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Cook Club: Kale Pesto

Kale pesto recipe tackles 12 cups of kale, packs nutrition into delicious, versatile sauce

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If you love vegetables, there is no better way to get them than fresh from the farm. Even better when they’re delivered by the boxful to a local drop-off near you, which is exactly what I have after signing up for a summer CSA share through Bass Family Farms in Mount Vernon.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for consumers to subscribe to a local farm’s harvest of produce throughout the season. Farmers get the advantage of payment in advance, while consumers get delicious, fresh — and in my case, organic — food delivered to them. They know exactly where it’s coming from, too.

Now in my fifth week of picking up my box at my local drop-off spot of choice, Lion Bridge Brewing Company — combining two of my favorite things: beer and veggies — I have more kale than I know what to do with.

Chris Bass of Bass Family Farms said they include a lot of kale in the CSA share because “it’s a super antioxidant” that is “way overpriced in the grocery store.”

Just one cup of the increasingly popular leafy green packs lots of vitamins and minerals — vitamin A, C and K, folate, omega-3, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc — 2.5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein into just 33 calories. It goes great with eggs or blended into a smoothie in the morning, sliced into a salad for lunch or sauteed as a side for dinner. But with so much of it filling my fridge, I needed a recipe that could tackle a large portion fast. Kale pesto did the trick.

This recipe calls for 12 cups of kale, which sounds like a lot, but once blended it shrinks down to just under a quart of pesto.

Traditionally, the Italian sauce — it’s name coming from the Italian verb pestare, which means to pound or crush — consists of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. You can substitute other vegetables for basil — similar to what I did with kale — such as garlic scapes, parsley, beets, spinach, carrots, mint and much more. Pine nuts, which can cost up to $120 per pound, can be substituted with more affordable nuts such as sunflower seeds, walnuts or almonds.

Pesto goes great on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, soups, baked into bread, on salads, in dips and much more — it’s easy to get creative with such a versatile sauce. It can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for future meals. Want individual portions? Try freezing in a muffin tin or ice cube tray to thaw as needed.

Kale pesto

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed while blending

3 cloves garlic, peeled

12 cups chopped kale leaves (optional: add basil leaves for more traditional pesto flavor)

1 cup pine nuts (One way to make this recipe more affordable is to use a cheaper nut, such as sunflower seeds, walnuts or almonds)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Splash of lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon)

Salt to taste

Pour olive oil into a food processor, add garlic and pulse until chopped.

Add kale to olive oil mixture, working in batches. Pulse until blended. You may need to scrape the sides, pushing the kale toward the blade as you go.

Stir pine nuts and Parmesan cheese into kale mixture and pulse until smooth.

Add a splash of lemon juice and salt to taste.

Shrimp pesto pizza

1 12-inch pizza crust, pre-baked or homemade

1/2 cup kale pesto

1 ripe tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons capers

2 cups precooked, deveined shrimp

1 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spread pesto on pizza crust. Top with tomatoes, capers, shrimp and cheese.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.

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