I had been wanting pesto gnocchi for far too long, so when we got a big bunch of basil in the CSA box a week ago, we jumped on it with loud cries. What? Isn't that how everyone reacts to their CSA box?
The basil wasn't the only thing in the box, though: we also got a huge bunch of kale. So we decided to make it into pesto too. This isn't as strange an idea as it might appear--several alternative-green pestos are floating around the blogs this season. I hadn't seen any with kale, though. An experiment was clearly in order.
We tossed our classic pesto with cooked gnocchi, but saved the kale pesto in the refrigerator. This results in a lavish use of pesto on the slightest of impulse.
In this instance, we reduced pesto down to its most necessary ingredients. That meant we eliminated both grating cheese and pine nuts, resulting in the most basily, garlicky pesto in the land.
Warm a couple spoonfuls of olive oil in a saute pan. It's best to go light on the olive oil here; you can always add more at the puree stage if needed.
Peel and coarsely chop a bunch of garlic. You can use as much garlic as you like; we used a little more than a full head. I'm serious. Garlic is so great.
Cook the garlic slowly in the olive oil, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and you can smell the fumes all the way outside in the stairwell. This should take maybe 5-10 minutes, depending on heat level. In the meantime, wash a bunch of basil and rip it all off its stems.
Now all you have to do is mix, season, and puree. Put your garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or appropriate container, salt and pepper it, and puree to your desired consistency. We used the immersion blender, which was entirely acceptable.
Now eat it! Toss with gnocchi or pasta, put a spoonful in your soup, spread it on a roasted red pepper sandwich. We clearly had gnocchi. Pesto gnocchi can stand either plain or with some grated cheese, but demands lots of crispy toast to mop up the extra sauce. It was the greatest.
Follow almost exactly the same process as for classic pesto. The only difference: since kale is a heavy winter green, you're going to need to blanch it for about five minutes, then drain it. After that you can proceed to puree.
This batch tasted almost identical to our basil batch, probably in part because we pureed it in the same container. However, even without the basil, what you'll get is a beautiful greens and garlic slurry that is more or less interchangeable.
I used about 2/3 of a bunch of kale for this batch; it filled a large pickle jar. Yay, pesto in the refrigerator! This means I have developed a new favorite breakfast: pesto toast.
Spread pesto on a slice of sourdough or other good bread. Add a layer of chopped tomatoes (or leave plain), then cover with grated parmesan or romano cheese. Toast in the toaster oven until the cheese is melted and beginning to turn golden. Eat it and feel satisfied with your life.
We also had a bunch of extra kale, so we decided to make it into kale chips for maximum green effect.
Wash, destem, and chop whatever kale you haven't turned into pesto. Toss it with a little olive oil and salt, then arrange the pieces in one layer on a rack. Set the rack on a cookie sheet and bake at 225F for about twenty minutes, or until your kale is crisp. This works best with a rounder-leafed variety of kale, to eliminate any prickly bits, but we used a more ruffled kale and it turned out fine.
Now sit down to eat the greenest dinner on the planet.