Swiss chard-walnut pesto

It’s just three days shy of spring… and still, it’s snowy and the tips of trees, with their tight buds, are reluctant to spring open. But, my taste buds are aching for the light and fresh! 

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been loving the brooding brew of thick dark meats cooked with portly sauces and I’ve made pot after pot of soups that keep me warm for days on end. But lately, (and after St. Patty’s day anyway), all I can see is green! It puts me in a pesto-state of mind.

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I know I’m not the only one! I was inspired by variations on the usual basil pesto while flipping through Bon Appetit’s March 2013 issue and seeing one with kale. I made mine garlicky, with Swiss chard and walnuts and a bit of heat.

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The spaghetti is brightly speckled with the green that’s missing from the trees and the walnuts add a happy crunch. There’s a kick of lemon and red pepper in there that merge in a fresh, hot pop.

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Replay this same pot of pesto in a few variations – like tossed with noodles of your choice (maybe whole wheat?) and a dollop of fresh ricotta. Or Swiss chard pesto paired with any other nuts (I’d go for pine nuts or pecans). Spread it over thick, crusty bread with tangy goat cheese and fig spread. I’d even dare you to try adding other fresh herbs, like parsley or mint. Be sure to use a fruity and fragrant olive oil, too.

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  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard leaves, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring pot of water to a rolling boil, salt generously.

Add whole garlic cloves and allow to boil for about two minutes, then add chard leaves and boil for another  minute, until just a little more pliable.

Immediately remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic and chard leaves to an ice bath to stop from cooking.

Reserve pot of hot water to cook pasta.

While pasta is cooking, drain cooled leaves and garlic, removing excess water and placing into a food processor with walnuts and pulse until leaves, garlic and walnuts are finely chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Then slowly pour in olive oil and simultaneously process mixture for a few more seconds, until olive oil is emulsified with minced bits of chard mixture.

Serve immediately over hot al dente spaghetti with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese.

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