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The Joy of (Not) Cooking: Kale Pesto


The first days into an August that could variously be described as sticky, gritty, or just plan oppressive (same as it ever was? yes, but still), my kitchen projects are decidedly anti-cooking. In fact, I’m to the point that I will stop to consider whether bending over to lug the food processor out of its storage space is worth the effort, so you can see how things have ground to a kind of halt here in Wonderland.

Still, when your CSA haul means you have acquired not only two heads of lettuce for your nightly no-cook dinner salads but also a bunch of swiss chard and a bunch of kale–all of which needs to fit in the ‘fridge in some manner–steps must be taken.

Lately, this is when kale pesto becomes very attractive. Kale may be the ultimate cliche of the super natural food blogger (seriously, click and read that), but I get exhausted just looking at it. The thought of kale chips has never inspired me to kitchen action (though I will happily eat yours!), and the idea of chewing a week’s worth of kale salads at home will force me to suggest dining out. This kale pesto, however, reduces down neatly to a pint-sized jar, ready to be smeared on pizzas and sandwiches of all kinds, to be tossed with pasta, or to serve as a dip for veggies and pita chips.

Kale Pesto

1 bunch kale, stems removed (about 6 cups–however much I have, I just pack it in)
3/4 cup walnuts (or pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, or a mix of these)
2 garlic cloves
3 T nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil

Place garlic cloves, nuts, nutritional yeast, and salt in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse to evenly break down nuts. Stop and pack half of the kale into the processor bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice and half of the olive oil over the kale and process until there is room enough to add the rest of the kale and remaining olive oil.

Continue processing until desired texture is achieved. Stop to scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste and add additional salt or nutritional yeast if desired. Add more oil if you need a looser consistency. I like to leave mine thick so I can spread a deep layer of it on sandwiches and then thin it in portions for use on pasta, etc.

Pack the finished pesto into a jar with a tight-fitting lid, adding a bit of additional olive oil to the top surface of the spread to prevent discoloration if you anticipate significant time between uses.

There Can’t Be Only One: Spring Asparagus


Spring asparagus. Not the dry and woody and confusingly available in the grocery store in January kind, but pencil thin and freshly picked. Who could limit themselves to just one bunch (@ $2 each!) per week? Not I, said the little cook. And so, after asparagus tart, there was asparagus…well, pesto, in a sense. Puree in another. Sauce? Condiment? Dip? Yes, yes, and yes. Pass the crackers. Hell, pass a spoon.

After my “first of spring” produce splurge this weekend, I had stretched the grocery budget too tightly to handle a whole cup of pine nuts, and so I swapped in the walnuts I already had in the pantry and saved the few pine nuts available for garnish; it was still fantastic. This is an awesome dish from Super Natural Cooking, no matter what you smear it on.

(P.S. It was Heidi Swanson who taught me to make pesto-type toppings out of many green things, including broccoli. So check her out, be brave, and get creative; it’s awesome on the green side.)

Spring Asparagus Pesto
from Super Natural Cooking

1 bunch asparagus spears trimmed (I also cut mine in half to better fit in my pot)
a few generous handfuls of baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (1/2 cup walnuts work as well, if that better suits your budget as it did mine)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T lemon juice

In a pot large enough to accommodate your asparagus, bring salted water to a boil. Boil asparagus for two to three minutes, until just tender. Drain and transfer to a food processor, along with the spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and nuts of your choice (toast them first, if you can spare the time). Turn processor on and puree, drizzling in the olive oil while it runs. Add lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Pesto can be tossed immediately with pasta or kept in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Cover the exposed puree with olive oil to prevent discoloration.

Almost English: Sourdough Breakfast Muffins


More than a month ago, I ordered a sourdough starter and some English muffin rings from King Arthur Flour, and while the sourdough has subsequently been put through its paces, those eight metal rings have just been sitting in the pantry, taunting me whenever I open the door to retrieve some other item. The thing of it is, most of the English muffin recipes I’ve found need to be cooked on a griddle that I do not have, and the only pan in my arsenal that would suit can fit a grand total of two of these biscuit holders simultaneously. That seemed a recipe for frustration, no matter how you shaped it.

Meanwhile, there were recipes out there for baking them, but they weren’t for sourdough English muffins, and I was peculiarly stuck on this point. The clock was ticking down on me yesterday, my available slot for proofing and baking shrinking rapidly as my fingers Googled (you can feel the Jason Bourne-like tension here, right?) when I discovered this recipe on the King Arthur site and realized it met my desires of the moment perfectly. All-in-one-bowl mixing! Only a smidge more than an hour rising time! This morning, the fluffy little muffins fresh out of the toaster also hit my breakfast desires right on the spot, so we’re going call this one a clean win. If I had to sacrifice the cute little nooks and crannies to get here, so be it. Next time…

The griddle question, however, remains. Being vegetarian, I don’t have call to cook up sausage patties or suchlike, but I would love to dig deeper into Indian flatbreads, which also make use of a large, hot surface. Any shopping suggestions?

English muffin rings from King Arthur Flour

Sourdough Breakfast Biscuits
from King Arthur Flour

1 T instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup sourdough starter, refreshed
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup dried milk
3 cups AP flour
2 T oil
1 egg
cornmeal (for dusting)

Place yeast and water in a large bowl or stand mixer and stir to dissolve. Add all remaining ingredients (aside from the cornmeal) and knead, but hand or by hook, until a smooth dough has formed. Turn out onto a flour counter, cover with a towel, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

After the initial bench rest, roll dough out (about 1/2 inch thick) to fit 8 3 1/2 inch English muffin rings. Cut out muffins. Place rings on the sheet and dust the inside of each circle with cornmeal. Place a round of dough inside each ring, dust the tops with cornmeal, and place a second baking sheet over top, balanced on the to of the metal rings. Allow to rise for 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. When rise is complete, bake muffins (still covered with second baking sheet) for 25 minutes or until tops are golden. Cool for 10 minutes on the sheet then remove rings and transfer to a wire rack.


The interior will not have all the nooks and crannies of traditional English muffins, but I split one with a fork and found the interior soft and chewy and quite satisfactory all the same.

I’ve toasted and consumed two more without a complaint, topped with some kale pesto. What can I say? I have a thing for leafy green condiments.

I used this Tastespotting recipe, though I substituted a teaspoon of nutritional yeast for the cheese.