Kale and Green Garlic Pesto

Kale and Green Garlic Pesto

Writing and cooking in: Pittsburgh, PA

This weekend my college friend Tess came to visit me from Vermont. She’s a foodie like me so we eat all kinds of good food at home and out when we’re together. My CSA box was, of course, the beginning of our inspiration for this weekend. On Friday, we cooked up the kale and green garlic to make a delicious pesto. We tossed it with pasta, but you could put it on bread or chicken, use it as a dip for veggies, or toss a few tablespoons into soup for flavoring.

But just what is pesto? And where does it come from? And why would I make it with kale?

Pesto is an Italian sauce that originated in the Liguria region of Italy. Pesto from Liguria (the capital of which is Genoa, thus the popular pesto all genovese) is traditionally made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, parmiggiano cheese, and pecorino cheese. Traditional pesto that is made in Liguria is labelled D.O.P., one of several labels used in Italy to authenticate the origin of traditional foods such as prosciutto di parma and chianti wine.

However, variations on pesto are increasingly popular. To keep it semi traditional, the kale and green garlic pesto that Tess and I made uses kale in place of the basil, green garlic in place of garlic cloves, and walnuts instead of pine nuts. We used the kale and green garlic because they are local and the walnuts because we’ve recently finished grad school (go us!) and can’t afford the high cost of pine nuts if we want real parmiggiano reggiano in our pesto. And we do.

To make a semi traditional pesto you can use many ingredients just make sure you have these: a leaf of some sort (either an herb or a dark lettuce), a form of garlic, nuts, olive oil, and cheese.

In our pesto, I had a new ingredient in my kitchen: green garlic. My CSA membership continues to introduce me to new forms of old favorites. Green garlic (or spring garlic) looks like a large scallion. It has a strong garlic smell but a much milder taste than the cloves that develop as garlic matures. It gave a subtle garlic taste to our pesto. It complemented the strong flavor of the kale quite well. Our pesto was mild but full-bodied, slightly garlicky, and perfect for pasta. Green garlic is really only in season right now (hooray for May!) so this is a dish to celebrate spring! Later in the summer you could still make kale pesto, but it won’t be the same as with the green garlic you can get right now.

Kale and green garlic pesto

Recipe by Erin Hutton and Tess Kahn

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped or crushed into small pieces

1/4 pound kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped

3 shoots of green garlic, finely chopped (you can use the leaves, but taste to see if they are tender. If they are very fibrous, discard them and use only the white bulb and lower parts of the leaves)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

salt to taste

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet over low to medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until you can smell them and they crackle a bit, but before they burn, set aside. Heat a 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Saute kale and green garlic over low heat until kale is tender (about 10 minutes). Combine kale and green garlic mixture, walnuts, cheese, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender. Blend until well combined. It will be a cohesive paste but will still have a thick, chunky texture when it is ready. Add a little bit more olive oil if necessary to reach desired consistency. Salt to taste.

Note: If you would like to freeze the pesto, do not add the cheese. You can freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then thaw them for later use. Add the cheese after thawing the pesto. Or toss pesto cubes and cheese into soup.

Today’s local ingredients:

Kale, Nu Way Farm via Penn’s Corner CSA

Green garlic, Clubhouse Gardens via Penn’s Corner CSA

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