Image via NYTimes
I'm embarrassed to admit that I've just now discovered the magic of pesto. Basil pesto is a fine luxury, and you can surely highlight other greens in a nut/garlic/fat concoction, but what if the answer all along to the droopy greens at the bottom of your crisper was a vibrant, versatile sauce? I recently came across this NYTimes recipe that calls for a kale pesto to dress up pasta and squash. I didn't have kale, but I had some wilted broccoli greens and a head of lettuce that needed some attention. I blended what I had with enough oil, nuts, garlic, and a bit of acid to create a fine puree. It's loaded with nutrition and keeps my compost bag in the freezer slim.
I plan to employ this trick through the end of this season, playing with flavors, colors, and textures of different combinations of unconventional pesto greens. Let me know your favorite combinations at email@example.com
1 1/2 pounds winter squash (I used butternut, but you can use others)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 1/2 cups tightly packed greens (I used the greens from a head of broccoli, plus half a head of romaine)
1 pound pasta (I prefer shapes to strands here)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a vegetable peeler to peel squash, then halve it lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Dice squash flesh into 1-inch pieces, place on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread pieces into an even layer, making sure there is space between them. Roast, stirring squash pieces once or twice, until golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water. Drop greens into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds. Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer greens to ice water. Bring water in pot back to a boil, adding more if necessary so there is enough to cook pasta.
3. Drain the greens well, then wrap tightly in a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess moisture. Roughly chop the leaves. When water in pot comes to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions.
4. In a food processor, pulse together greens, nuts, garlic, salt, and lemon zest and juice until mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated. Taste and add more salt and/or lemon, if necessary.
5. Drain pasta, reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta with kale pesto and some pasta cooking water if necessary to help it coast pasta. Serve topped with squash and freshly-ground pepper.