Pesto is an easy and delicious sauce with myriad uses. It's traditionally made by grinding fresh basil leaves with garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil using a mortar ans pestle. However, pesto can be made from almost any fresh herb or spicy green. Arugula certainly fits that bill. Replace the mortar and pestle with a blender or food processor and you can make wonderful pesto in a matter of minutes.
The proportion of the ingredients is, to a certain extent, a matter of taste. So, feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking. Here are a few things to consider: Don't let the garlic overpower the fresh taste of the herbs. You might want to consider using milder green garlic or even roasted garlic for a mellower taste. Always, always toast the nuts, no matter which nuts you use. Toasting brings out the flavor of the nut. Use the very best extra virgin olive oil that you have. Olive oil is such an important component of the pesto, you'll want to use your best oil for this.
1-2 cloves garlic
1/4 C toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 - 1 t salt
2 C packed arugula leaves (no stems)
1/2 to 2/3 C extra virgin olive oil
Blender or Food Processor Method: Place the garlic and nuts in the processor or blender and process until finely chopped and nearly a paste. Add the salt and arugula leaves and process until chopped. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream and process until the mixture has an even consistency and resembles a smooth paste. You may need to stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender once or twice.
Mortar and Pestle Method: Chop the garlic and nuts coarsely. Grind them in the mortar with the pestle using a circular motion until they resemble a paste. You can add a little olive oil to make the grinding easier. Stir in the salt. Coarsely chop the arugula leaves and grind them into the garlic nuts paste, one-half cup at a time, adding olive oil as needed, until you've incorporated all the arugula and oil and the mixture is a smooth paste.
Once made, you can use your pesto as a pasta sauce - just stir it into freshly cooked hot pasta with 1/2 c (or more) freshly grated parmesan cheese. As an alternative, you might try substituting crumbled chevre (goat cheese) for the parmesan. A little grated lemon or orange zest adds a little zing. You can get an even bigger zing from some red pepper flakes.
You can also use pesto as a spread on sandwiches such as fresh mozzarella (or chevre) with sun-dried tomatoes on focaccia. Omnivores will find pesto to be a delicious relish for grilled steak, chicken, and fish. Best of all, if you have any left over, you can cover it with a thin layer of olive oil and keep it in your fridge for at least a week, or you can freeze it for months.
The beautiful green color of fresh pesto doesn't last very long. If the darkening of your pesto bothers you, you can avoid it by eating your pesto soon after you mix it up or by blanching the leaves in a pot of boiling water for just a few seconds before grinding. Be sure to dry the leaves as best you can before grinding.
Today's bounty included the following:
From Underwood Family Farms: Yukon and Norland potatoes, blood oranges, strawberries, blackberries, green leaf lettuce, purple carrots, Easter radishes, mizuna and arugula.
From Cottage Grove Farm: Romaine lettuce, cherries, asparagus, and white nectarines.
From Drake Family Farms: Plain or Herbs de Provence chevre.