How do I salvage these weird leftovers? (keep it vegan)
September 16, 2014 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I would like to eat yesterday dinner's leftovers but they taste kind of weird. I experimented with making a vegan kale pesto (walnuts, nutritional yeast, garlic, lots of raw kale), and mixed it up with quinoa and white beans. Problem is, it tastes like a handful of cut grass, not in a good way, I think because there's so much uncooked kale in it. How do I make this edible for tonight's dinner? I don't mind cooking the kale pesto mix (in a dough?) but need to keep it vegan.
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That sounds like it could be the beginning of a soup. Try thinning it with broth, and then adding random spices until you like how it tastes.

My old roommates did exactly this once; they'd started out trying to make vegetable juice in our juicer, but when that didn't work out well, they combined juice and pulp and just played mad-scientist with the spice cabinet. I had some when I came home later and it was delicious, and demanded a recipe - but they admitted "we....actually kind of don't know."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

You need to apply the inverse flavors. Right now you have bitter & fresh. So you could go the sweet & spicy route:

Cumin, olive oil, salt.
Splash of sweet - a good balsamic or a tbsp of maple syrup.

Something like that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

It probably needs salt, for starters. And oil.

Going forward, it might be worth remembering that basil is an herb. Pesto is supposed to have an herbal flavor. You can mix it up with parsley, cilantro, mint, etc. but you can't really sub in just regular old greens that don't have a very strong flavor of their own.

But yeah for the purposes of one meal just salt the shit out of it and make sure it's not overly dry. Maybe a squeeze of lemon?

You could also potentially doctor it by pureeing a mixture of olive oil and parsley, as a sort of mini pesto, and adding that to the mix, just to give it a shot of the herbal flavor pesto is supposed to have.
posted by Sara C. at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

A can of lentils and some salt is your answer. Make patties, really work everything in with your hands. Although no egg is to be involved, you can achieve a 'hold together' together consistency by keeping a key eye on and continually tucking in the mixture with a spatula as you fry.
posted by unliteral at 6:56 AM on September 16, 2014

Response by poster: The pesto does have olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and lemon zest in it too, which I put with the other ingredients in a food processor. Still it tastes overwhelmingly like cut grass.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:57 AM on September 16, 2014

Not sure how the kale is cut, but could you pull it out, then sautee in olive oil and then splash balsamic vinegar on it while still in the pan? The sour goes really well.

Then add the nuts/beans back in at the end. When I sautee kale, I add some sunflower seeds in at the end, the nuttiness goes well with the kale.
posted by carter at 6:58 AM on September 16, 2014

You could go a casserole route. The pesto is currently mixed with the quinoa and beans, yeah? So stir in a can of tomatoes (you can whizz them in the blender if want a smoother texture), maybe some chopped olives, spread it in a baking dish and bake until bubbly. Toasted breadcrumbs on top would add great texture, too.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, cook it with the white beans and quinoa for about 10 minutes. You can just add a little water and cook it on the stove.
posted by steinwald at 7:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the pesto mixed together with the quinoa and white beans right now? Or all still separate? Do you want to use all three in this next dish? What else is in your fridge or pantry?
posted by amaire at 7:13 AM on September 16, 2014

Blend it up with a box of shelf-stable tofu and a handful of soaked cashews, then mix that into cooked pasta and bake as a casserole.
posted by snaw at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2014

As an experiment, saute a big spoonful of this mix in a dribble of olive oil. I think cooking the kale will take you a good distance toward an edible thing (or tell you it's a lost cause and keep you from making more food you don't want to eat), and then you can go with one of the recipes suggested here.

When I make something a little too veg-funky, I usually hit it with some soyrizo, which makes everything taste like soyrizo. Then toss with a carb - roasted potatoes, more quinoa, rice, polenta, etc.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:04 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

You mentioned cooking it in a dough- a friend of mine once made vegan pesto pinwheels (imagine a cinnamon roll, but savory), with pizza dough, baked in a pan the same way you would bake a cinnamon roll. They were delicious. You could even buy pre-made dough (I like Trader Joe's, in a pinch). I would add fresh parsley and basil, and maybe even sun-dried tomatoes, to the puree- the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes would really cut the grassy taste.

For what it's worth, in the future, you might want to try toasting your walnuts (if you didn't) before making pesto. It really contributes to the flavor. Also, if you really must have kale in your pesto, try 1/2 kale and 1/2 basil. Or just make it the more traditional way, and then add a dollop of pesto to kale as you sautee it, for the delicious pesto flavor and nutrition of kale.
posted by sparringnarwhal at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2014

I think cooking will be required - I'd throw it in a covered pot and simmer for awhile. The quinoa will get softer but shouldn't be ruined. If you can find some high-quality veggie stock to add (including salt) that might help. I always find that I need chicken stock to make quinoa taste anything but incredibly bland. Mushrooms (or something similarly umami-like) help too.

You might need to add some stronger flavours as well to balance out the cut grass taste. Spicy (hot sauce, peppers?) or sweet (dried fruit, teriyaki sauce, sugar?), or both in combination, might help. Also this might be more of a next time thing, but kale as the only vegetable is going to be very overwhelmingly....grassy, as you say. It has a strong flavour without a ton of complexity. Try adding other veggies like peppers, mushrooms, carrots, onions, etc for a more balanced flavour.
posted by randomnity at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2014

Next time, try blanching the kale for a minute before making it into pesto. It helps cut down on some of the "grass" flavor. I'd probably nix the thyme too, it's got a grassy flavor, and basil is a very "sweet" herb -- I usually make my kale pesto with a "sweeter" nut, like macadamia or cashew, to help balance the flavors.

This time, however, I agree with the people who say to either cook this pesto - pour it into a baking dish for 20-30 minutes at 350, to try and cook out some of the bitterness -- or turn this into a soup.

Casseroles are also my favorite way of fixing over-seasoned anything. Mixing it up with bland tofu, some rice, or even some bread, something with no flavor, and possibly adding a little sweet, then cooking it up will help. If it's over-seasoned, spacing the flavors out with palate cleansers can also help tone down some of the weird flavors.
posted by PearlRose at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd toss everything with something similar to the dressing in this recipe. I've made this before and if you massage the kale with dressing it breaks down the kale a bit and makes it softer and much tastier. I'm not sure how well it will work since you've mixed it with the quinoa and beans but it's worth a shot.
posted by elisebeth at 9:48 AM on September 16, 2014

Thyme and Kale don't go well together. I think that's your problem.

I vote soup. Or toss it.
posted by jbenben at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2014

I always think quinoa tastes more grassy than anything I know, so I keep the proportion of quinoa low whenever I make it.

I think adding chopped halved cherry tomatoes and halved or quartered kalamata olives would work well at covering/balancing the tastes you find overwhelming. The tomatoes will give wateriness and sweetness and the olives a lot of saltiness and flavor. That is if the thyme hasn't ruined it (I agree that it doesn't go with kale). Adding cumin would be nice though. If it weren't for the thyme all the flavors would go perfectly together. And don't cook it, there's no need for any elaborate salvaging here.
posted by Blitz at 11:33 AM on September 16, 2014

Maybe saute it in olive oil with a bunch of mushrooms. The umami will help counterbalance the grass and the cooking ought to mellow out the kale. It might need more garlic too. And salt!

There's also the option of slathering it with anything hot--sriracha, hot sauce, hot salsa, whatever you got. Good luck!
posted by purple_bird at 1:27 PM on September 16, 2014

Response by poster: update: I mixed if with a block of soft tofu and some salsa, sprinkled it with bread crumbs and baked the casserole. Now I have a stomach ache.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:55 PM on September 16, 2014

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