It had to be done, so this morning I girded my loins and marched to the garden after breakfast. Plunging my arms up to the shoulder into the kale forest, I snapped off the thick bottom branches, some of which were two feet long. When I had stuffed full a tall kitchen trash bag, I went back to the kitchen, followed by two disappointed dogs.
Wolfie and Bisou were disappointed because there is nothing they like better than raw kale stems. In the past, I used to toss them a couple whenever I was in the garden, and I even thought it was sweet when Wolfie would snap off a leaf or two on his own and share it with Bisou. But when this spring he pulled two baby kales up by the roots, I had to say many serious \”leave it\’s\” and make some shame inducing gestures (furrowed brow, arms at hips, torso bent over dog until tail droops and head turns aside).
I had to jam the kale leaves into the sink to wash them (found the season\’s first Japanese beetle), and then I put them into my big stockpot to boil for fifteen minutes, which I spent peeling garlic. That huge bag of kale boiled down to two pounds, which I mixed with two cups each of Parmesan and olive oil, eight cloves of garlic, one cup of pecans, and some salt.
This went by stages into the food processor (a gift from the same daughter who introduced me to pesto made with kale). How did our foremothers make pesto with a mortar and pestle? It must have taken endless hours and brawny forearms.
When everything had been reduced to mush I had a total of…care to guess? Eight cups of pesto. I had hoped for something closer to maybe twenty cups, but at least it tasted divine.
How can something so good also be good for you? I pondered the miracle of pesto as I began the final and least pleasant task: stuffing one cup of oily, gooey pesto into each of eight freezer bags. It was a messy business, but at least I got to lick the spatula.
But eight cups! That\’s only eight meals. If we eat pesto once every couple of weeks or so, we\’ll need twenty-four cups, which leaves sixteen yet to be made, i.e. two more batches just like the one I made today. There\’s more than enough kale out in the garden for this. Right now, I\’m just not sure I have the courage.
|You Are What You Eat|
I need to raid your freezer.
You'd love it–it's about 50F in the basement, where the freezer lives.
There is nothing like home made pesto, but I suppose you do have to love it a lot if you are that willing to put so much work into it. You described the process of making it well and in my mind I was helping you fix it. Of course, I'd like to be able to taste it too. I'll have to make some of my own.
I'm impressed. Buying it is so easy. But I wonder – how different is kale pesto from basil pesto?
i had no idea you could make pesto out of anything other than basil. does kale have enough flavor to pull it off?
The reason it's so much work is that I make so much of it, or rather, have so much kale to use up. In small quantities, it's no big deal.
Mali and Laurie, I've been eating kale pesto so long I can't really compare it to the basil kind. All I can tell you is that it tastes good, and it's my favorite way of using up the kale that the gods bestow on me in industrial quantities.
Could you tell us about your method of washing a huge bag of kale like that? That's what discourages me from making homemade pesto more often. Maybe I'm overly fussy because I HATE the feeling of grit in my teeth.
My kale grows on raised beds, a good two feet off the ground, and is probably less gritty than it if were planted at ground-level. I strip off the stems, jam those springy, curly leaves into the sink, and fill it with water. I swish the kale around, then take it out and give it another rinse with clean water. Seems to work o.k.
That will taste mighty fine come winter.
It's my version of a TV dinner. Just some pasta to boil, and it's ready.
Wonderful drawing – you are what you eat!
I'm mostly garlic and rhubarb…