Healthy Dinner: Greens & Grains Pesto Sautée

May 16, 2016
Pesto is one of those foods that people talk about like wine/coffee/anything fancy. "Oooh, I made this fabulous pesto over the weekend. It was sooooo good." I was never able to get into it myself, and these passionate exclamations of its amazingness went over my head. Maybe it was the idea of a green, healthy-looking sauce being chock-full of oil and cheese, which of course was a no-no since I became vegan. My pesto perspective changed radically, though, one day when I was browsing one of my favorite cooking blogs, Love and Lemons. She was featuring a cheeseless and green-ful hemp pesto recipe, and my interest was piqued. I found no better way to use a healthy bunch of basil, protein-packed hemp, and a healthful amount of fats. When I had enough to freeze almost half the recipe, I kept thinking of the different ways one could serve this sauce: from the traditional pasta dressing to a dip in and of itself. Since the weather started to turn here in NYC, I've been wanting to fill my plate with foods that are fresh and refreshing. Pesto obviously fits the bill perfectly, and combining it with chewy, resilient barely and lightly cooked spinach seemed like a home run. I hope you'll agree it was, Dumplings, and add this brilliant veganized version of a cooking staple to your wheelhouse.
Healthy Dinner: Greens & Grains Pesto Sautée

Healthy Dinner: Greens & Grains Pesto Sautée

Recipe Type: Hearty Entrees
utensils YIELDS 4 servings
herb graphic for recipe card
  • 1 cup pearl barley, dry
  • 3 cups water
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juice (reserved) and sliced wedges
  • 16 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • For the Pesto:
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 2 cups chopped kale leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
        graphic for recipe card


1. Combine barley, water, and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. The barley will be very soft and chewy. 2. Meanwhile, prepare the pesto. Pulse the hemp seeds and garlic in a food processor. Add kale, and pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and pulse once more. Drizzle in olive oil with blades running, and processes until you reach desired consistency. Set aside. 3. In a large sautee pan, combine the garlic, lemon wedges, and 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Cook until the garlic begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. 4. Add the spinach, and cook until wilted. 5. Combine barley and 3 tablespoons of pesto in the same pot; stir to coat evenly. 6. Divide spinach and barley evenly between plates. Add more pesto to top as desired. Enjoy!

Also by Jennifer: Classic Vegan Carrot Cake

Related: Three Mushroom Pesto Linguine

Thin Crust Pear Pesto Pizza

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Photos: Jennifer Kurdyla

Features Editor Jennifer Kurdyla is a New York City girl with Jersey roots and a propensity for getting lost in the urban jungle. An experienced publishing professional, yoga instructor, home chef, sometimes-runner, and writer, she adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in 2008 and became vegan in 2013. She has written for The Harvard Review Online, The Rumpus, and Music & Literature and maintains a wellness-based website, Be Nourished, which features original writing and recipes. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram @jenniferkurdyla, Twitter @jenniferkurdyla, and Pinterest.


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