Almond and Spinach Pesto with Kelp Noodles and Mushrooms

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t serve my family some sort of pesto. It’s fast, easy, full of flavor, and a great way to get the benefits of raw garlic, nuts, and greens. My son even likes to get involved in the process -- picking which greens and nuts to use, tasting for enough salt, and manning the food processor are his duties.
By / Photography By The Naked South | October 07, 2015

Preparation

  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms to dry pan (no oil) and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve.
  2. For pesto, combine almonds, spinach, basil, garlic, and pinch of salt in a food processor. Process until a paste forms. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  3. With machine running, slowly add olive oil. Add hot water to thin into a sauce consistency.
  4. Toss pesto with kelp noodles, using additional hot water as needed to thin sauce. Top with mushrooms and serve.

To Prepare Kelp Noodles:

  1. Bring a kettle of water to boil. Drain 2 (12 ounce) bags of kelp noodles and place noodles in a large bowl. Fill bowl with fresh water and rinse well several times, using fingers to separate noodles. Drain well.
  2. Add juice of ½ lemon and a large pinch of salt. Toss to combine.
  3. Cover with hot (but not boiling) water and let soak for 10–15 minutes, or until desired texture is reached. Drain well and use.

About this recipe

With cold and flu season upon us, I pay extra attention to making sure my family is eating plenty of immune-boosting foods. For this version of pesto, I use almonds, spinach, and, of course, garlic, which are three immune-boosting superstars. Plus, I’m using a healthier alternative to grain noodles to keep things even more immune-friendly: kelp! Kelp is a sea vegetable with a texture that's angel hair pasta meets spaghetti squash meets mung bean sprouts. It’s delicious and definitely worth trying (more about that below).

 

I had more than one person tell me the color of this dish makes it perfect for serving at a Halloween party or on St. Patrick’s Day. smiley

Key Components

 

Mushrooms are so good for you. This is something I’ve only recently grasped, and now I add them to everything. In addition to a lot of other great attributes, they are loaded with selenium and B vitamins that boost the immune system and reduce your risk of catching the flu.

 

I’ve talked a lot about raw almonds being the most nutritionally-dense nut and how much I love them. Turns out that they boost the immune system as well with their high content of vitamin E. Just another reason to gobble them up.

 

Citrus isn’t the only way to get your fill of vitamin C -- spinach is a great source, too. Plus it’s full of folate and antioxidants all helping to keep the germs away. Eating it raw is the most beneficial.

 

I can’t get enough garlic. I’ll even grate it raw over salads. I’m going to take a moment to apologize to my husband for that. But it’s so worth it! Garlic was nicknamed "Russian penicillin" during WWII when the Russian government ran out of antibiotics and starting treating their soldiers with garlic instead. That’s how potent of a bacteria and germ fighter it is. Fresh is best, so don’t buy it pre-chopped in jars; do the chopping, slicing, and mincing yourself. Another tip: If you’re planning on cooking the garlic and not eating it raw, let it sit for 15 minutes after you’ve chopped it before you add it to the hot pan. This will seal in the antioxidant power.

Have you heard of kelp noodles yet? They are a sea vegetable. I’ve been enjoying them at a few healthy restaurants in town ike Cafe Evergreen and Ionie’s, but I only just recently started preparing them at home. They are sold in baggies at health food stores like Earth Origins and Whole Foods. They are extremely low carb and low calorie and taste great. Fresh out of the bag they are almost crunchy. But follow my preparation instructions and they soften up like pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup lightly chopped raw almonds
  • 1 cup tightly packed baby spinach
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 1 large clove garlic, lightly chopped
  • Pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably unfiltered
  • ¼ cup hot water, plus more as needed
  • 24 ounces prepared kelp noodles (see instructions below)
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