I almost don’t want to see winter end because its departure signals the end of the season of kale. (And the truth is that I actually enjoy cold, gray days…just not every day.) True, plenty of spring delicacies will sprout from the ground to replace kale, but it is undoubtedly my favorite leafy green.
Although, I have to say, some genius brought collards to a girls’ night potluck recently that were to die for. Thick ribbons about the width of pappardelle pasta were lightly sauteed in a little olive oil and salt just until barely tender. I couldn’t stop nibbling on them. And then my friend Brent, who had been on a trip to Nashville, told me about a sandwich that he’d enjoyed at The Hermitage. I’d love to veganize and miniaturize it because it haunts me: fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and sauteed collard greens. Are you kidding me?!
Anyway, before the last of the kale is gone, I can’t stop creating new ways to enjoy it, like this pesto which is ridiculously simple to make–like all pesto–and deliciously different. It is a great recipe to keep in your culinary bag of tricks because it lends itself to the small bites that are one of my favorite ways to enjoy almost any food. But it is also luscious thinned with a little pasta water or soy creamer, tossed with whole wheat pasta, and sprinkled with my Vegan Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. On a recent Saturday night, our friends Pat and Ronn Ives joined us for dinner so, as you can see in the photo, I spread grilled baguette slices with a little of the pesto and then topped it with my Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney.
Don’t you agree that that color combination of rich, bright green and shimmering ruby red is hard to beat?
4 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped fresh kale, thick stems removed
1 cup lightly toasted chopped hazelnuts, cooled to room temperature (I dry toast them in a large skillet over medium-high heat for just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted
Zest of one medium naval orange
Approximately 3/4 cup olive oil (I love Trader Joe’s brand–it’s an outstanding value with balanced flavor and a pour spout)
Sea salt to taste
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse kale until finely chopped. Add hazelnuts and pulse until finely chopped. Kale will be almost minced. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil, adding more or less until the desired consistency is achieved. Turn off motor, check for seasoning, and add a pinch of sea salt if necessary. Then add the orange zest and pulse just a couple of times just to combine. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.