I LOVE pesto. I’ve been making pesto on an almost weekly basis for a couple years, since my Italian-foodie brother in law opened my eyes to its versatility. It is a genius way way to quickly jazz up any meal and add an extra punch of nutrients. It is delicious with fish or chicken, can be easily mixed in with pasta, quinoa, buckwheat or roasted vegetables for a fast and delicious meal… the possibilities are endless. Pesto has become one of my absolute best friends and greatest secrets to making simple food feel fancy in a flash.
And it gets better. This pesto. THIS PESTO. Are you ready to let it change your life? It is a game changer. It is definitely a step away from the traditional Basil, pine nut and parmesan recipe (which I am definitely not mad at!), using broccoli as its main ingredient. Sound strange? Try it- your mind will be changed! The lightly steamed broccoli in tandem with the nutritional yeast gives it a very creamy texture, and the warmth of the turmeric, the pungent garlic and the astringent kale marry very nicely. The flavour is surprising, the colour amazing (thanks to the turmeric), and it is packed with the most nutrient dense, immunity-boosting ingredients that will kick the common cold, and even Candida, to the curb. Let this pesto be your medicine this winter, and get rid of that sugar laden store bought orange juice you have in the fridge. You will be so happy you did.
So, why is this pesto so good for your immunity, you ask? Consider the nutritional benefits of some of its key ingredients:
Kale: Kale is an amazing winter vegetable. Unlike other greens, it will not wilt within two days in your fridge- this stuff can keep for weeks. A very bitter and fibrous green, kale is excellent for digestion and one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It contains more vitamin K than any other food- just one handful fulfils around 680% of your daily Vitamin K needs, which is essential for preventing blood clotting and works together with Vitamin D to build strong bones. It is also incredibly high in vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc, contains all the essential amino acids and 9 non-essential ones- the building blocks of protein. Finally, kale is one of the most highly alkaline foods, which means it can ward off acidity in the body, which contributes to inflammation (inflammation, in turn, can mean anything from a sore throat, mucuousy cough, to stiff joints to headaches, to irritated bowels. It has been speculated that inflammation is at the root of all illness). If you want to feel good and give your immune system a boost during the cold winter months, you need to get some kale in your life!
Broccoli: A cruciferous winter vegetable, broccoli is also very high in Vitamin K and Vitamin C- One cup of broccoli fills 245% of an adult’s daily Vitamin K needs, 135% of Vitamin C, and is also an important source of chromium, folate, fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin B2, among others. It is anti-inflammatory, and contains significant amounts of fibre facilitating better digestion, supports eye health, and may reduce blood sugar levels, keeping your energy steady. Regular broccoli consumption has been proven to protect the body from cancer thanks to its high content of a phytochemical called sulforaphane, foster a healthy heart and lower blood pressure, and contribute to overall immune system health. Conclusion: When in doubt, eat broccoli!
Turmeric: Turmeric has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. It contributes to bile production which in turn increases digestive efficiency, and has been cited to provide relief to those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
Garlic: A potent source of immune-boosting Vitamin C, freshly crushed garlic is especially high in allicin, which displays strong antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral activity, showing itself to be particularly effective at eradicating Candida albicans. I suppose that’s why garlic has been used in traditional medicine since time immemorial.
Nutritional Yeast: We often think that we need to eat a big steak to get our B vitamins, but nutritional yeast is a B-vitamin powerhouse on its own. It is high in all the B vitamins, particularly B-12, which our bodies need to convert food to energy, manage stress and regulate mood (B vitamin deficiency has been proven to contribute to depression, so if you’re feeling blue, it would definitely be worth taking a look at your diet to see if you are missing this precious nutrient. Nutritional yeast also has a high amount of easy to digest protein and contains 18 amino acids. Unlike other forms of yeast, NYFs come from deactivated yeast species S. cervisiae, which does not exacerbate Candida. So if you are currently following an anti-Candida diet, not to worry, you can still enjoy nutritional yeast flakes knowing that it will not contribute to yeast overgrowth in your body. It adds a great cheesy flavour to dishes without the acidic effects of cheese.
This information is only skimming the surface- I haven’t even touched on the health miracle that is extra virgin olive oil, or lemon for that matter. Just trust me when I say that this pesto is seriously delicious and crammed full of stuff that will boost your immune system and help your body fight unwanted bacterial overgrowth.
- 1 small knob (1-2 inches) fresh turmeric (curcuma)
- 4-5 cloves of garlic (less if you have garlic aversion, more if you like the burn)
- ½-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium head broccoli, stems included
- 4-5 leaves kale
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- Juice ½ lemon or 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Good pinch of sea salt
- Wash the broccoli and kale. Steam broccoli in a saucepan for about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the fibrous stems from the kale leaves, and lightly toast pine nuts in a frying pan on low heat for a couple minutes.
- Meanwhile, roughly peel the ginger and turmeric (it doesn't have to be perfect).
- Throw everything in the food processor using an S-shaped blade, and mix until smooth. If you add just ½ cup of olive oil, it will have a fairly thick, yet creamy consistency. Add more olive oil depending on how thinned out you want it.
- Store in airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you don't plan on using it all at once, portion it out in ice cube trays or a couple small jars and freeze for a rainy day.
Quick note on food processors: I was using a really weak old food processor for years until it kicked the bucket over a year ago. I then resorted to using my little Bosch hand mixer for making pestos, smoothies, and other sauces. I purchased a Magimix only a month ago, which is heavenly because it saves me a lot of time and effort, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t have high end gear. The most basic hand mixer should work if you have a long, plastic container to do it in. You will just need more time and patience, and to do smaller batches at once. Where there is a will to make pesto, there is a way!
A final word of advice on consumption: I put a lot of garlic in this for the Vitamin C factor. It is pretty strong. Feel free to add less if garlic intimidates you or burns your mouth/stomach easily. I also would advise eating a modest amount at dinner because the residual garlic taste and all those vitamins might jerk you awake in the middle of the night and make you want to do a 10K run -at least this was the case for me. The first time I ate this was for dinner, and I was feeling rather run down. I ate quite a lot of it, and woke up at one in the morning
ready DESPERATE to run a marathon. So try to exercise some self restraint if you like sleeping through the night- it is seriously intense.