Friday, February 19, 2010


I sometimes make and freeze big batches of pesto in ice cube trays after the kids have gone to bed.  Bella is my late night pesto taste taster. Even if she has had dessert, brushed her teeth, and gotten in bed she is super psyched to run into the kitchen and eat a big spoonful of warm pesto. This week I threw in broccoli, kale, parsley, and walnuts. The crazy thing is that broccoli normally makes Bella gag. She tasted it without knowing the ingredients and pronounced it "way good."

"Just so you know, that pesto is made with broccoli and kale," I admitted. I thought she would get really pissed off.

"Oh," she said and then paused. "Cool." And then she ran back to bed. She said "cool" like a 14-year old. It freaked me out.

Here are just some of the ways we used the Broccoli, Kale, and Walnut Pesto this week:

1. On bucatini pasta. Dash topped it with extra parmesan, olive oil, and balsamic. We tried to say bucatini 10 times fast while eating. It's hard.
 2. On brussels sprouts. The pesto melts into the caramelized vegetables and makes them taste so much better than naked brussels sprouts. I know lots of people love brussels sprouts. I never have. I served Dash and Bella big bowls of this dish for dinner with crispy bacon as a spoon. Something absurdly gratifying about getting kids to eat brussels sprouts that are infused with broccoli and kale. It almost sounds like a form of torture (I guess that's why I threw in the bacon). But guess what? THEY ATE EVERY BITE. 
3. As the filling for individual potato gratins layered with balsamic red onions. I baked some off and froze the rest in the ramekins in ziploc bags. See the olive oil I'm drizzling on the tart? Looks pretty but it's overkill. The pesto is full of oil so you don't need to add any additional fat to these gratins.
4. As the filling for a large potato gratin that I cut into squares and served in the middle of my squash and carrot soup. My husband pronounced it genius. And he is crazy critical of my cooking. In a useful way. I swear.
The word pesto comes from the Italian word pestare (to crush/pound).  The French have something similar called pistou that's usually made with basil, garlic, and olive oil (sometimes cheese is added). Some people say that pesto and pistou must be made slowly and lovingly with a mortar and pestle. Yeah, fine, it's great that way but it's still fabulous when it's made in a food processor or blender.


1. Purée, press, or finely chop the garlic before adding all the other ingredients so that you don't end up with chunks of garlic in the pesto. 
 2. If you're making any kind of green pesto (basil, cilantro, broccoli, arugula, or others), add some lemon juice to help keep it green.
 3. If you're not eating it right away, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top. This will keep the surface from turning brown.

Here are the links to my other pesto recipes plus a few more ideas I'm hoping to try out soon:


    2 cups broccoli, cut into medium-sized florets and trimmed
    2 cups kale, coarsley chopped
    1/3 cup parsley leaves
    big pinch of salt
    2 cloves garlic
    1/2 cup walnuts
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/2 lemon, juice and zest
    3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

    Steam broccoli until tender. Throw kale and parsley in with broccoli for final minute of steaming. Make a paste with the garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle or with a chef's knife on the chopping block. In a food processor or blender, place garlic paste, walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice/zest, parmesan, broccoli, kale, parsley, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, scrape down the sides, pulse again. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe more lemon. Serve right away. Or store in a jar with a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent browning.

    This dish is best room temperature or warm. It's great as a side dish. Or serve it as a main course in a big bowl with 2 strips of bacon over the top.

    2 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half through the stem end
    big pinch of salt
    1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
    1/3 cup white wine
    1/2 cup broccoli, kale, walnut pesto.

    Put butter and olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot that has a lid. Turn heat to high and melt butter. Add brussels sprouts and onion. Add salt and pepper. Cook on high heat stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and brussels sprouts to get quite brown, maybe even to burn a bit. Turn heat to medium, add white wine and cook for one minute. Turn heat to low, put on the lid, and cook until brussels sprouts are tender (about 10 minutes). You don't want them to be raw at all for this recipe because you want the brussels sprouts to absorb a lot of the pesto. Place cooked brussels sprouts in a bowl and top with the pesto. Serve immediately with pesto spooned over the top. If you're serving it later mix the pesto in with the warm brussels sprouts so that they melt together. Warm it up on low heat before serving.

    This gratin tastes great with a salad. You can also serve a square of it in the middle of a bowl of squash and carrot soup topped with yogurt and chives. This gratin is delicious but don't be put off by the color. It can turn a bit greenish purple because of the pesto. I undercooked this twice. Carefully test the center to make sure all the potatoes are tender. Undercooked potatoes are such a bummer.

    1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    1 cup percorino, grated
    4 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    6-8 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes (don't use Idaho for this recipe)
    1 1/2 cups broccoli, kale, walnut pesto

    Preheat oven to 375º F. Butter 1 large casserole dish (about 8x12) or 6 small ones. Combine the grated cheeses. Place shallots in a bowl and pour over the balsamic. Set aside.

    Peel the potatoes and place them in cold water. Warm the pesto in a double boiler if it's not freshly made (to loosen it up). Thinly slice (paper thin) the potatoes with a mandoline, a cuisinart slicer attachment, or by hand. Place half the slices into the pesto and gently mix by hand to coat the slices. Spread one layer of sliced potatoes without the pesto down in the dish, overlapping them. Sprinkle with cheeses, salt, and pepper. Spread out and overlap a layer of potatoes covered with the pesto. Place down another layer of potatoes without the pesto. Sprinkle again with cheeses, salt, and pepper. Alternate pesto, no pesto, pesto, and so on until you reach the top of the dish. Just know that the gratin will sink down a bit so do as many layers as you can and press them down a bit. Make sure the final layer doesn't have pesto. Top the gratin with with the remaining cheeses. Grate more on top if you need to. Scatter balsamic shallots over the top. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown (at least 1 hour and 15 minutes, maybe longer). Turn the oven down or cover the gratin if the top starts to burn. Serve immediately.


    1. I love the pesto as a delicious vehicle for getting lots of veggies into my kiddos (and me for that matter).
      That new header photo of Dash and the brussel sprouts is great - such vibrant colors!

    2. I love love LOVE this post! Kids, veggies, balsamic vinegar -- all mixed together --- YEAH! I commend you for getting your kids involved with cooking and whole foods at such a young age -- I'm impressed. Love your blog -- I found you, by the way, through the site of my high school, College Prep. I believe you went there too? I was class of '82, it's been a while!

    3. Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

    4. Love your site, had you bookmarked after seeing the "kale pesto" come through in my foodgawker stream in google reader. This looks delish! Must try immediately!

    5. Just made this pesto and it's delicious. Thank you!

    6. I just discovered your blog this week by way of Babble, and went back to the beginning of your archives and have been reading every post in order. I have two boys (4.5 and 6 months) and find your stories, recipes and photos so inspiring. I try to cook with my son as often as I can, and he loves being in the kitchen. When he was 2 he asked to be a chef for Halloween and for six months slept with a plastic spatula every night. That said, I often find it daunting to try and rush to get food on the table and find a way to include him in the process. Your writing encourages me to set time aside to make it happen. We made breakfast together today, and it was worth every minute. Tonight I had planned to make this kale pesto with him, but instead threw it together like a mad woman while two kids screamed their heads off. With a little help from Trader Joe's I cheated and used already cut and washed organic broccoli, cleaned and cut kale, and grated parm/pecorino. I threw it on their whole wheat pizza dough, and topped one half with organic figs and the other with kale tossed in EV olive oil. My son licked the pesto spoon and proclaimed it delicious. After they got to bed I sat with a glass of wine and savored every bite. I followed the recipe and it was brilliant. I can't wait to try more! Thank you so much for what you have shared. You have a very lucky family.