Keeping in the spirit of my autumn Fallsa, this recipe is a seasonal spin on a Summer classic. Unlike traditional Pesto recipes, which use basil as a main ingredient, this version uses spinach instead. Good and good for you (it contains tons of calcium and iron- vital especially in vegetarian diets), spinach is abundant in the Winter months and an important leafy green to include in your diet as the cold, and cold season, set in.
This is an incredibly simple sauce to pull together and throw on a pizza or pasta. Essentially you do everything you would do for normal pesto, treating your spinach as basil. Just to refresh your memory, here's a guide to making Winter Pesto:
A bunch of fresh spinach- get as many handfuls as you can fit in your bag of fatty, elephant eary spinach leaves
A nutty element- as I've said before, pine nuts are traditionally used- but those can be pricey, so feel free to use peanuts or walnuts as a replacement
2-4 Tbsps. Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper
Opitonal Ingredients: You can throw in some grated parmesean cheese or a dash of white wine to perk up your pesto
Step 1: Take your spinach leaves one by one and cut away the stalk using a fancy trick my belle-mère told me about. Simply hold the leave from it's stalk, letting it dangle upside down, then take your knife to it, cutting in a downward motion and seperating the lovely leaf from it's less appetizing stalk.
Do this to all of you spinach leaves and put them in a colander. Wash thouroughly to be sure to get the parts of the farm we don't want to eat off of them.
Step 2: Throw your spinach in a blender, and then pile the rest of the ingredients on top. Start slow with the olive oil, you can always add if you need more liquid (or complement with the wine). Same goes for the salt and pepper, start slow and adjust for taste later.
Step 3: Add parmasean (or not, for a vegan or poor man's pesto), some salt and a pinch of nutritional yeast, if you've got it.
Step 4: Start blending! I noticed that Winter pasta is a lot more liquidey than it's basil buddy, probably because spinach retains more water. Don't be surprised if your pesto seems a bit watery, its supposed to and it's in some ways preferable because it coats pasta really well that way.
Step 5: Enjoy the fact that Winter has great things to offer, and that you don't have to wait until next Summer to have fresh pesto!
In my home, we're pretty much subsisting on soups and stews and other hearty Winter fare, so this was a nice change to our menu. If you are having fun and being creative with cold weather cuisine, please share your recipes, advice, and pictures of finished products on the "Cuisine d'hiver/Winter Cooking" discussion on our facebook page!