Kale Pesto with Cashews

Kale Pesto with Cashews, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Pesto, a fragrant bright green pasty sauce made by crushing or blending basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil together has been around in one form or another since Ancient Rome. There are quite a few variations on the original theme, but they all boil down to combining a ground nut base with a flavor enhancer, like garlic and basil, and fortifying these with some oil and usually cheese.

My first attempt at making pesto, many, many years ago did not go that well. I am a bit foggy on detail but as far as I can remember the follow up conversation with friends had revealed that I used arugula instead of basil, and that I should have used pine nuts, which I completely skipped. Still, it was not all a waste and a horde of graduate students, who this was made for, gobbled it all down nevertheless.

These days I know the difference between basil and arugula, and appreciate that a good pesto does need something more than just greens to give it real body and bite. Yet, as you will see, it seems that I remain determined not to use basil or pine nuts to make the pesto happen.

What happened this time around is that I had two large bags of kale without much interest to use them in a soup or roast them. So, I was looking for something more exciting to do – and the rest may go down in the pesto history!

And once I had my pile of pesto, I went very traditional and used it to dress my pasta. However, pesto, be it basil based or kale based, is quite versatile and you can use it in many different ways. There are even blog posts dedicated to showing what pesto can do beyond pasta (see here for a good example).

Whatever you decided to do with this pesto, I think you’ll like it. It offers a nice kale bite, mixed wit gentle cashew nuttiness and freshness that the lemon brings. And, of course there’s garlic!!!

Kale Pesto with Cashews

What you’ll need:

4 cups kale leaves, stemmed and chopped

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lemon, juice and zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Clean the kale carefully and make sure that all the woody pieces of stems are fully removed. Although you will be using a food processor, which should take care of all the tough kale pieces, I recommend that you do spend some time making sure you have mostly nice, green kale leaves.
  2. Place a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic, and sauté for just a minute, until the garlic starts to release it’s aroma.
  3. Add chopped kale leaves and let them wilt by tossing them with oil and garlic continuously. This will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the size of your pan. The more surface area your bottom has, the quicker it will be. Once the kale is fully wilted, turn the heat of and let the kale cool.
  4. Rinse the soaked cashews under some cold water, drain well and place in a large food processor. Add the wilted kale, lemon juice and lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and process until fully ground and smooth.
  5. Enjoy on pasta, in a sandwich, as a dip, on a pizza… The possibilities are endless and just remember that you are keeping it healthy and eating a whole bunch of kale!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Baked New Potatoes with Cheesy Basil Sauce, CSA Week 5

Baked New Potatoes with Cheesy Basil Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

This summer is just flying by! I can’t believe we are already on Week 5 of our CSA – Community Supported Agriculture program. This week’s shares from our local farm, Upswing Farm, included one of my very favorite vegetables – new potatoes.

What are new potatoes?

New potatoes are, well, new! They are the first, early harvest of a potato crop, and growing up these types of potatoes were always a treat and a sign that school was out for summer and the fun was kicking into high gear. Since all the produce I ate growing up came from a farmer’s market, these new potatoes were available for couple of weeks only, making them even more special!!! Another thing that makes them special is that they are sweater than fully grown spuds, and that’s because they have higher sugar content than mature spuds, where most of their sugar has been converted into starch and stored away.

How to skin new potatoes?

New potatoes have very soft skin, and they really don’t need much peeling. What I like to do is take a peeling knife and gently go over the surface of the potato to remove only the thin outer skin without cutting in. This also helps remove any specks of dirt that are left over after the washing. An alternative way of skinning new potatoes is to place washed potatoes on a kitchen towel, sprinkle with some kosher salt and then wrap and gently roll. This will serve to exfoliate the potatoes. It may not remove all the skin but it will get rid of most of it. However, I should point out that none of this is really needed and it I purely cosmetic. New potatoes have such a soft and thin skin that you may decide to just leave it and cook them as is!

What to do with new potatoes?

These little suds are very versatile and easy to deal with. Because they are nicely sweet and soft, it is best to let them shine through. Simple boiling, roasting, or pan frying in very little oil will give you really great results (see here for details). But, you can go as wild as you like and new potatoes can be made into a potato salad, or a potato mash. Although I have not tried this yet, you can also put your new potatoes on the grill. In the recipe below I decided to go a bit wild and over the top. I baked new potatoes with some spring onions – those onions that are in between scallions and onions, with their greens still on but with a nice onion bulb now fully formed, which also came in our CSA share, and then topped them with an amazing sauce.

Easy and cheesy basil sauce

The inspiration for the sauce was another ingredient that came home in this week’s CSA share – a large bunch of fresh basil. The sauce is a simple mix of fresh basil, nutritional yeast and olive oil, and is added to the baked potatoes at the very end. The freshness of basil and the cheesy flavors of nutritional yeast make these baked new potatoes really amazing! I could eat this dish all day long – it does not need anything else really other than a cold glass of lemonade and it tastes good hot as well as cold. And if you have a summer pot luck, or a back yard barbecue, this is a great alternative to an old fashioned potato salad that you may want to try.


Baked New Potatoes with Cheesy Basil Sauce

What you’ll need:

1.5 to 2 lb (750g to 1 kg) new potatoes

4 spring onions, roughly diced

1 large bunch of fresh basil (about 2-3 cups, leaves only)

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt to taste


What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Wash the new potatoes and gently remove their outermost skin (or leave the skin on if you prefer). Slice them into 1/4 in (5 mm) thick slices. If your new potatoes are really tiny you may only need to half them, or even leave the intact.
  3. Slice your spring onions any way you like. I quartered my bulbs then sliced them across.
  4. Combine your potatoes, spring onions, a pinch of salt (the amount of salt is up to you!) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well, then pour into a deep baking dish.
  5. Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes.
  6. Place the basil into a food processor that can comfortably hold this amount of basil. Pulse until the basil is finely chopped.
  7. Add nutritional yeast, and pulse 2-3 times. Then pour in oil gradually while pulsing. Pour the sauce over the hot potatoes, mix well and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  8. Serve hot! You can store the leftovers in a fridge for 5-7 days and enjoy cold or reheated.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018