This week I got to do one of my favorite activities -- teach at Olivewood Gardens. And, the dish I decided to make with the kids, who are in the fourth and fifth grades in National City, was a lavash pizza with garden veggies and Swiss chard pesto.
See, we have several criteria for our recipes -- they need to be nutritious, they need to be able to be made and eaten in 25 minutes, they should be something the kids can help prepare, and the ingredients should include produce grown in the gardens. Well, it's November and the pickins are a little slim right now. What did they have in abundance? Swiss chard. So, I played around with the pesto idea and came up with a recipe that tasted good but also would be fun for the kids to squirt out of a bottle and decorate their pizzas. Sort of a cooking/art project.
The kids, of course, were completely unfamiliar with lavash (and we discovered they also need help with geography since they had no clue about what countries make up the Middle East), but they were open to trying it. First came a layer of shredded mozzarella. Then they each added a rainbow of veggies that could include mushrooms, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red onions, red peppers, jalapenos, grated carrots, sliced black olives, zucchini, and chopped tomatillos. Then a little more cheese followed by squirts of the pesto.
Each square went into a 375-degree oven for about 13 minutes. I have to say they were delicious and the kids loved them. I have photos to prove it, but we didn't get permissions for publishing them so they'll stay in my computer...
Now, here's the kicker. By the third class I was looking to change things up so when we were making the pesto I asked the kids if they wanted to add any other ingredients and see what would happen. They decided on a handful of chopped tomatillo and a few tablespoons of chopped chives. And, it was delicious! Even better than the original, plus the kids were thrilled that they had created a recipe.
Swiss Chard Pesto
Makes 2 cups
1 pound Swiss chard (or kale, spinach, or other leafy green)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon honey
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup or more olive oil
(feel free to add about 1/2 a cup of chopped raw tomatillo and 3 tablespoons of chopped chives)
Carefully wash the Swiss chard leaves. Remove the tough central ribs, then tear into smaller pieces.
Puree all the ingredients in the food processor or blender to form a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar, covered with a thin layer of oil, where it will keep for a week or more. It also freezes well.