If you're looking for a vibrantly green dish to serve this St. Patrick’s Day, this kale cashew pesto fits the bill. To the kale I added Greek Myzithra cheese (unpasteurized sheep cheese) and cashew nuts. Pesto is a very versatile sauce that provides as much flexibility as it does flavor. You just have to keep in mind 3 main elements: greens, nuts and hard cheese.
The inspiration for this pesto came from Gary, a PhamFatale.com reader. Gary had sent me an email for guidance about a sauce for ravioli he had purchased at my favorite local market, The Milk Pail in Mountain View (by the way, if you live in the Bay Area, don't hesitate to shop there and show your support!). Gary bought the Milk Pail's specialty Thai Curry ravioli and didn't know what sauce to serve on the pasta. At his house, no one's keen on a milk-based sauce so he was looking for something with less milk or cream. I suggested a pesto made of flat-leaf parsley, Thai Curry cheddar cheese (using the same kind of cheese as in the ravioli filling) and peanuts. I'll post the recipe soon. Gary's family tried the pesto ravioli over the weekend and it got two thumbs up. Yay!
Mary Garrigan from Rapid City Journal published a couple of St. Patrick’s Day-friendly recipes from my first book, Haute Potato. Check them out if you’re still in search of St. Patrick’s Day recipes!
Servings: 6 servings
4 cups fresh kale
⅓ cup roasted cashew nuts, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup Myzithra cheese, freshly grated
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
1 (16-ounce) package ravioli (store-bought)
For the kale : Wash the raw kale thoroughly in several baths. Remove and discard the fibrous and older parts of the stems. Boil the kale in about 2 quarts of salted water. Cook for 4-5 minutes until tender, depending on how young the plant is. Drain and immediately transfer the greens into an ice water bath. Pat dry on a towel. Roughly chop the kale leaves. Set aside.
For the garlic: In a large non-stick pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Set aside.
For the ravioli pasta: Add a large amount of salted water to a pot and bring to a boil (you always need a large amount of water when boiling pasta, even for ravioli). Add the ravioli, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook the pasta for about 4 minutes total, until the pasta floats to the surface.
For the kale pesto: In a blender, combine the kale, garlic, cashews, cheese and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. You might want to add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of pasta water for a smooth flow. Set aside.
Heat the same non-stick pan again (add more oil if necessary). Using a slotted spoon, as soon as the ravioli float to the surface of the other pot, drain and transfer them to the pan. Toss the pasta. Season with salt and pepper. If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add a little pasta water. Add the pesto; make sure the ravioli are well coated. You could add more pasta water to thin the sauce. Transfer to a large serving platter. Set aside.
Garnish with Myzithra cheese and chopped cashews.
You can store the pesto in your freezer for up to 6 months or up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator. I always make extra to store in the freezer. I usually store the rest in an ice-cube tray and freeze it. Later, I transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into bags that I vacuum-seal and place back in the freezer for future use. I add these cubes to sauces or marinades; the possibilities are endless.
If you don't have kale on hand, you could use any other greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, bok choy, spinach, Chinese cabbage or broccoli.