Sunday, April 7, 2013

Swiss Chard & Brussels Sprout Pesto

Pesto is such a simple, versatile concept.  Starting with the basic recipe using basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese, you can play with different combinations of herbs, nuts, and cheese for almost endless possibilities (cilantro pecan pesto is one of my favorites). It's also a great staple to keep around the kitchen, lasting for months in the freezer. You can toss it with warm pasta for a quick sauce, use it in place of tomato sauce for pizza, spread it on sandwiches, toss it with roasted potatoes for a delicious side dish, or use it mixed into a chicken salad.

Recently, I've seen recipes trading winter greens in place of herbs. Why haven't I thought of this before? It's genius and so very simple. With just one extra step of blanching the greens, you're ready to make pesto. I used a combination of swiss chard and brussels sprouts, but you could use kale, collard greens, turnip greens, you name it.  This winter pesto is earthier than its bright summery cousin, but it's perfect for these lingering wintery days as we eagerly await warmer weather and fresh herbs springing up in our gardens.
(Recipe adapted from The Kitchn's Winter Greens Pesto)

Ingredients
1 large bunch of swiss chard, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 12 oz bag of brussels sprouts, stems trimmed,  tough outer leaves removed, and sliced
large bowl of ice water
2/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 heaping cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
1/4 tsp lemon zest
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup + 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Using a dry (no oil) skillet over medium heat, toast the chopped almonds for about 5 minutes until they begin to smell toasty and turn golden brown.  Be careful not to let them burn. When done, remove from skillet and let cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to blanch the swiss chard and brussels sprouts. Have a large bowl of ice water ready.

Once boiling, add in the chopped swiss chard and brussels sprouts. Let the water come back to a boil, and stir to ensure that the leaves are all submerged. After about 3 minutes total, once the chard has wilted, drain in a colander, and then plunge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Drain the swiss chard and brussels sprouts in a colander again, squeezing out any excess water. Place drained greens on a clean dish towel, rolling the dish towel around them, squeezing out any remaining water.

Place the swiss chard and brussels sprouts into the bowl of a large food processor. Add toasted almonds, garlic, grated cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Pulse a few times and then puree until ingredients have become a paste.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then turn food processor back on. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. About halfway through I stop, scrape down the sides again, and resume until all of the oil is incorporated into the pesto.

At this point, you can serve the pesto, store it in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze it, where it will last for a few months. Enjoy!

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