Spicy, citrusy, mustard greens-pepita pesto, the perfect midwinter, superfood sauce for pasta, or as a spread or dip. Bonus: the ingredients also make it an ideal exercise recovery food!
I am pretty sure that what I am about to say has never been uttered or written before now:
Pesto is an ideal exercise recovery food.
Not just any pesto, but this pesto in particular. Part of what makes this utterly delicious pesto a grand choice following an intense bout of exercise is the humble pumpkin seed (specifically, the green kind, pepitas). I’ll explain momentarily.
The second superstar recovery ingredient? If you’ve read the title to this post, you’ve got it: mustard greens. Peppery and packed with equal amounts of flavor and nutrition, mustard greens are uniquely suited for building you back up after you’ve given your workout everything that you’ve got.
My discovery of this research came while I was hobbling around last week, sore (understatement!!!) from the previous Sunday’s marathon. Why not stay seated and look up exercise recovery foods? Anything to stay seated :).
Two favorites popped up: dark greens and pepitas. Dark greens are nutrition powerhouses in general, but they are especially beneficial for exercise recovery because of their high antioxidant levels (think cell repair to the max). This is true of all leafy greens, but mustard greens have an additional benefit.
It’s called homobrassinolide.
Homobrassinolide is a naturally occurring steroid found in the mustard plant, and research suggests it can increase muscle mass and decrease breakdown of protein in the cells.
Caution, friends: don’t Grey Poupon yourself silly. These are initial research findings, and mustard is not the answer to all of are ills (dang it! I love mustard…) But still, it’s promising news. And, if any of us need additional incentives for eating mustard greens (especially since they show up all.the.time. in CSA deliveries), this is it!
And the aforementioned pepitas? In addition to protein (rebuild that muscle) and healthy fat, pepitas are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that assists in many biologic processes important to athletes (newbies, pros and everyone in between), most notably protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure regulation.
Ok, enough science, it’s time to eat. As a simple way to get your mustard greens and pepitas in one fell swoop is this unexpected, mid-winter pesto. It is so tasty, the exercise recovery and/or enhancement side effects can be moved to the bonus column.
The pesto has an assertive, peppery flavor, making it a great spread or dip, and, of course, a great sauce for pasta (any variety, gluten-free, regular, chickpea pasta, you name it).
For a quick and stellar pasta, pair it with some roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash; you can thank me later!
Happy eats, everyone!
- 1 medium lemon
- 1 large bunch mustard greens, ends trimmed off, then coarsely chopped
- ½ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (more or less to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Grate 2 teaspoons lemon zest from the lemon. Cut in half and squeeze out 1-1/2 tablespoons juice.
- In a large food processor, process the mustard greens, pepitas and garlic, using on/off pulses, until finely chopped. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil, stopping to scrape the sides of bowl once or twice.
- Serve with pasta, as a spread, or as a dip.