Lemony Kale Pesto with Pepitas

Husband’s been out of town this week, so I’ve had lots of time on my hands to experiment in the kitchen instead of cleaning up or being productive. Okay, fine, maybe I’ve caught up on some movies and done some reading. But, mainly I’ve been diligently honing this pesto. That’s the official story. I really have been fine-tuning this wonderful kale-based pesto for quite some time, though, I promise. I think this is my final product, but I reserve the right to come back with alterations. 

I made a couple of changes from standard pesto in order to make this spread something unique. First, I switched out the basil for bitter, fresh kale. Basil has a wonderful clean flavor, and the kale adds some depth to the greens that are somewhat muted in basil pesto. I also substituted toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds) for the standard pine nuts. Pay no attention to the wine and olives. Those are just part of the cooking process (highly recommended, but I suppose not required, strictly speaking): 

I enjoyed the pesto as a dip with carrot sticks. 

It would be amazing on a bagel with cream cheese in the morning or as a sandwich spread. I also served the pesto between layers of roasted eggplant as a vegan salad option. The presentation is wonderful and the flavors are distinct. I like my pesto a bit on the chunky side, as you can see below, but I respect those who like a supremely smooth, almost whipped consistency: 

It’s a perfect dish to serve to your love any day, but especially on Valentine’s Day. I tried to make a heart with balsamic reduction on my plate. It was going to be adorable. But that didn’t really happen. 

Balsamic vinegar heart or not, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with all kinds of love. Especially the love of kale. 

Lemony Kale Pesto with Pepitas
Makes ~2 cups pesto

You will need:
  • 1 cup pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 cups firmly-packed fresh kale, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. each sea salt & black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 350. 
  • Arrange pepitas in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes, until fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside. 
  • Saute kale, garlic, salt, and pepper in 2 tbsp. of olive oil on medium heat for three to five minutes, just until the kale is beginning to wilt. Turn off heat. 
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. 
  • Enjoy chilled or room temperature. 
Roasted Eggplant Vertical Salad

To serve with roasted eggplant, you will also need: 
  • 3 1/3-inch thick slices eggplant per serving (about 1/4 of a large eggplant)
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • ~1 cup mixed greens per serving
  • Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray or a bit of olive oil. 
  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  • Bake for ~25 minutes, turning once during baking. 
  • Serve eggplant slices with pesto spread between each layer, on a bed of mixed greens. 
  • Drizzle with balsamic reduction, if desired. 
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