Pesto Girl Returns
The first week at university the vast majority of the people in my halls of residence were given nicknames by my flat. Oddly enough most were food related, no doubt due to meals we’d each cooked up that first week. There was Flapjack Boy and Chip Boy for starters. Many of the others escape me, except for mine. I was Pesto Girl.
Pesto pasta was the first dish I made in my halls kitchen. Crispy bacon which set the kitchen into a haze of smoke, combined with jarred pesto a dollop of natural yoghurt and a portion of white pasta. It was my signature (and at that point only) dish. There probably wasn’t any Parmesan on top. I doubt my student purse could afford it.
My love affair with pesto has continued through the years (this is the fourth recipe on the blog), though never in this time have I considered the etymology of pesto. What exactly does it mean? This week I looked it up and discovered that pesto actually comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound / crush. The original Ligurian basil version is made by pounding the ingredients together with a pestle and mortar. I think kale might be a bit too tough to pound in this way – so a modern interpretation with food processor is absolutely allowed.
This kale and almond version is quite different to the original but equally delicious. The toasted almonds give a wonderful nutty aroma, plus this is a great way to get the nutrient dense dark green vegetable kale into your system. There is so much you can do with pesto beyond stirring it through pasta. Heaping it on a roasted chicken breast was my idea of choice on this occasion.
I’ve used home-made garlic infused olive oil (though M&S do a good one too) for a low-fodmap version – however if you’re good to go on fodmaps use a pure extra virgin oil with a couple of cloves of garlic instead. My recipe is adapted from Elana’s Pantry.
Ingredients (makes 1 small pot, enough to serve 3-4 on a main dish)
- 125g curly kale leaves (the stalks can remain since you will blend them)
- 50g almonds
- 1 tsp celtic salt
- 3 Tablespoons of garlic infused olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- Blanch the curly kale in a large saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove, drain and plunge straight into a bowl of ice-cold water. This helps the kale to ‘set’ its bright green colour.
- Meanwhile toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until they colour. Set aside.
- Drain and pat the kale dry. Pulse in a food processor till finely chopped. Add the toasted almonds, salt, olive oil and lemon juice and pulse into a paste. You can adapt the quantity of oil, lemon and seasoning until you get the texture you desire.
- Pesto now ready to use in any way you desire. With salads, grilled meats, fish, with eggs – get creative!
- If you’re keeping the pesto in the fridge you may need to cover with a little olive oil to stop discolouration (as you would with regular pesto). Will keep for a couple of days.