I have been making this version of pesto for a year or more now and I’ve been teaching it in my winter cooking classes and it’s usually a favorite. I originally started making it because my then, 2 year-old loved basil pesto but once basil was out of season and he had become a pickier eater I started making this version with greens of all kinds (beet greens, chard, spinach, etc.) I made it this past weekend for my son’s birthday party. I mixed it with some fresh goat cheese and spread it on toasted bread. People were eating it by the spoonful out of the bowl in the kitchen before I could even get it on the bread.
And then when I went to the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market on Sunday, the greens were back! The hard freeze we had in early/mid December really did in the leafy greens this winter. The last few weeks, however, have been so mild that the greens are showing up in the market again.
I loaded up on collards, lacinato and Red Russian kale, rapini, bok choy and spinach. And all were beautiful! So if you have greens in your fridge, by all means try this recipe. Use whatever nuts you have on hand. Walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts or all delicious in this and if you have pine nuts, by all means use them.
And if you’re going to mix it with goat cheese like I did you can skip the hard cheese in the pesto and reduce the oil. Buon Appetito!
This is a very adaptable recipe. I use the pesto as a sandwich spread (and on grilled cheese sandwiches), on quesadillas, as a dressing for pasta or for rice salads. You could spread it on fish or meat before grilling or baking. You can mix it with goat cheese for a lovely little crostini. You can thin it down with a little water or more oil for a salad dressing for hearty green salads for roasted vegetables.
The quantity of ingredients can be adapted to your taste and what you have on hand. This pesto keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days and freezes well so feel free to make a bigger batch if you have everything on hand.
2 medium-sized bunches of greens (chard, kale, beet greens, spinach etc.)
1-2 cloves garlic
1- handfuls of hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pine nuts
2 oz of hard, aged cheese such as parmesan or Asiago stella
¼ – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Wash and stem greens (if stems are tough). If using beet greens or spinach keep the stems. Bring a large pat of salted water to a boil. Add greens and cook for a 2- 3 minutes. Drain, let cool and squeeze out all the water with your hands. Place cheese and nuts in food processor and process until finely chopped, add greens and garlic and salt & pepper, process until well integrated. Drizzle in the oil and periodically check for consistency and flavor. Do not over process. If not using immediately store in a sealable container in the fridge with a little more olive oil poured over the top.