It had been a busy, runaround day. I hadn’t given much thought to dinner, and really didn’t feel like making anything. The mental list of easy, take-out options started to spool out: pizza, burritos, sushi, burgers …
Then I caught myself.
Earlier in the day, I had visited a local farm to interview the farmer for my newspaper column. He sells at several farmer’s markets I attend, and his produce was always top notch – freshly picked and not sprayed. Those are among the reasons several local chefs and caterers buy from him as well.
After chatting with him for the interview, I took several pictures of him picking various vegetables, which I assumed he was doing to fill an order for a customer. It was perfect activity for photos, but I was wrong about his intent. He was harvesting those crops for me, and I was sent home with a bursting box of bounty given to me by a new friend.
Yet, back in my kitchen that evening, there I was, acting like a bored, cranky teenager standing in front of a full refrigerator and complaining, “There’s nothing to eat.”
Really? If I couldn’t figure out something to make from this farm fresh produce, given to me with such kindness, then I have no business being a food writer. I also had no business giving a “Buying Fresh, Buying Local” presentation in a couple days to a visiting group of Road Scholars.
Imagining myself in an episode of Food Network’s Chopped, I summoned my inner adult and put on my thinking toque. With just a bit of mental effort, there it was – the idea for tonight’s dinner: fettuccini with a pesto sauce made with Swiss chard, kale, and celery leaves!
I used only the green leaves of the chard, and removed the ribs of the kale before massaging it with some olive oil and kosher salt to make it tenderer. (Yes, we are massaging kale now, people. I’m sure Gwyneth Paltrow has something to do with that.)
After giving the chard, kale, and just a few celery leaves a very coarse chop, I put them into the food processor with crushed garlic, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. A few pulses later, I had some pretty darn good pesto.
All that was left to do was get the pasta water boiling.
The added benefit to this recipe was the fact that these greens had far more redeeming nutritional value than just basil, so I felt justified in being verrry generous with the pesto sauce. This ended up being a flavor-packed, healthy, and easy-to-make dinner.
By getting past lazy, I ended up with one of the best pasta dishes I’d ever made.