{from scratch holidays} Arugula Pesto, Two Ways


I like local food. I like to eat it, I like to read about it and I like to sell it. Every Saturday morning I am lucky enough to talk about and sell local vegetables for Michael Kilpatrick (Kilpatrick Family Farm) at the farmers market in Saratoga Springs. Working at the market is so much fun for me, I wouldn’t even call it “work.” I get to talk with awesome local folks and sell naturally grown vegetables to people who like to eat them.

Now that autumn is winding down and the beginning of the winter growing season is upon us, I find myself unpacking many, many bags of greens every Saturday morning, and placing them on the farmers market table with hopes we’ll sell the mesculin mix, spinach and arugula that is grown and harvested in the fields each week. Customers come and quickly buy the mesculin mix (Michael has the best mesculin mix at the market), and they like the spinach too. Somehow the arugula is overlooked, and I don’t know why that is. It’s fresh and peppery – everything a green should be. This week I decided to turn some of the arugula into pesto and I’m going to bring it to the market to share on Saturday. Perhaps if everyone tastes it, they’ll like the arugula enough to bring it home to their own kitchen and turn it into a delicious meal.

One of my favorite local food chefs is Jack Bishop, so I immediately turned to his recipe in my well-loved copy of A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen for arugula pesto. It calls for everything a good pesto recipe would want: nuts (pecans), greens, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil. It has an extra ingredient too: nutmeg. I like his recipe, but decided to make my own as well as his. Mine is different only in that it calls for a different kind of nut (almonds) and doesn’t use nutmeg.

How different could they be, really? I’ll tell you: VERY different! Here are the two almost identical recipes with reviews.

Arugula Pesto with Pecans
(adapted from Jack Bishop‘s recipe for “Linguine with Pecan-Arugula Pesto” found in A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.)

3/4 cups pecans, lightly toasted in the oven

1 1/2 cups packed stemmed arugula leaves

1 small garlic clove, peeled (did you read that? It says small. Take it seriously.)

1/3 cup olive oil (or a lot more, depending on your taste)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or double that amount, depending on how cheesy you like your pesto to be)

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Salt to taste

Place the toasted pecans, arugula and garlic in a food processor and whizz it until everything is finely chopped. Scrape the bowl and whizz it again. Throw in a giant-sized handful of parmesan cheese and mix it some more. Add the nutmeg and some salt to taste. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. When the pesto looks saucy, it’s time to stop adding oil. Shut off the machine and taste it. What do you think? More salt? More oil? Or is it perfect?

The reviews:

This makes an earthy, comfort-food style dinner with a touch of sweetness. The pecans and nutmeg play so well on each other. If it’s too garlicky, add some lemon juice to balance it out. The pesto is a green-brown color, symbolizing all of the comfort-food goodness of winter. Can you serve it to company? Absolutely!

Arugula Pesto with Almonds

3/4 cups slivered almonds, lightly toasted in the oven

1 1/2 cups packed stemmed arugula leaves

1 small garlic clove, peeled (did you read that? It says small. Take it seriously.)

1/3 cup olive oil (or a lot more, depending on your taste)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or double that amount, depending on how cheesy you like your pesto to be)

Salt to taste

Place the toasted almonds, arugula and garlic in a food processor and whizz it until everything is finely chopped. Scrape the bowl and whizz it again. Throw in a giant-sized handful of parmesan cheese and mix it some more. Add some salt to taste. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. When the pesto looks saucy, it’s time to stop adding oil. Shut off the machine and taste it. What do you think? More salt? More oil?

The reviews:

The color of this pesto is bright green, and the flavor is just as bright. Wow, what a difference it makes to use a different kind of nut! The pecans in the other recipe gave the pesto a sweet, earthy flavor. The almonds in this pesto recipe shout, “fresh springtime goodness is here!” This pesto is peppery, fresh and alive.

The Bottom Line

These pestos would be great on little toasts for a holiday party or at your dinner table mixed with some pasta. Both are delicious in different ways. One is sweet and comforting, the other is alive and powerful. What are you in the mood for?

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Categories: Farming, From Scratch Holidays, Holidays, Kid Friendly, Lunch, recipe, Vegetables

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11 Comments on “{from scratch holidays} Arugula Pesto, Two Ways”

  1. December 15, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    It’s refreshing for me to see a recipe like this during the winter. I’ve never tried arugula pesto, but I really should since it’s one of my favourite leaves.

    • December 15, 2011 at 9:41 am #

      When you try it, post back here about how it tasted and what ingredients you used if you would – I was so surprised to see how much the flavor changed after swapping out almonds for pecans. Let me know how it comes out!

  2. December 15, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    This is perfect! I can’t wait to use up my arugula with this recipe.

    • December 15, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      Christine you are the one who inspired me to switch from pine nuts and walnuts in my pesto recipes and start using almonds instead. Bravo! I’ll never go back. Thanks!

  3. December 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Love that these pestos are with arugula. Arugula is such an underused vegetable. Can’t wait to try them.

  4. December 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Yum! I should have made this during the summer when I was swimming in arugula! I’ll put it on file for next summer!

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