Kale pesto is packed with nutrients and versatile. Photograph by Cheryl Harris.
Ah, January. The month of high hopes, fresh starts—and failure. While many ambitious resolvers decide to begin their new year with a cleanse, that word makes registered dietitian Cheryl Harris cringe.
Low-cal cleanses and detoxes can affect your metabolism in the long term, Harris says, and frankly, they’re unnecessary. “Our liver’s function is to cleanse and detoxify, and it does an awfully good job,” she explains. Plus cleanses can lead to that all-too-familiar cycle of deprivation and binging‚ derailing your resolution just a few days into the new year.
Instead, January is a great time to focus on clean eating, and we’ve got a series of recipes lined up to help you do just that. We asked nutritionists in the area for medical-professional-approved alternatives to cleansing, and after some scolding for even using the word, we got some great recommendations.
To start off, we’ve got Harris’s recipe for a pesto using her favorite green: kale.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a resolution this recipe doesn’t fit with: It’s vegan, gluten-free, minimally processed, and a goldmine of nutrients. Kale in general is high in fiber and antioxidants, which function like a cleanup crew for your body, Harris says. (For more on the nutritional benefits of kale, click here.)
“I think kale should be its own food group,” she says. “Not just because it’s nutritious—it’s also super-yummy and works with so many different foods.”
Harris serves the pesto over quinoa for a vegan meal that’s high in protein. (We tried it this way and felt so healthy afterward that we may or may not have made some French toast to even things out.) You can also spoon it over a white fish such as halibut or mahi mahi and bake it, or make a pesto pizza—just spread it on pizza dough and bake as usual.
Yield: About 5 servings
Calories per serving: 162 if you use only 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed
1/3 to 2/3 cup Brazil nuts
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Generous squeeze of lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed for consistency)
¼ cup kalamata olives
1) Toast Brazil nuts for a few minutes, until they start browning, then coarsely grind in a food processor.
2) Cook kale in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
3) Put kale into food processor with all other ingredients and process until smooth, adding extra olive oil as needed. Add olives at the end if you like chunks.
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can coarsely chop the Brazil nuts after toasting and then blend the ingredients in a blender. We tried it this way and had to add two extra tablespoons of olive oil; we got a more paste-like texture, but it worked.