Friday, February 3, 2012

Lemon, Arugula Pesto

I am passionate about arugula.
The scent of it, when I tear its leaves for Aaron's salad every morning, wakes me up.
Later, when I use it to make salad for my lunch, or for our dinner salad, I think I'd wear it for perfume.
Or at least I'd like an arugula scented candle.
But I don't just love the smell.
The taste, the more peppery the better, is one of my favorites of all time.
I put it on everything.
On sandwiches, of course.
But also in my pasta, on top my pizza, on my chicken, my burger, falafel, cous cous, pancakes.
Just kidding.
About the couscous.
Seriously, I am arugula's number one fan.

So when I saw this post by my friend, Megan B. on Shelterrific, I knew I had to try it.
Arugula pesto?
Are you  kidding me?
With lemon?
It just keeps getting better.
I am ashamed to admit it has taken me a whole year to make this pesto.
But now that I have, I want to make it by the gallon.
It's that good, people.

It's really a breeze to whip up.
First, assemble your ingredients.

It's pretty much the usual pesto ingredients--just replace the basil with arugula.

I used pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan because I like it better.
For the nuts, I used pine nuts, but I'd really like to try it with walnuts next time.

There is one ingredient that's different from a traditional pesto recipe.

That's right.
I've been meaning to try a recipe with them.
I wanted to see if they add all the nuances of flavor that they're supposed to.

The fun thing about trying a new, slightly exotic, ingredient, is that the kids are intrigued.
Lilly was the only one helping me make the pesto, (mostly because my boys are crazy picky and wanted nothing to do with pesto.  what did they think i was going to do?  pour it down their throats?  but i digress) but the boys came over for a look see at those tiny fish.

They especially liked the ones that had intact tails.
They also liked spotting teeny bones.  (are there tiny bones?  it looked like it.)
The inclusion of anchovies in the recipe led to a great discussion on cooking.
"Why would you want to add those to the pesto, Mommy?  They look gross."
And that's when I gave them a little lesson on adding depth of flavor in our cooking.
"Like salt heightens the flavor of things", I explained, "other foods do too.  In this dish it is anchovies.  In the cinnamon rolls we just made, it was coffee.  You might add chocolate to chili.  Things that don't seem to go together actually do."

This is my favorite way of cooking and teaching my kids.
I don't say, "OK, it's cooking lesson time!  Let's learn about anchovies."
It happens organically--whoever wants to come help, comes.
And while they're there, I am happy to talk through a recipe and explain each part.
When I show them how to peel garlic, it's like I did a magic trick.
When I explain why we add coffee to the cinnamon roll frosting, they're learning real things about real cooking.
They learn about new tools and how to use them.
I'm glad to show them what a citrus reamer is and what lemon zest is, and why we don't use the white parts of the lemon peel.
These are life skills that will hopefully help them get out of the realm of Hamburger Helper when they're cooking for themselves.

I used this citrus zester to take off narrow strips of lemon peel for the pesto.
The recipe calls for zest, but I don't have a microplane zester, and this makes strips, not zest.  
But it's called a zester. (at least that's what I can tell from my research)
It doesn't really matter that much.
I just used the strips instead of zest.
Since it all goes in the food processor, I didn't even chop the strips.

For the lemons, I used my Meyer lemons.
They are pretty good sized and Meyers are known for being more juicy than regular lemons.
This extra juice made my pesto a lot thinner and less chunky than regular pesto.
It was almost like a sauce.
Depending on your preference, you could add more or less lemon juice to achieve the consistency you like.
I really liked it being thinner--it makes a pretty great salad dressing.

After you've prepped all your ingredients, you whirl it all around in the food processor.
I am not a big gadget girl, but I will say that my food processor and Kitchen Aid mixer are some of the best tools I've ever gotten.
I use each of them at least once a week and often more.
A food processor just does what a blender cannot.
Unless you have one of those $500 blenders.
I do not.
And if you don't want to lay out the cash for a new food processor, you can often find them at estate or garage sales.  
It's worth keeping an eye out for one.

Besides, the kids have so much fun watching the whole food turn into paste.

After it was done, Lilly and I tested it.
We licked it off the spatula like cake batter.

I poured it into Mason jars and I caught Lilly dipping her fingers in for an extra taste or 2.
It is that good.

On Megan's advice, I made a double batch and "put it up" in the freezer.
It makes me feel so housewifey, and productive when I do things like that.
Let's hear it for canning in whatever form it takes in my kitchen!

To keep the pesto from turning brown, you cover it with a thin layer of olive oil.
I put one jar in the fridge and we used it on everything for couple of weeks.
Salads, pasta, sandwiches, pizza, fish, roasted potatoes.
It is the perfect compliment to a lot of different food.
And because the flavor is so fresh and bold, you don't need to use a lot.

I can't recommend it enough.
Thanks Megan B for another wonderful recipe!
Get yourself some lemons this weekend, a bunch of arugula and make some pesto.
Love from,

PS. Based on a few Facebook comments, I realize some of you might have been confused by my poetic language in my last post.
So here it is in plain old prose.
When I get a big batch of lemons like that, I squeeze and freeze.
I squeeze all of them, and then pour the juice into ice cube trays to freeze.
I then store the cubes in freezer bags to use when I need fresh lemon juice.
Those cubes will come in handy when I can't get fresh, juicy lemons later in the year.
Because I'll be wanting lemon juice for this pasta all year long!
Here's the recipe.

Arugula, Lemon Pesto (from Shelterrific, adapted slightly)

2 c packed arugula leaves
1/4 c toasted pine nuts (I like walnuts or pecans too — I often use what I’ve got lying around)
2 lemons, zested, and the juice of one  (add more juice for a thinner pesto)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 2 oz. tin of anchovies in olive oil (it’s so worth it — but if you’re squeamish use a teaspoon of vegetarian Worchestershire sauce or soy sauce)
1/4 c finely grated parmesan cheese (or pecorino)
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil (plus more to cover for storage)

In a food processor, combine the arugula, garlic, anchovies, nuts, and lemon zest/ juice. Pulse to combine until smooth. Scrape down the sides, add the parmesan, and with the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste, and season with salt if necessary (you may not need to with the anchovy). Transfer to a jar and pour enough olive oil to cover the surface of the pesto. Use within two weeks, or freeze for up to two months.



hennymats said...

Looove arugula, too! In the summer (which over here is still a few months away sadly) I have it growing in my backyard. I made an arugula pesto, too last year, using almonds and making it into a dressing for pasta salad. Will have to try your recipe and use more lemon juice. And anchovies. Not that I like them, but I'm fine when they're all chopped up. I usually use a blender though (don't own a food processor - gasp ;)), because I have a heavy-duty immersion blender.

Try adding a spoonful to two of mayonnaise to some of your pesto, makes a nice sandwich or salad dressing.

OK, now I'm hungry...

Megan B. said...

YAY!! I'm so glad that Lilly loved it, and that you did, too. My favorite thing to use it for: pizza sauce!

And I bet, before long, you'll be adding anchovy to EVERYTHING. Every. Single. Thing. (except dessert, of course!)

Jillian said...

Such a great recipe! I live in Italy so these ingredients are so easy to get. I can just imagine how it would taste on some fresh pasta made by the old lady down the street! Thank you.

Cailan said...

I will certainly try this recipe - love the whole post and three cheers for housewifey-ness. : )

mandi said...

So, I make lots of arugula pesto using walnuts...but anchovies?!?! Are you sure!?!? Oh, I'm so afraid...but I feel like I have to try this...

ACK!!! I think I need a hug!

Greta said...

Do it Mandi!!!
I had a total fear of anchovies, but I went for it.
I forgot to mention that I added no salt because of pecorino and anchovies--they added enough salkt.
There was no anchovy taste.
It was delish.
For reals!!
Can't wait to hear what you think.
Love from,
PS. And here's a hug.

Lasso the Moon said...

Ooh. You are so brave. And housewifey. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing the fun! When I feel a little braver about the icky fishies, I'm going to try this, too.

Mama Smith said...

These are all of my favorite flavors- looks so good! Your house is lovely and I like your daughter's name... I'm a bit biased because my name is also Lilly with two "L"s :)

Will @ Bright.Bazaar said...

This looks JUST like my kinda food. YUM! Thanks for sharing, fun to find your blog!