Swiss Chard Stalk Pesto with Pepitas

August 24, 2015

Author Notes: I love Swiss chard, but I hate the stalks...don't we all? But when one buys two pounds of chard, one inevitably inherits about 12 ounces of stalks, and that is a lot of food to be wasted. And although the stalks do not belong in a bowl of creamed chard, they make for a really tasty and sustainable pesto. (I did not forget the cheese in this recipe, but I found the pesto tasty enough without it. But if you really would like to maintain the integrity of the dish called pesto, about 3 ounces of Pecorino Romano will not hurt.)QueenSashy

Makes: one pint


  • 6 ounces Swiss chard stalks (from about 1 pound of Swiss chard)
  • 1 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup packed parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
  • zest of 1/2 lemon, grated on a Microplane
  • 3-4 ounces Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In This Recipe


  1. Cut off the very end of the stalks, as the ends tend to be dry. If your Swiss chard is fairly young and tender, the stalks will be tender too. The stalks of mature chard can be a bit stringy, and you may want to blanch them for a minute. The best way to determine is to snap a piece of stalk from the very end (the toughest part) and take a bite. If it has the consistency of raw celery, you are good to go. If it is tougher and stringier, you may want to blanch the stalks (but only for a minute).
  2. To blanch the stalks, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the stalks and blanch for 1 minute. Remove the stalks from the pot and put them in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Cool the stalks completely before proceeding with the recipe.
  3. In a food processor, process the pepitas with the fennel seed and garlic. Add the stalks and parsley and continue to process. Add the cheese, if using. Add the olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and process until smooth. (If the pesto is too thick, add a drop of water.) Taste, and adjust the acidity and seasoning. Store the pesto in the fridge and use it with pasta, sandwiches, or as a dip.

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