Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Crostini with Kale Pesto & Mango-Dill Salsa Fresca (Chopped Challenge)

Work had a Chopped-inspired challenge this week. The theme was Healthy Appetizers. We got our "baskets" Friday, and as I looked through the contents, I knew roughly what I was going to make. Kale + pecan halves + smoked Gruyère cheese + dill weed + a mango = kale pesto + mango salsa.

I started with toasting the pecans.

While they were cooling, I removed the kale from the tough stems.

This yielded me a nice bowlful. Next I boiled, then blanched them.

Look at that beautiful green! Once they were done, I dried them in a clean towel. While the kale was drying, I chopped the pecans, then popped them and the kale into the blender. I grated the Gruyère directly into the blender. Why dirty up another bowl?

I then blended it all, adding the olive oil to make it a nice consistency. Trust me, it takes more olive oil than you think initially. You'll know you're getting a good consistency when puréed kale starts flying around the blender. Kale carnage is good.

With the pesto done, I made the salsa, using the mango, a couple of heirloom tomatoes, some spring onions and the dill weed. Unfortunately at this point, I got involved in the process and forgot to take photos. I really should have taken a picture of the mango hedgehog!

This sat in the fridge overnight. The kids sampled the pesto and declared it yummy.

The next morning, I sliced up the gluten-free French bread I'd baked yesterday afternoon and broiled it until it was crispy. Note: Be sure to watch it carefully! It can go from perfectly toasted to black around the edges in no time flat! And don't be tempted to set the broiler on high.

When the competition time came, I topped some of the toast slices with the pesto and some with the salsa, grated more Gruyère over it all and sprinkled it with dill weed. I was very pleased with how it turned out. I didn't win - I lost out to Caribbean Chicken Sliders - but I had fun and I didn't have any pesto left by the end of the evening! Thomas, my budding foodie, put some of it on half of a matzo, then topped it with shredded Gruyère.

Crostini with Kale Pesto & Mango-Dill Salsa Fresca

1 loaf gluten-free French bread (I used the recipe from The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread by Laurie Sadowski. Udi's makes a frozen French bread loaf, but it uses eggs. Or if you're not concerned with gluten/wheat, you could use a regular French bread loaf.)
Kale Pesto:
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed
1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 ounces pecan halves, toasted (1/2 cup)
2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or to desired consistency
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Mango-Dill Salsa Fresca:
1 mango, diced
2 heirloom tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
2 spring onions or 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander

Preheat broiler. Slice French bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until toasted.

Toast pecans in a dry skillet over medium-low, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 to 4 minutes. Cool, then roughly chop.

For Kale Pesto: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch kale for about a minute, then plunge into an ice bath. Drain the kale, and pat dry with a clean towel. Add kale, garlic, pecans and shredded Gruyère to a food processor or blender and process. While blender or food processor is running, add lemon juice and olive oil in a steady stream until desired consistency is reached. Salt and pepper to taste.

For Mango-Dill Salsa: Combine all ingredients.

Assembly: Top half of the toasted bread slices with Kale Pesto and half with Mango-Dill Salsa. If desired, sprinkle with additional finely shredded Gruyère and broil for a minute to melt cheese.