Weeknight Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Kale

Hello!

In a past life as a personal chef, I would make this recipe for a client almost every week. He couldn’t consume anything acidic (onions, garlic, vinegar, etc) so I was always searching for ways to get a lot of flavor into a dish without falling back on those ingredients. You can add onions, garlic and/or vinegar but I think this dish is good without them too. And it’s one of those recipes that you can vary in SO many ways:

  • Pasta: I used fusilli but but you can use just about anything (if you make the sauce chunky, I think a short pasta would work best; if you puree the sauce, long, thin pasta would also work).
  • Nuts: I like the combination of walnuts and pine nuts but you can use just walnuts or try a different combination of your choice.
  • Herbs: I always used parsley in the past but I think basil or chives would be great too
  • Cheese: I like the way Pecorino stands up to the flavor of the walnuts but I think Parmesan or even goat cheese would be great.
  • Greens: don’t limit yourself to just kale – arugula, collards or chard would also be great. For tender greens, you can fold them right into the hot pasta without cooking them first.
  • Optional items: saute a little garlic with the kale and then deglaze the pan with a little white wine; finish with a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar; add caramelized onions.

Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Kale
makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta of choice (I used fusilli)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces kale, destemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to packing instructions and drain. Set aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12″ traditional skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kale and saute, stirring frequently, until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Clean out the skillet used for the kale and dry. Return to the stovetop and toast walnuts over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large cutting board. Toast the pine nuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the cutting board. At this point, you can either chop the nuts finely by hand or transfer 3/4 to a food processor and process until finely ground; roughly chop the remaining nuts for added texture. Transfer nuts to the bowl with the kale.
  • Add the parsley, butter, olive oil and cheese to the bowl with the kale and nuts and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Mix with pasta and serve.

 


Mustard Greens Soup with Poblanos and Almonds

Hello,

The combination of mustard greens, poblanos and almonds may seem like a strange mix at first but I urge you to give it a try. The toasty, roasty almonds and poblanos provide depth whereas the greens compliment with a bright, fresh flavor.

This recipe is lightly adapted from this one by Rick Bayless. He doesn’t puree all of the soup as I recommend below, but instead leaves about half of the ingredients roughly chopped and mixed into the rest. I like to puree all of the soup for simplicity and then get some textural contrast from the garnishes.

Enjoy!

Mustard Greens Soup with Poblano and Almonds
makes about 6 cups / 4-6 servings

Recipe note: you can use other greens in place of mustard greens – arugula, kale, collards, Swiss chard or even chickweed, dead nettle or henbit.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds, plus a few extra for garnish if you wish
  • medium fresh poblano chiles
  • medium (about 1/2 pound) Yukon Gold potato, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • bunch (about 8 ounces) mustard greens, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups vegetable stock or water, plus a little more if needed
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Garnishes: I suggest a mix of something fatty (diced hard-boiled eggs, avocado) plus something crunchy (tortilla chips, extra almonds) but you could also use diced tofu, mushrooms, chicken or shrimp.

Directions:

  • Toast almonds in a 12″ traditional skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly brown, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Adjust oven rack to the upper third of the oven and heat the broiler on high. Remove the stem end and seeds from the poblanos and cut into quarters lengthwise (you may need to cut them into smaller pieces to ensure they lay flat). Place on a foil lined sheet pan and broil until the skin is black and blistered, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool and peel skin from the peppers. Add to a blender jar and set aside.
  • Bring a large saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the almonds, potatoes, and garlic and boil for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the mustard greens and cook until wilted but still bright green, about 1-2 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, scoop almonds, potatoes, garlic and greens into a blender jar and set aside.
  • Add 2-1/2 cups of stock or water, salt and lime juice to the blender and puree on high until completely smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add more stock or water to reach desire consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • If you plan to serve immediately, transfer to an empty saucepan and heat gently over medium-low until warm. Top with garnish of choice and serve.