Arugula Pesto

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What do you think of when you think of pesto? Basil, garlic, olive oil, right? As it turns out, you can make pesto from almost anything. The word pesto simply means pounded — not pounded basil, nor pounded garlic, just pounded, and is related to the word pestle, the pounding/grinding part of a mortar and pestle.

This past Tuesday we got a large bunch of arugula in our CSA share, so, today we’re going to rustle up a big batch of arugula pesto that we’ll use throughout the week. It’s nice to mix in with pasta or rice for a quick dinner, or to use for an open-face sandwich that you run under the broiler (think bruschetta here), or even as a condiment for sandwiches. It would even make a nice dip for some crackers. Pesto is really versatile, and surprisingly easy to whip up.

We’re going to make this in a food processor, but, if you don’t have one, don’t worry; you can make this with just a knife and a cutting board. That’s the way we did it for many years, just chop, chop, chop the arugula (or basil), garlic, and nuts, then in a bowl add the oil and cheese. We called it Pesto Rustico.

Arugula Pesto

Arugula Pesto

Ingredients

  • Large bunch arugula (or basil, or both)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

Wash and dry arugula.

Toast nuts. You can either put them on a baking sheet and bake them at 350°F for 7 to 10 minutes, or put them in a heavy skillet (no oil) and heat them on the stove for 7 to 10 minutes.

Peel and chop garlic.

Put the nuts, arugula, garlic, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and whir until it’s pretty finely chopped.

With the processor running, start adding the olive oil. Keep adding until you get a nice paste that looks like pesto.

Taste it, and add salt and pepper, as needed.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2013/01/arugula-pesto/

Ingredients:

  • Large bunch arugula (or basil, or both)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Ingredient discussion:

Okay, we hate to have to say it, but Parmesan cheese does NOT come in green cylinders. Check the ingredient list on those cylinders and you’ll find that sawdust (cellulose) comes in green cylinders. Besides, pesto is a fresh, bright-tasting dish, so use fresh high-quality ingredients. It makes a difference.

Procedure:

arugula
Here’s the arugula in our custom-made salad spinner. I bet you can make one like it. Hint: onion bag.

Wash and dry arugula. Note our high-tech salad spinner for drying the arugula. We fill this up, take it out back and give it a few whirls, and voilà, dried salad. Plus, it takes up very little space when stored.

toasting walnuts
We toasted walnuts in a small skillet. It is less trouble and cleanup is simpler than using the oven.

Toast nuts. Toasting really brings out the flavor in nuts; they transform from ordinary nuts into super nuts. You can either put them on a baking sheet and bake them at 350°F for 7 to 10 minutes, or put them in a heavy skillet (no oil) and heat them on the stove for 7 to 10 minutes. Watch them like a hawk. Nuts will go from toasted to burnt very quickly.

Peel and chop garlic. We didn’t have garlic cloves in the house, so we had to go with some prepared crushed garlic. Not as good, but available.

pesto ingredients in a food processor
Stuff the arugula, walnuts, garlic, and cheese in the food processor. Then whir, baby.

Chop. Put the nuts, arugula, garlic, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and whir ’til the cows come home, or until it’s pretty finely chopped.

adding olive oil
We drizzle in the olive oil and watch until it reaches the desired consistency.

Add oil. With the processor running, start adding the olive oil. Keep adding until you get a nice paste that looks like pesto.

pesto
Oh my! Would you look at that! Fresh pesto!

Season. Taste it, and add salt and pepper, as needed, whirring between additions.

pesto sandwiches
We made up a couple of open-face sandwiches under the broiler, then topped with just a bit more Parmesan.

Done. Serve it however you would serve pesto.

We make arugula pesto moderately often when we get a bunch of arugula. It tastes different from pesto made with basil, still good, but different. Basil pesto is still, to us, the gold standard, so we have to knock the arugula version back a star.

Worth the trouble?

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