Umami Bomb Kale Pesto – Vegan to Boot!

Oh look! It’s me! It’s only been like 2 years since I posted here. If you missed me, please note that you can always find me writing about the body over here. I also wrote one personal thing here (I needed a home for a story about lady health, and neither this nor my massage blog were the place). There might be more to come on the Working Draft blog. Time will tell. But I’m really not here to send you off to other blogs. I am here to tell you about some pesto I made the other day, because it was a serious umami bomb — compelling and tasty, quick and easy to make, and healthy enough that the addictive nature of this sauce will not destroy you.

I am using the word pesto pretty loosely. It’s a paste, a pesto texture, but it’s not my momma’s homegrown basil sauce. When it comes to that, I am a purist: basil, pine nuts, garlic, oil. Add some cheese later. No aldulterating with other herbs, no messing with the nuts, no weird ingredients. This here is a kale pesto, hearty and bold, and pretty much anything goes.

I’ve made kale pesto before. Again, it’s not your grandmother’s pesto, but it’s super easy and super fast. I had some organic red kale on hand the other day and wanted to whip one up, but found that I had no suitable cheese to add to the mix. The horror! I added some lemon zest and juice, because I pretty much always do that to brighten up greens. I tossed in some nutritional yeast for that warm, savory, umami roundness. And then I noticed a jar of capers that I’d bought and never put away, shining up at me from the kitchen island, begging to be added to the sauce. Turns out, the combination of the nutritional yeast and the briney capers is basically magic, transforming my humble muddied greens pesto into an addictive sauce far greater than the sum of its parts. I didn’t even miss the cheese (though I did mix some leftover pesto with labneh and a crumble of feta a few days later, and it was exceedingly creamy and downright dreamy).

Did I mention that it is really, really quick and easy? It only took me about 25 minutes to make dinner, which means that you can probably do it in 15. I am slow in the kitchen. It’s as easy as…

1) Blanch the kale. Some people will tell you to remove the stems, or separate and cook them longer. Balderdash! The whole point of making pesto out of hearty greens is that you crush them, stems and all, and don’t have to bust out a paring knife.

Blanching Kale

2.) Throw everything in the food processor and whir it around. I like to do the garlic first, then all other solids, and add a glug of olive oil at the end. You can’t go wrong, really.

Blend in Food Processor

3.) Eat it. Here it is over some whole wheat noodles. It’s not the most vibrant color around, so I put it in a pretty bowl. I would have liked some cannellini beans in with the pasta, but the cupboards were a little on the bare side.

Serve in pretty green bowl to compensate for muddy color.

Recipe: Umami Bomb Kale Pesto

What Goes In:

  • 1 bunch kale, preferably organic or bought from a trusty farmer, because kale sometimes pops up on Dirty Dozen lists these days
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (this is a hearty sauce — no need for delicate and pricey pine nuts, though they would certainly work)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • zest and juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 4 Tbsp capers + 1 Tbsp brine
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Good glug of olive oil — however much your conscience allowsor around 1/4 cup

How to Do it:

  • Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch kale for about 2 minutes. If serving over pasta, simply scoop the kale out with tongs and use the same water for your pasta. It will be a little purple if you’re using red kale, and maybe a little green if using regular greens, but whatevs.
  • Drain in colander and squeeze out excess water. You really don’t need to get an ice water bath involved.
  • Grind garlic in food processor, scrape down sides, and add walnuts, lemon zest and juice, nutritional yeast, and capers. Pulse a few times, then add kale.
  • With food processor running, pour olive oil through feed tube until sauce becomes fairly uniform. You may need to scrape down the sides a little. All good.
  • Taste, adjust anything that needs adjusted, serve with fresh cracked pepper.

That’s it. It’s super easy, good on toast with some hummus or labneh if you happen to have wandered into the East Village cheese shop for the first time in years and found a tub of it waiting for you there, or tossed with noodles and a dash of their cooking water, or pretty much anywhere else you desire. Make it, eat it, love it. Yes.

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One response to “Umami Bomb Kale Pesto – Vegan to Boot!

  1. Pingback: So, What Exactly is Umami, Anyway? | FSW@Home

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