The other day I was in TK Maxx looking for a new coat rack. I generally have a good official reason to go to TK Maxx, but the subtext is always that I want to look at the cheap cookbooks. I initially picked up Gwnyneth Paltrow’s ‘Notes from My Kitchen Table’ thinking it would be an amusing source of derision (I know, judging the efforts of others is not the most edifying way to entertain yourself, but so it goes sometimes). Well, the joke’s on me, because I ended up buying it. It turns out Gwyneth and I have similar taste (not in men, I hasten to add) – we both like food which is healthy without drawing attention to itself as health food; in other words, it’s tasty first and healthy second. I may have some issues with her obsession with something called Vegenaise and her objections to red meat, but I like the fact that she includes some baking recipes without refined white flour or sugar and suggests more natural sweeteners and wholegrains often, without being fanatical about it. It’s mostly quite simple stuff, but I like simple; lots of pasta, burgers, salads – everyday food, mostly, although there’s a recipe for perfect Chinese crispy duck I’ve got my eye on as a weekend project.
And it was from Gwyneth that I got the idea of making cavolo nero into a pesto, which I seized on because I often like the idea of eating things like cavolo nero more in theory than in practice. Combine it with anchovies, garlic and parmesan and it tastes a lot less bitter and good for you and a lot more salty and delicious. It also makes your pasta a glorious shade of green.
Cavolo nero pesto
Gwyneth suggests serving this with penne and peas, but I’m not sure I really felt the peas fitted in. When I had it again I put in some chargrilled purple sprouting broccoli which seemed a bit more harmonious (and another way of fitting in some healthy greens). It is more work, though. I say the mascarpone is optional because I left it out, simply because I didn’t have any, but I’m sure it would be a nice addition.
1 bunch cavolo nero (about a handful)
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
80g mascarpone (optional)
350-400g penne or other pasta
150g frozen peas (optional)
Steam the cavolo nero for 7 mins, or until tender. Put it in a blender with the anchovies, garlic, olive oil and pepper and whizz to a smooth paste. Stir in the mascarpone, if using.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. If adding peas they can go into the pasta water for the last minute or two of cooking time. Reserve a little of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and combine it with the pesto. Use a little bit of the water if it’s too thick. Grate lots of parmesan on top to serve.
From Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Notes from My Kitchen Table’