Monday, July 30, 2007

un-pesto with roasted garlic and greens

it's everything-fresh-from-the-garden time! now's when we play "find the hidden squash in THIS meal!" and tomatoes, too, make it to the table every night. i gave up on keeping the oregano in line long ago and, clearly, it has its sights on the yard. with the refreshingly cool nights that Sacramento provides, our household enjoys quite a few meals out in the backyard under the fluffy arms of the crepe myrtle, with citronella candles ablaze. and most of the meals i prepare are salads.
our CSA box, which we get from Full Belly Farm ( ), came loaded with basil this week, and i was determined to use it before it wilted. the aforementioned tomatoes and herbs are out of control, and at the co-op (Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op), i saw some dandelion greens that called out to me. so here we are ~ a recipe with which i was particularly pleased:

~un-pesto with roasted garlic and greens~

at its root, the word "pesto" inherently means "to pound or crush", or the concoction thusly formed. however, when you say "pesto" today, we take it to mean that particular pounded or crushed concoction of basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts (or walnuts) and parmesan, or something reminiscent. this recipe uses all of those ingredients (and then some), but keeps all of them in their more recognizeable forms ~ un-pestoed. the greens add a bitterness that is a nice addition to the traditional basil, and they themselves are nicely complemented by the parmesan and walnuts.

olive oil

1 bulb of garlic

1 bunch fresh, gorgeous dandelion greens
1 bunch collards (or other greens ~ lacinato kale would be very nice; collards were just waiting patiently in the fridge)
cherry tomatoes, halved or quarted depending on size ~ about 20

a bunch of basil leaves ~ hopefully a cup or more, packed, chopped
oregano ~ perhaps 1/4 cup of the leaves, chopped
thyme ~ because it's so good, and because the oregano tries to crowd it ~ a Tbs or so, chopped
walnuts ~ about a cup, chopped, then slowly toasted with olive oil
parmesan reggiano ~ freshly grated ~ a whole heaping lot of it!
sea salt ~ don't be afraid to be generous b/c the dandelion greens will soak up a lot of the flavor
freshly ground pepper
a few dashes of balsamic vinegar

preheat the oven to 400.
loosely wrap the garlic bulb, drizzled with olive oil, in aluminum foil, or use a stonewear garlic roaster (i found one for 99 cents at a thrift store!), and roast until soft ~ up to an hour. unwrap it, and let it cool.

meanwhile, put the walnuts on to toast, and:

chop the dandelion greens and collards (stems removed) into pretty, 1-inch ribbons, and wash thoroughly.
heat a skillet (we love the cast iron!) to medium temp with a generous drizzle of olive oil. saute' the greens till they are soft, but have not lost their deep green. remove from the heat and toss in the cherry tomato halves.

add the herbs, walnuts, and parmesan to the greens mixture. it's ok if it's still a little warm; this will meld the flavors!
with a bread knife, or other large serrated knife, saw off the top of the garlic bulb and squeeeeze the garlic cloves into the pesto concoction. be careful not to drop any of the papery skin in there (or to remove it if you do). add sea salt and pepper to taste, perhaps leaving the option of vinegar and additional olive oil (and more parmesan!) up to each person as she serves up her plate.

i served this over a bed of lettuce greens as a cool salad, with slices of roast chicken.
however, the leftovers have made an absolutely divine egg scramble!! pile on the parm!

photos: backyard bounty:
cherry tomatoes, hefty mister sunflower, eggplant, squash blossom, and ripening bell pepper

1 comment:

Mama Jamie said...

yum! I am always looking for an exscuse to use collards and kale.