added to pesto.


2 moonwatcher April 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Thanks, Susan! I’m so glad you like it! That Japanese Sweet Potato really DOES come to the rescue for me. (Perhaps I should make it a Slow Motion Miracle cape. . .)


3 Ginger April 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Never thought of kale as pesto. I can’t eat nuts but could probably still make this sans nuts. I love kale and lemon sandwiches ala Esselstyn. I’m another one who loved canned spinach as a child but now know all about real greens freshly steamed. Yum! Thanks for the post.


4 moonwatcher April 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm

You’re welcome, Ginger. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make this without the walnuts. I’d just add a little more of the Japanese sweet potato, and maybe a bit more miso and lemon for taste and texture. Great to meet another spinach lover from way back when we only knew to eat it from the can!


5 Traci April 7, 2013 at 8:51 am

I made pestos all the time with seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, or a mix!) for our nut-free household!


6 moonwatcher April 7, 2013 at 9:16 am

Thanks, Traci, and welcome! That sounds good. The pumpkin seed option sounds especially tasty to me.


7 Marty April 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I make weekly the Engine Type 2 Diet “Kale Dip” that I have on my Van’s Gluten-free Vegan waffles for breakfast. Only 2 T/day. I use walnuts or pecans, any greens I have on hand tho 1/2-cup usually, salt and lemon juice. I love this dip! Next time I’ll try the garlic and miso with, and have with quinoa!


8 moonwatcher April 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thanks, Marty, and welcome! Hope you enjoy this version.


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