Living with a person with diabetes means that I’m always looking for healthy, lower-fat, vegan make-ahead condiments we can use for quick lunches or after-work suppers. The catch is, they have to be as tasty–or more so–as our long-loved, higher-fat spreads and dips.
Not long ago, I ran across this Kale Stem Pesto from Kathy Hester on Healthy Slow Cooking. There’s so much to love about the recipes on that site. I recommend it.
Just reading Hester’s recipe set my senses tingling and mingling: Fresh parsley and garlic, toasted walnuts, lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon. She warms it all up with just a bit of red pepper flake.
Well, I had to try it. Our CSA box brought us plenty of parsley and kale that week, and this little baker always has a lemon or two and a supply of organic walnuts on hand. It takes less than five minutes to toast chopped walnuts in a dry cast iron skillet.
But that one-quarter to one-half cup of olive oil the recipe specified did us in. That’s just not something we can eat on a diabetic diet, no matter how much we love it.
Could we get just as much flavor and goodness using less oil–a lot less oil–and make this pesto a little safer for my loved one to eat? Not to mention how much my waistline can do with a little less indulgence in the fat department.
Here’s what we did to make this recipe work for our dietary needs. Yes, we did this together, my love and I. Don’t you get a kick out of sharing the cooking chores together in the kitchen?
Hester’s recipe calls for a cup of kale stems. Since we had only one bunch of kale, whose chopped stems made barely half a cup, we made up the balance with half a cup coarsely chopped kale leaves, packed tight. Of course, as soon as we added them to the bowl, they popped right up again.
We processed the greens a full minute, maybe a little longer, then added the rest of the ingredients, except the oil. Dusk had settled in the kitchen by the time I took this photograph, and I forgot to turn on the kitchen light. I owe you a better photo next time we make this pesto!
Oh, sure, tell me you’re one of those with-it cooks who carefully pours the ingredients into little containers then pours them one at a time artistically around the bowl. We were hungry! But I have to admit, with the ingredients dumped in like that, it’s not a pretty sight.
You wouldn’t mind, though, if you could smell it. Wonderful scents wafting up from the food processor bowl! Garlic. Fresh parsley. Greens and walnuts, with a hint of the red pepper.
Making this pesto is a dance, a meditation and a sensory joy every step of the way. The colors! The scents. Moving from chopping block to machine and back again. Maybe I was a little heady with fatigue and low-blood sugar, but yes, I felt bliss while working with these living foods–the pleasure of their vibrant colors, the piquant scents they released in the handling.
Back to the process. Before we fired up the machine again, we juiced our lemon over the food processor bowl–a whole lemon, because we wanted that extra zing and tang, given we had to do with less oil.
In fact, when we sat down to supper and took those first few bites, we experienced Food Guilt, for about half a minute. You know, when you’re eating something heavenly, and you think, “Oh, I really shouldn’t have this.” Then we remembered how good for us this dish is and couldn’t help giggling at having tricked the flavor gods–and our taste buds. But that all came later.
Next, we processed the pesto for about thirty seconds, then stopped to scrape the sides of the bowl before running it another thirty seconds or so. We like a nice, smooth consistency, which is another way we make up for the small amount of oil.
We drizzled that scant tablespoon of oil, with the food processor running full-bore, until it was completely incorporated, about thirty seconds. Pesto purists might say it’s not true pesto if it isn’t a third olive oil, but we’re getting so used to eating fresher foods with less fat that we actually thought we could have used even less! Goodness.
That night, we tossed the pesto with cooked whole wheat fusilli, threw a few of the toasted walnuts and some pan-roasted red bell pepper over all, and served it with fresh cucumber fingers and lightly steamed carrot coins. With such a flavorful pesto, simple foods on the side complement without distracting from the main attraction.
Today, I had leftovers for lunch. Just the pasta reheated, pesto, a few extra toasted walnuts, and some roasted red bell peppers.
Sprinkle a little vegan “Parmesan” cheese from Veggieful.com over all for a little cheesy garnish.
We’ve made this pesto twice now. It’s going to be a regular at our house. Here’s the recipe.
The recipe is quite generous. We had plenty left over. Later in the week we made a quick lunch of it, spreading it on homemade whole wheat sourdough bread, garnished this time with freshly cut red bell pepper and served with sliced Jonagold apples, so good this time of year!
What other ways might you use this pesto?
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On 2/19/2016, I shared this post at Plant-Based Potluck Party Link Up.