I’ve always wanted a messy garden. I know that sounds strange. Most people want a gorgeously organized, symmetrical growing plot with every veggie in its place.
Not me. I’ve always loved the look of gardens that are bursting at the seams with greenery growing in every direction. Like a forest gone wild that produces food.
This might be because I lack the skill to produce one of those perfect gardens. Maybe I’m drawn to messy gardens because they are easier to maintain. But really it’s how they look.
I’m getting there.
I knew kale could last through the winters here so I bought several lacinato and scarlet kale plants last fall. It’s grown so well that it’s been hard for me to harvest it. Not because we can’t eat it, but because it is so pretty to look at! I love gazing out into the yard and seeing all the plants.
I also planted some carrots near the kale in one of our raised boxes. It took them a while, but they are starting to thrive a bit.
Part of the problem is that I planted all the fall veggies in a raised bed that I used this past summer. Turns out it got loads of sun in the summer, but during the winter, the sun changed and it was in full shade all day. The sun is starting to hit it again, though, hopefully just in time.
My next task is to get the herbs going wild. The mint, of course, is already there. The thyme, rosemary, and dill will hopefully get there with some sun and warm temps.
With all the kale in view, I was starting to feel guilty that we haven’t eaten much so I picked some this past week. It ended up in this salad in a jar.
I honestly thought salads, noodles, and just about everything in jars would be a quick fading trend, but so far this year almost all of my clients have requested recipes for jars. It’s inspired me to come up with some of my own.
Working from home, I don’t have a huge need for lunch on-the-go, but the jars are super convenient for having all the ingredients in one place. Nice for storage in the fridge, too.
I think I’ve explained my enthusiasm for massaged kale before. In this recipe, the massaged kale adds ALL the flavor. I used pesto instead of only olive oil.
So basically you massage the pesto into the kale (gloves help here), and then layer it on top of a cooked and cooled grain (brown rice in this case), and cooked or canned chickpeas. It’s super simple, but when you dump it into a bowl and toss, it’s full of tastiness.
This time of year, when I don’t have fresh basil around (I cannot seem to get the stuff to grow in the house no matter what I do!), I use store-bought. But I’ve also included my recipe for walnut pesto if you want to use fresh. It appeared on the blog way back in 2009. I’ve been making it for years.
That’s all there is to it. It’s a great lunch whether you take it with you or eat it at home.
Spring is in full swing here in the Valley so more about my messy garden goals to come. I’m hoping year two of gardening here will be an even greater success.
Chickpea, Brown Rice, and Kale Salad in a Jar with Pesto
Makes 1 serving
This is more of a guide than a recipe. You can use any variety of kale that you like. Any type of cold grain can be substituted for the brown rice. I think wheat berries, kamut, or wild rice would make a nice addition. I think chickpeas work the best here, but I expect another bean could be used as well.
What you’ll need:
1 cup thinly sliced kale
2 tablespoons pesto (see recipe below for homemade)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained if canned)
1/2 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
1 bunch fresh basil, about 1 cup loosely packed leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup chopped raw walnuts
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it:
Place the kale in a medium bowl and pour in the pesto. Use gloved hands to massage the pesto into the kale. This helps break down the cell walls, softens the kale, and infuses the flavors of the pesto.
Fill the bottom of a pint jar with the chickpeas. Add the brown rice, and then top with the kale. Cover with the lid and refrigerate for up to 2 days before pouring the contents into a bowl and tossing all ingredients to serve.
To make your own homemade walnut pesto, add the basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, and Parmesan to a small food processor. Pulse in 10 to 15 second intervals until all ingredients are finely chopped. Add olive oil a little at a time and process on high until smooth. You can add anywhere between 2 to 6 tablespoons of oil, until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. For this recipe, it’s best if it resembles a thick salad dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.