Sauces and Spreads

Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnut Pesto

by editor on November 17, 2010

Kale Lemon Walnut Pesto

There’s an awful lot of child-feeding advice out there that involves secreting green vegetables in unlikely places like brownies or disguising Brussels sprouts as monster shaped chicken nuggets. This kale pesto might have the same effect for adults who dislike the CSA box frequent flier and frilly member of the cabbage family, and it makes a lovely change if you can’t face another plate of wilted leafy greens that taste of too much garlic.

Winter pesto can be made with kale, spinach, chard, collards and even carrot greens, however this kale version is my personal favorite – the earthy, savory flavor of the kale stands up against the saltiness of the cheese, the walnuts provide a slight yet satisfying chew and the lemon brightens it all up. It’s one reason I’m now rather thrilled to receive a sizeable bunch of kale from Full Circle Farm every week, and I promise you’ll almost forget how much you miss fresh summer basil!

This pesto is delicious with everything from a simple baguette or crostini to pasta or roasted vegetables (I like carrots and potatoes). I also discovered today that spreading the crostini with goat cheese first makes for a heavenly pre-dinner snack.

Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnut Pesto
Serves 8 as a spread | Makes enough for 2lb pasta

1 bunch (approx. 8oz / 250g) curly kale
1 cup / 4oz / 100g shelled walnuts
3oz / 90g Parmigiano-Regianno or Grana Padano, coarsely grated
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped (more if you like your food garlicky)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp lemon juice (2-3 small lemons)
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Special Equipment
Food processor

Rinse kale leaves and remove tough stalk by turning leaf over and scoring along the edges of the stalk with a sharp knife. Do not dry leaves, as water from rinsing will be used to steam them.

Place trimmed kale in a medium pan without water and steam briefly, until kale has turned bright green but has not begun to reduce in size. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place walnuts in a small pan. Stir constantly over a medium-high heat until walnuts begin to color slightly and walnut aroma is released. Immediately dump walnuts onto a cold plate to stop cooking and prevent scorching. Set aside to cool.

Place cooled kale, toasted walnuts, cheese and garlic in bowl of food processor. Process while gradually drizzling in olive oil.

Pulse briefly to blend in lemon juice and lemon zest, if using. Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper. Pulse briefly to blend.

Serve on bread, crostini or tossed with pasta, peas and some extra lemon juice. Keeps in fridge for a couple of days.