If you like garlic, this is the food of the Garlic Gods. I adore garlic, so when I eat these garlic-butter-slathered toasted crostini liberally spread with the garlic-y kale and olive oil pesto, I am transported to heaven. Every time I make this, that first bite stops me in my tracks, as I savor the flavor of the hearty earthy green kale with the garlic butter. OMG. Mmmm…
These Kale Pesto Crostini are a perfect appetizer for your holiday feast. It’s one of those where the guests just sort of stand around the platter, chewing and not talking. Until all the crostini are gone. They are also good with a bowl of rustic vegetable soup, or, if you are like me, you make a bunch of them and eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Which I did tonight while I was typing up this post. So inspiring.
Kale is a form of cabbage, green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. The species Bressica oleracea also contains broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and brussels sprouts. It is considered a highly nutritious vegetable and is very high in beta carotene, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and calcium. It contains a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties, boosts DNA repair in cells, and is an antioxidant.
Until the end of the middle ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. Russian kale was introduced into the US. by Russian traders, via Canada, in the 19th century. Kale is a main ingredient in the national dishes of several countries. In Ireland it’s mixed with mashed potatoes to make Colcannon. In Portugal it’s combined with potatoes and sausage to make the soup Caldo Verde. In Scotland, kale provided such a base for a traditional diet that the word in dialect Scots is synonymous with food.
A whole culture has developed in north-western Germany, where there are social clubs that visit country inns to consume large quantities of boiled kale, Mettworst and Schnapps. Most communities in the area have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a “Kale King” (or queen).
When you boil the half pound of kale leaves, less the center ribs, they reduce in volume to about the size of a handball. I use my mini food processor for this job and it works perfectly. Sometimes I get kale that is a thicker variety and while it tastes the same, it requires a little longer cooking and a little more olive oil added to the processor to make the mixture the right spreadable consistency. If you are not a garlic freak like me, use only 1/4 tablespoon of minced garlic in the pesto, instead of the full monty ½ tablespoon. I hope you try this. It’s fabulous.
Crostini with Rustic Kale Pesto
1/2 pound fresh kale, (1 bunch) center ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ – ½ tablespoon minced garlic
5 tablespoons salted butter
½ tablespoon minced garlic
Ten ½-inch-thick diagonal slices cut from a baguette of sourdough bread
1. Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the kale, cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Test a little bite to make sure it is quite soft. Drain and refresh under cold water. Using your hands, squeeze as much moisture as possible from the kale.
2. In a mini food processor combine the kale, salt, olive oil and ¼ to ½ tablespoon garlic, per your taste. Process until smooth, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Add up to two tablespoon additional olive oil if necessary if it is dry. (The pesto can be made several hours ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
3. In a small bowl, melt the salted butter with the remaining ½ tablespoon garlic in the microwave on high for 55 seconds. Toast the bread in a toaster. With a pastry brush, brush one side of each toast liberally with the garlic butter. Cut each toast in half if desired. Spread each buttered side of toast with some of the kale pesto and serve immediately.
Note: The Kale Pesto will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days. But make the crostini fresh each day. They’re not tasty reheated. The garlic butter will keep 3 days in a closed container and can be reheated.