Monday, March 21, 2011

Winter Greens Pesto

It's new recipe night again.  I'm a basil superfan, but it's hard to digest the cost of buying it in the winter when it grows like crazy in the garden in the summer.  (Side note:  If you're REALLY craving traditional basil pesto, you can use a minimal amount of basil and sub the rest of the green with fresh spinach.  I swear you won't know the difference.  And it's so much more bang for your buck!)  I really like the idea of this one because it's one of those, use what you like, recipes.  We had it on fettuccine noodles, but any noodle would be good.  It also suggested spreading it on toasted rustic bread and sprinkling with feta for a snack.  <drooling>  Add water or additional olive oil and drizzle over veggies.  Mix it with goat cheese for a spread.  The possibilities are endless. 

Here's the recipe:

2 medium-sized bunches of sturdy greens (chard, kale, beet greens, spinach, etc.) (I used one bunch of chard and one bunch of turnip greens)
2 oz aged hard cheese such as parmesan or asiago (I had a good parm in the cheese drawer)
1 to 2 handfuls of hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pine nuts (I used almonds - any nut would be delicious)
1 to 2 cloves of garlic (I'm a fan, so I used two)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil

Wash and stem greens, if stems are tough.  If using beet greens or spinach, reserve the stems.  (I discarded the turnip stems, but chopped up the chard stems and threw them in with the greens.)  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add greens, return to boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain, let cool and squeeze out all the water with your hands. 

Place cheese and nuts in a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add greens, garlic, two generous pinches of salt and pepper and process until well-integrated.  (My food processor is medium sized, so next time, I would pull out the nut mixture and do the greens and garlic on their own for a minute.  As it was, I kept having to stop and stir to get things combined and probably used more olive oil than what was called for to get things rollin'.)  Drizzle in the oil, and periodically check for consistency and flavor.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Do not overprocess.  If not using immediately, store in a lidded container in the refrigerator with a little more olive oil poured over the top.  Keeps for 1 to 2 weeks refrigerated, or up to 6 months frozen.

As I said, we had ours with noodles.  I pulled out a cup of the pasta water before draining it and mixed that into the noodles and pesto.  Here's my dinner:

To go with it, I made a salad.  Here's the scoop on that:

If I had had fresh beets, I would have used those.  But I didn't.  So in that case, open a can of sliced or whole ones; rinse and drain them.  Put them in a baking pan and drizzled them with olive oil, balsamic and honey.  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and throw them in the oven at 400 for about 25 minutes, stirring once. 

Toast a handful of nuts - whatever you've got.  I had pecans.  Put some mixed greens in a bowl.  Add the nuts, cooled beets and some crumbled cheese.  I used feta.  Toss with your favorite vinaigrette.  I had a homemade one in the fridge.  You could also just use oil and vinegar. 

Here's what mine looked like:

And that's dinner folks.  Good stuff.  The Kid ate two helpings of pasta.  The Girl was licking the spoon as I was making the pesto.  Who knew.

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