It's been months since I yanked basil from the ground and whizzed up some pesto. When basil is in season, I'm slathering it on everything from pasta to crostini to eggs, to the point where it is a kitchen staple. What happens when that pesto-craving hits, but your window-box is bare and the market only has sad limp little bouquets of basil? Get creative.
It turns out you can make pesto out of just about anything. What I love to do is pick greens that are at their peak, pair them with a nut (usually not the traditional and high-priced pine nut) and blend into pesto with parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, plus salt and pepper. It's that easy.
Come January there are not a ton of local in-season greens for a New Yorker like me, but the kale usually looks pretty perky so this week I made pesto from a nice armful of it. Adapt the recipe in spring with spinach, a mix of greens in summer — broccoli even! — and once fall and winter come try all those hearty greens like kale, chard, collards and rapini.
Winter Greens Pesto
Makes 1 1/2 cups, enough for 6-8 servings of pasta
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 8 ounces kale, trimmed, rinsed and chopped 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 4 cloves garlic, chopped 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast them in the oven until they are golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Have a large bowl of cold water ready. Drop the chopped kale into the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, swirl the kale around a few times until it becomes limp.
Drain the kale and plunge it into the cold water. Drain again, then place the kale on a clean dishtowel and blot away the moisture.
Place the nuts, kale, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender and puree until uniformly smooth. You may need to add more olive oil to reach desired consistency.
To refrigerate, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto. Will stay fresh for up to 3 days. To freeze, place desired portions in small containers with plastic directly on the surface of the pesto, or place in plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to two months.