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“A Pesto of God”: Arugula Pesto!

January 23, 2013
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Arugula Pesto
Growing up, pesto was a staple in our house. As in once a week, without fail. We had this great tradition where my dad and stepmom would tape Buffy the Vampire Slayer the week I was at my mom’s house, and the day I came back to their house, we would make pesto and watch the taped episode. Then, we’d tape the episode during that week and watch it the night before I left! Brilliance.

Oops!

Oops!

As much as our love for pesto, the local Italian Centre fuelled our pesto addiction. Dad still buys these giant bags of basil there and then gets the romano and parmeson from the cheese counter. I really haven’t found this in Vancouver, and since Helene and I are apparently the worst at growing basil (see Figure 1), I’ve had to find a reasonable alternative…

Arugula. Cheap. Delicious.

Some people find arugula too bitter. One time, our friend Allen came over and stared in dismay at the arugula salad we’d made him. But we’d tossed in grated parmesan, which I really feel is the secret to mellowing out arugula. He was convinced! It works just as well in this pesto as it did in the salad, and I wouldn’t skimp on that. Interestingly, I found that for the vegan version, lemon juice had a similar effect though it’s a very different concept.

Arugula Pesto – Vegetarian Version
In a food processor, combine:
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
6-8 big handfuls of arugula
3 cloves garlic
handful of walnuts
salt and pepper

This is all extremely approximate. My pesto making usually involves alternately dumping a bunch of stuff in until I’m satisfied. You can use less oil if you want a more choppy pesto, use the full amount if you want a very smooth pesto. Luckily, this method also REQUIRES extremely frequent taste tests (particularly exciting when you get to the next stage…)

Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan (use less if powdered, but really – just use grated).

Vegan Version
Follow directions from recipe above. Instead of stirring in parmesan, stir in the juice from half a lemon. You could add the zest too for a little extra, but if you’re already on the fence about the bitterness, leave it out.

Serve with:
-roasted potato rounds, dollop of pesto, caramelized onion, walnut piece
-on whole wheat pasta
-spread on top of homemade pizza after baking
-on bread with a slice of cheese
-stirred into risotto

*Note on the title: As much as this is in reference to Margaret Laurence’s A Jest of God, it’s also a personal reference to the sweet way my stepmom always said “food of the gods!” whenever Dad made pesto. I agree!

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