May 4, 2010
Last year I made the mistake of setting a potted basil plant outside in early April. It must have been deceivingly warm and for whatever reason I was convinced we wouldn’t see the likes of frost until, oh, October. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m terribly impatient. The toaster isn’t fast enough. Needless to say that basil plant had to be nurtured back to life indoors. Lessons learned. One, don’t fall for Ohio’s Spring teasers and two, wait until at least the middle of May to move herbs outdoors. I can hardly wait for overflowing, rampant, what-the-heck-am-I-to-do-with-all-this? basil plants. Because then there is no excuse not to make pesto.
I’m certain most of you know pesto is not limited to fistfuls of basil leaves. All sorts of other lovely green things can take its place. Bright herbs like parsley and cilantro are a shoo-in. As are greens like spinach and kale and swiss chard, which are perfect for pre-out of control basil season. Not to mention all of the nutritional perks these dark green leaves pack. They make for a veritable superpesto.
Five to six cups of packed swiss chard leaves sounds like a lot, but it will wilt to a scant 2 cups once cooked. Make this up to three days in advance of serving (it also freezes beautifully). Toss desired amount with hot pasta or spread on bruschetta.
Swiss Chard Pesto
- 1 T + 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch of swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 6 oz or 5-6 packed cups)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Cooked pasta (some pasta water reserved)
Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add swiss chard and toss to coat. Season with kosher salt. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until chard has wilted.
Transfer swiss chard and garlic to a food processor. Add pinenuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and black pepper and pulse to combine. With motor running, stream in 1/2 cup olive oil. Check for seasonings (I add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp kosher salt).
Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Toss with hot pasta. Add pasta water to thin, if desired.
Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze.