Until a few short years ago, I thought of kale as a garnish. I remember eating restaurant grilled cheese as a kid and asking my mom if I could eat the green stuff underneath my fruit cup. “No honey, that’s just to look at. It’s for color, but you don’t eat it.” Since I was told not to eat it, I ate it anyway. I didn’t particularly enjoy the stringy and bitter leaf, but at least I felt adventurous.
Now that I’ve figured out how to cook it, I know that kale can be a delicious addition to many meals. I’ve already mentioned my love for kale chips, but kale is also is great in soup, stir fry recipes, and (can you guess where I’m going with this?) pasta. If you eat it raw, you may notice a slight bitter taste, but why eat it raw and unseasoned unless you’re a [harmlessly] rebellious kid?
Speaking of things I’ve learned to love (and things we’ll be using in a recipe shortly), my brief (okay VERY brief) gluten-free phase showed me that tasty gluten free pasta DOES exist. Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Pasta is made with organic corn and quinoa, cooks up just like normal pasta, and most importantly does NOT have the mushy-yet-somehow-undercooked taste of brown rice pasta. FYI – I have no connection with the company at all, so this is really just me wanting you to understand the greatness of this pasta. I buy it frequently even though I’m no longer gluten free. If you’re gluten intolerant or just trying to lower your gluten intake, get at it.
This past Friday, some twenty years after my time of eating raw garnish leafs, a friend texted me saying, “I want to like kale. I really do. Do you have a recipe that might help me get there?” I immediately directed her to kale chips, which I fell in love with just a few short months ago, but then I realized that I barely have any recipes on this blog that involve kale, and none that make it the star of the show. Since I cook with it frequently, I decided I needed to share some of my kale love with all of yous.
Not to get too annoying here, but do you even know how good kale is for you? It’s packed with vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C, has glucosinolates that have been shown to help prevent cancer, and it just generally helps your whole body detox…which is a great idea after a week of eating peanut butter cup pretzel cookies, am I right?
This is a perfect recipe if you’re easing into kale consumption. Blanching the kale lowers the level of bitterness, and you don’t need to worry about the “stringy” factor because you puree the blanched kale with basil, lemon, and garlic to make a super delicious pesto. This pesto would go perfectly in many pasta recipes, but I chose to pair it simply with my favorite gluten free linguine, grape tomatoes, and kalamata olives. The result? Fresh and flavorful gluten-free awesomeness. If you want to make the pesto, but aren’t in a pasta mood, the spread goes great as a dip for crackers and veggies or as a spread on sandwiches. Tasty, versatile, and PACKED with nutrition – win!
- 1 tablespoon raw pistachios
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch kale
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup kalamata olives, halved
- 8 ounces pasta (gluten free if desired)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan (optional - leave out for vegan option)
- To start, remove that bitterness by blanching the kale. Remove the large middle stems from the kale leafs and tear into 1 or 2-inch pieces. Place the leafs into a medium-sized pot, then fill that pot halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to low heat and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
- Pulse together the pistachios and garlic in a food processor until fine.
- Drain the kale, rinse it in cold water, and squeeze it with your hands to ring out some of the water. Add the kale and the basil to the food processor, pulsing and then scraping the sides several times until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while the processor is running, again scraping the sides as necessary. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, but watching carefully. It is important not to overcook gluten free pasta, because no one likes a mushy noodle!
- Drain pasta, return to the pot, then mix in the pesto, tomatoes, and olives. Divide between four bowls, and top with grated parmesan, if desired.
Take that, mom.
(…JK love you mom!!!)