Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Necessity is the mother of invention, right?  Okay, so I clearly didn't invent this pesto.  It's been hanging around the old interweb for ages.  And really, it's just pesto with different green stuff chopped into it.  But this is the first time it was whipped up in my kitchen, and it's arrival on the table was something of a necessity, so I'm rolling with it.
Pesto is one of those condiments that can brighten up just about anything; just a spoonful can pull a dish from the depths of boring to the heights of fabulous.  It's amazing to me that just a few simple ingredients can do that.  I think it's because we Italians are brilliant cooks and flavor-makers.  I know you all agree with me.

In the particular evening in question, I was making a big pot of smoky winter minestrone and the recipe suggested that a dollop of pesto in each bowl would balance the soup out perfectly.  Having no basil in the fridge (it's winter and even in Southern California it's hard to come by good basil) and no other leafy herbs to speak of either, I decided to use up the arugula I had lingering in the crisper.  I've made enough pestos in my day that putting it together was a snap.  5 ingredients- cheese, olive oil, the greens, garlic and nuts.  Let me tell you something- I will never make that soup without the pesto again.  It's a bit different from a basil pesto, a little more earthy and grassy, but sometimes different is a good thing.  In this case, it's a great thing.
Arugula and Walnut Pesto
Makes about 1 cup.
For the printable recipe, click here.

If you'd like to make the minestrone that I served the pesto with, hop on over to food52 and check out the recipe.  I confess I did add a tsp of smoked paprika and left out the zucchini (it's winter and who has any fresh zucchini, after all?).  But it was awesome just the same.  Oh, and if you have any pesto left over, putting a spoonful over a grilled rib eye along with a dash of lemon juice and lemon zest is a brilliant way to use of the rest.

2 packed cups arugula leaves (you can use either baby or grown up arugula)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbs chopped walnuts
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesean cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor or blender, blend together the arugula, garlic, nut and cheese until finely chopped.  Add the olive oil and blend until smooth.  You can add a bit more oil if your pesto isn't as smooth as you like.

Keep the pesto covered and refrigerated until use.  Unlike a basil pesto, this pesto will not develop a dark layer on the top due to oxidation, so you don't need to add a thin layer of olive oil over the top when chilling.  But it doesn't hurt and looks awfully pretty when serving.

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