Lightened Up Kale & Pine Nut Pesto


Every once in awhile, it happens to everyone: Something very decidedly NOT on your grocery list just magically leaps off the shelf and into your cart. This item cushions itself somewhere between the bread and the eggs, and cries happily:  “I am a staple!”

The part of your brain that should say I-should-really-put-that-back is ominously silent. And so you don’t protest too much when you go to unload at checkout and the uninvited item goes sailing down the conveyor belt, along with any hopes you had of sticking to your list/budget/diet.

Pick your poison: it could be a pricey pint of 300-calories-per-fourth-of-a-cup ice cream, a jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, a sleeve of Ferrero Rocher truffles, or a tub of dark-chocolate covered nuts. My vices are usually of the sweet variety, although now I can occasionally be caught reaching for a hunk of marvelously buttery cheese. For this, I blame my French boyfriend entirely.

But lately, I’ve been craving pesto more than anything else. I know what you’re thinking: What a “confession”! Pesto is practically a health food – it’s chock full of healthy fats! However, since I have just as much of an issue policing portion control with pesto as I do with yogurt-covered raisins…pesto is very firmly on my do-not-buy-and-chock-it-up-to-momentary-insanity list.

Pesto says spring, in all its glorious greenery, is just a spoonful away. It says sandwich me in the middle of two thick ovals of crusty artisan bread and panini me [now officially a verb]. It says I’m perfect for pizza and I’d go well with your pasta too.


Pesto also says, if you’re listening carefully enough, only buy me in ingredient form from the store. Those suspiciously dark green jars of prepared pesto are only good for indulgence inspiration…trust me.


This recipe is a twist on the traditional take. I wanted to make a pesto that wouldn’t make me feel guilty if my spoon spontaneously decided to go skydiving. This recipe only makes 5 servings at about 100 calories each – not a bad start. It also uses baby kale instead of basil, and calls for much less olive oil than is standard [trust that vegetable broth!].

Since I really didn’t want to skimp on flavor, I toasted the pine nuts before blitzing them and didn’t try to tamper with the Parmesan cheese. It might be worth mentioning that I went light on the raw garlic – I prefer to tell people about what I ate.


And this is, quite simply, the best pesto I’ve ever had. It makes me believe something the confident cooks of the world often say: “Once you know the basics, you can bend the rules”.



Recipe [Serves 5]:

Two large handfuls raw baby kale [stems removed]

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons veggie broth

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ small garlic clove

Juice and zest from ½ lemon

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Salt to taste


Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until almost smooth; add salt to taste.

Store in an airtight container [and keep refrigerated].

Inspired by A Full Measure of Happiness


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