Chard Pesto and a Turnip Gratin

Jars of chard pesto

With chard still going strong in the garden as frost warnings start sweeping into our area, I’m keen to put up more chard pesto for future meals. Pesto is so quick and easy to make, and freezing meal-sized batches in glass jars works really well.

My favourite chard to use for pesto is bright green Lucullus, but this weekend I made up a batch using our Rhubard Red Swiss Chard. It has an earthier flavour that my husband really likes, and I guess I prefer the lighter, brighter taste of Lucullus.

Rhubard red swiss chard

After quickly chopping the chard, stems and all, it’s straight into the bowl of the Cuisinart. I think pesto is very personal, so I don’t provide a proper recipe here, but also added to the mix at this point: walnuts, grated parmesan cheese, a bit of walnut oil (olive oil is the more traditional choice and also very good), lemon juice, fresh garlic and salt.

Chard ingredients in mixer bowl

The garlic in this batch is also from our own garden, this being our first year to reap the rewards of planting hardneck garlic in the fall. In a year when a lot didn’t go well, this is especially sweet.

Homegrown hardneck garlic on a board

The ingredients are pulsed until things start to come together. Scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during the process helps, as does adding as a little more oil or whatever else is needed to get the flavour and consistency that you want.

Red chard pesto ingredients in cuisinart

A batch of about a dozen big leaves made five cups or so of pesto; four cups went into jars (with a drizzle of oil on top before closing the lids) and into the freezer, the last cup was mixed up with pasta that day.

Chard Pesto ingredients

Chard leaves and stems
Walnut oil or olive oil
Several garlic cloves
Lemon juice
Salt to taste

My kitchen island and other kitchen surfaces are covered in tomatoes, mostly green (because of those frosts), crookneck squash, some winter squash, and turnips from our garden. We’ve got abundant carrots and more chard and kale still to harvest, but I can’t handle anything else in the house right now. As I was going the easy route for supper with roasting a chicken tonight, I figured I could manage a quick gratin with the turnip and threw in some sweet potato for colour and to soften the flavour overall. Turnip on its own is a bit of an acquired taste, though I do like it (and my husband loves it).

Layers of turnip and sweet potato

Being in the mood for something incredibly easy, I opted for the quickest cheat there is in assembling a gratin: straight cream, with a bit of butter, grated nutmeg, salt and generous pepper. There are much more sophisticated turnip and sweet potato gratins out there, including one from Martha Stewart that looks rather good, and a delicious cheesy one from Back to Her Roots. I’ve got more turnips in my near future, so will be a little more creative next time and try one of those recipes. But the dead simple cream version was very nice, paired as it was with the roast chicken and potatoes, and some late-in-the-season sweet corn (on the cob). Definitely comfort food.

Turnip and chard gratin

10 thoughts on “Chard Pesto and a Turnip Gratin

    1. I’ve learned a lot about pesto over the last couple of summers, having originally always associated it with the classic basil/pine nut combination. Chard is such a natural for this, I hope you get to try it.

    1. Oh yes, comfort food all the way! I’ve been the same with turnips, just discovering them properly more recently. Not a veg that I need to overdo, but it can be nice for a change in the right dish 🙂

  1. I never thought of making pesto from chard. I am fortunate that I will have chard in the garden for several more months – and it’s one of the things that did well for me this year, so the more clever chard recipes the better! Thanks 🙂

    1. Wonderful! It always feels good to give someone a new idea (almost as good as finding one from someone else!). You’re in the perfect position with so much chard in your garden – enjoy!

  2. I just made a big batch of pesto too. I always feel so virtuous when the freezer is stocked with it. Have never made chard pesto though, and am definitely putting that on my ‘must try’ list. My 9 year old has been at me for months to make potato gratin – I love the idea of sneaking in some turnip and sweet potato for health benefits and colour! That’s going on my list too.

    1. There’s just something so wonderfully satisfying about a well stocked freezer, isn’t there. I’m still getting used to having a proper chest freezer and keep it well stocked is my goal. It makes so much sense for us with our harsh winters, but even better is the pleasure of meals that come without effort, because they were prepared when the garden was in season. Glad I could help out with some sneaky ingredients, something that all parents need up their sleeves! 🙂

  3. mmmm… pesto is one of my favorite garnishes. I like the idea of using flavours other than basil. must try this next summer!

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