GREEK OLIVE PESTO PENNE

GREEK OLIVE PESTO PENNE

A Kalamata olive and walnut pesto with fresh basil, garlic, coriander, allspice and apple cider. Tossed with whole grain penne pasta, sauteed mushrooms and kale. Topped with marinated tomatoes. Rich in flavors and texture! I can’t stop eating it! Even tastes good at room temperature or cold the next day!

Serves 6-8

Greek Olive Walnut Pesto can be made several days in advance of using it. Makes 3-2/3 cups

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon, strained

1 c. walnut halves

4 c. lightly packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1/2 c. apple cider

5 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped

20 Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 c. of the olive juice

1/2 t. salt

Combine above ingredients in blender container. Pulse several times to mix, then blend till as smooth as you can get it.

Now add the following additional ingredients to the blender:

1 c. additional apple cider

1/2 c. additional walnut halves

1/4 c. additional extra virgin olive oil

1/4 t. ground allspice

1/2 t. ground coriander

1/8 t. red cayenne pepper

lots of freshly ground black pepper, medium grind

Blend on medium, then high speed till as smooth as you can get it.

Transfer to covered container and refrigerate till ready to use. I prefer to let it set overnight to allow for additional thickening. When ready to use, heat on low heat till just hot; do not boil.

Toss with your favorite pasta and garnish with additional chopped Kalamata olive, finely sliced fresh basil and fresh cracked pepper. Marinated tomatoes make a great accompaniment.

In this penne dish I’m going to show you what I did with my Greek Olive Walnut Pesto.

Marinated Tomatoes for topping:

2 lg. ripe, juicy slicing tomatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

2 T. light brown sugar

2 T. Balsamic vinegar

1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Stir, cover and let set at room temperature till ready to use, stirring occasionally.

Sauteed Mushrooms:

2 T. margarine

16 oz. fresh white mushrooms, sliced

1/2-3/4 t. salt

In large skillet, over medium heat, melt margarine.

Add mushrooms and salt, then saute till all liquid from mushrooms evaporates and they become tender and lightly browned. Set aside.

Preparing kale:

1 bunch fresh kale, washed

Cut stems from kale flush with where the leaves begin. Then, using a knife, cut along both sides of the main stem up into the leaf, removing the bulk of the stem.

Place leaves in a pot of boiling water. Stir down into the water till submerged and leaves begin to soften. Cover pot and cook on medium heat till tender and leaves become a dark olive green, about 1/2 hour.

Drain kale well in colander, then squeeze into ball to remove excess liquid. Cut the ball into square chunks.

Add kale to the skillet of mushrooms followed by all of the olive pesto. Do not turn the heat on yet. Stir well to distribute evenly. This will take a few minutes, since the kale has been compacted by the squeezing.

Now cook the pasta:

13.5 oz. box whole grain dried penne pasta (I used Barilla brand)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

Cook penne in lots of sufficiently salted boiling water till tender. Drain and return to pot.

Add olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside.

Now, heat the veggie and pesto mixture in the skillet to very hot, stirring often. Don’t leave it on the stove unattended. Salt to taste.

Pour mixture over the pasta in the pot and toss to distribute evenly.

Spoon onto individual serving plates.

Top each serving with a couple tablespoons marinated tomatoes, using a slotted spoon.

Garnish with additional fresh sliced basil leaves, some fresh cracked pepper and serve.

Notes: When selecting Kalamata olives, always look for the lighter brown colored, firm olives and not the deep purple, which are many times mushy. This is a Greek olive pesto. Substituting California olives won’t work here. We want a strong, pungent olive.

Regarding kale: The best way to prep kale and keep it from wilting in the refrigerator is to buy it when you have plans to use it within a few days. When you get it home, wash, cut 1 inch off bottom of stems, then place in a jar of water, like you would do with flowers. Leave it on the counter and change the water daily, cleaning the stems, just like you do with flowers to keep it crisp and fresh till ready to use.

If the color of this dish is an issue, that’s the color of cooked meat. Perfect match absent the suffering. Tastes like meat too.

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