L.A. Kitchen is a nonprofit dedicated to reclaiming local food that would otherwise go to waste and distributing it in the form of fresh, nutritious meals to Angelenos in need.
Another L.A. Kitchen mission is to provide culinary job training, and Theresa “Chef T” Farthing, top graduate of the program’s first class, is now the organization’s community outreach specialist. She leads volunteers in preparing meals for low-income senior communities and homeless shelters, and hosts healthy-cooking demos at senior centers around L.A.
One of the family recipes she loves and teaches often is “Mean & Green Pasta Salad with Pesto Dressing.” You can get creative with the ingredients. “I’ve made it more than one way,” she says. “It just depends on what I have. Being able to use kale, a mixture of kale and basil or carrot tops for the pesto is totally amazing.”
Other options for the pesto greens include cilantro, parsley (use a little extra orange juice if it tastes bitter) or spinach. In place of the sunflower seeds, you could use almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or the traditional pine nuts. You can thin this pesto with extra juice and use it to dress other types of salads or thicken it with extra nuts or seeds and let the kids use it as a dip. “They can dip their carrots and celery sticks in it, or broccoli stems,” says Farthing. “We use our broccoli stems as part of our no-waste option.” That means using every part of the plant that you can (hello, carrot tops!).
For the salad itself, you can use any short-length pasta you have on hand, any greens you like and any combination of veggies. So, don’t run to the store. “Look in your refrigerator and in your cabinets and see what you have first,” Farthing says. Then let the kids help you measure the ingredients and toss the salad together.
Mean & Green Pasta Salad with Pesto Dressing from L.A. Kitchen
2-3 carrot tops
¾ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
Salt to taste
Pasta Salad – Per Person
½ cup bow tie pasta
½ cup leafy greens, such as spinach
½ tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes (in oil) or several cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons green or yellow bell peppers
2 tablespoons frozen peas (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped or slivered nuts
To make the pesto dressing, pulse the carrot tops, olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice and orange juice in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the sunflower seeds and process until ground smooth.
For the salad, cook the pasta according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, drain the oil from sun-dried tomatoes (if using) and finely chop. If using cherry tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half. Chop the spinach or other greens.
Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, peas and greens in a bowl. Once the pasta is cooked, rinse it under cold water, drain well and combine with the other salad ingredients. Toss. Add the appropriate amount of pesto dressing and toss again. Garnish with nuts. Serve and enjoy!