march 22, 2013
What I love about greens : kissed by the first frost of autumn, they are tender and flavorful; picked in springtime, they are equally tender and just as flavorful. Something else to love about greens ? Their versatility in the art of cooking.
Cooked for several hours at a gentle simmer with smoked turkey or pork for flavor, they are homey and mellow, the ideal embodiment of the Cooked to Death southern philosophy of vegetable preparation. Alternately, they are perfectly perfect raw in salads or very lightly wilted and mingled with colorful jewels of dried fruits and root vegetables. This winter’s menus for The Good Eats Company personal chef service have featured a spicy kale and carrot saute with garlic and kale with bacon and dried cranberries.
Think pesto and basil is on everyone’s wish list, but do consider that greens like kale and mustard make a worthy contribution to the pesto parade of flavors. Pesto is so easy to make with a food processor and it freezes well. Like last week’s herbed mushroom spread, pesto may be employed in myriad ways to brighten your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Imagine bright dollops of pesto in your scrambled eggs, folded into soft cheeses as spreads and dips, smoothed onto sandwiches and providing dots of color and flavor to pizzas and flatbreads. My addition of dried apricot to today’s kale pesto will not give you a treacly sweet condiment, but it will give a whisper of sweetness and cut the bitterness of the greens.
Our kale apricot pesto dresses up pasta for the classical treatment, but lest you dismiss this as humdrum fare, remember there is pasta and there is pasta. Bombolini Pasta in Richmond makes fresh pastas in a variety of shapes and flavors (like cucumber, squid ink and chocolate), selling out of their tidy shop on West Main Street, at local farmer’s markets and local greengrocers like Little House Green Grocery. The owners, Lolita and John Kreckman, have a friendly online presence and provide superior fresh pasta to some of Richmond’s best restaurants.
Bombolini makes a gluten free pasta with perfect texture and a nutty flavor which holds its shape well, carrying none of the gumminess associated with some commercial brands. Pasta that tastes fabulous – wonderful, too marvelous for words. Fabulous pasta that cooks in one to two minutes – even better! Bombolini recommends a brief rinse after cooking to set the starch and although this intuitively seems counterproductive, I see that it works well. Save some of the cooking water to improve your sauce (see recipe) and watch magic happen in the kitchen.
The real test of a great pasta is an affirmative answer to the question “Does it taste great cold the next day?” I am please to report that my breakfast of chilled pasta with kale apricot pesto passed that test with vivid, flying colors.
pasta with kale apricot pesto
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
one pound fresh pasta
approximately one cup kale apricot pesto
optional garnish : slivered dried apricot
- Bring at least 2 quarts of water to boil with one large pinch of kosher salt.
- Add fresh pasta and stir gently to separate; after one minute, use ladle to remove 2-3 scoops of cooking water and set aside.
- After a total time of 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, pasta should be done (taste test with fork).
- Drain pasta in colander and give a brief rinse under cool running water.
- Toss pasta with pesto, adding enough reserved pasta water to create a smooth sauce.
- Garnish with apricot slivers if desired and serve immediately.
kale apricot pesto
makes about two cups
one large bunch of kale, preferable organic (about 8 oz), ribs removed and leaves torn into large pieces
one large garlic clove
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup untoasted walnuts
1/2 cup snipped dried apricots
1/2 cup plus 2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t fine sea salt
one pinch finely ground white pepper
- Bring water to boil in two quart saucepan with one teaspoon kosher salt.
- Add kale leaves, cooking for about two minutes to wilt thoroughly; drain and squeeze out extra liquid.
- In bowl of large food processor, combine kale, garlic, parmesan, walnuts, apricots and salt and pepper; pulse until uniformly chunky.
- With processor running, add lemon juice and olive oil slowly, processing until all is smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Pesto keeps well in the fridge for about one week and several months in the fridge.
- Makes enough for about two pounds of pasta.