Right now our garden is overflowing with Italian kale, otherwise known as cavolo nero. It's been sprouting up all over the place in huge green crinkled bouquets, and I've been scratching my head as to how we're going to eat our way through these zillions of super nutritious slender leaves.
Cavolo nero is a member of the brassica family, which includes a team of wonderfully nutritious vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. It's a great source of Vitamin A, which is important in healthy vision, skin, and immunity, Vitamin C, which acts as a potent antioxidant fighting free radicals in the body, Vitamin K, a critical in blood clotting, and the mineral calcium, which assists keeping our bones and teeth strong. It also contains a powerful group of phytochemicals, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which are an excellent duo that help lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Cavolo nero is super versatile in the kitchen - use it in salads (just make sure to massage it first with a little oil and salt as otherwise it's quite tough), add it chopped to stir fries, add it to soups, stews and curries, use it in green smoothies, bake it in the oven into crispy chips, use it to omelettes - or try using it as base in pesto!
This recipe is for pesto sauce uses carvolo nero as the predominate base, rather than the traditional basil. It is super speedy to prepare, and is an excellent way to make a dent in your kale supply (great if you have surplus like me!). It's lovely served mixed through pasta, but you can also top it on cooked veggies, salads, as a sauce of meat, mixed into dip or even as a pizza sauce replacement.
Cavolo Nero Pesto
2 packed cups of cavolo nero (Italian kale - around ten leaves)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup Parmesan, or more to taste
Juice and zest of a small lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Tear kale leaves off stems. Peel and chop garlic cloves in halve. Add to a pot of boiling water and rapidly boil for 3 minutes.
2. Drain leaves and garlic and let cool.
3. Meanwhile, lightly toast your pine nuts over a dry pan on the stove. Jiggle the pan every now and then, and keep an eye on them so they don't burn!
4. Into a food processor add your kale, basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and lemon juice and zest. Season with a few turns of your salt and pepper shaker. Pour in your oil. Blitz until smooth (you may need to scrap down the sides of your food processor a few times).
5. Taste and add more salt/pepper/Parmesan to your liking. If you would like the sauce less thick, add a little more oil - pesto is very forgiving, don't be afraid to play around.