Arugula Pesto Dinner

Sliced tomatoes, arugula pesto, feta cheese and flax bread for dinner!

Sliced tomatoes, arugula pesto, feta cheese and flax bread for dinner!

With so much fresh produce exploding out of gardens everywhere it’s easy to create interesting, healthy, veggie based meals.  My dad recently harvested a whole bunch of arugula.  He used it as the base for ‘Salad Lyonnaise‘, in place of the traditional frisee, yum!  And I decided to turn the bunch he gave me into a spicy pesto.  Eaten with sliced garden tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese and flax bread, this is a filling meal perfect for al fresco dinning.  I saved all my left over ingredients in glass containers, so it was easy to replicate the next night.

Arugula is full of vitamin A, K, folate, can help guard against cancer and is good for your brain too!  You can use the following ingredients as a guide and enjoy this pesto on flax crackers, flax pizza, as a spread on sandwiches, a dip for crudities, grilled fish…pretty much everything!

Ingredients:

  • arugula
  • garlic cloves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice, optional: zest the lemon first, then add juice to taste
  • salt
  • grated romano or similar hard cheese
  • walnuts

Method:

Pesto is the perfect food for just using what you’ve got and don’t worry about measuring anything.  It’s hard to go wrong, but if you need some numbers to help you out, I go with about 50% greens and 50% nuts, cheese and olive oil with small amounts of lemon, garlic and salt. I use my food processor but I bet you could use a blender as well.

Start with the nuts and the garlic cloves, use as many as you like, and pulse together until you’ve got fine bits.

Then add the arugula, enough olive oil to cover it well, and pulse again to combine.  You can also add parsley or basil, or both, as a compliment to the spicy, bitter arugula.

Add some grated cheese and lemon juice.  Blend well and taste.

Add salt to taste, more cheese or nuts, basically, at this point I start tasting and adding a little more or a lot more of whatever ingredient seems to be lacking.  And I want the consistency to be thick and smooth, so olive oil is key!  You can add lots of oil and lemon juice to make this pesto into more of a thin dressing for a fresh garden salad.  Or keep it thick and use it as a dip or spread.

Sunday Breakfast

On Saturday night I made dinner for Dana and I: roasted cauliflower dressed in ghee, cumin, turmeric and two of our homemade curry spice mixes with mustard seeds.   Then kale with goat cheese, hot pepper and a dusting of cumin and curry.  For dessert I made biscuits which I planned to use again in the morning for breakfast.

For the meal pictured I started with a bed of arugula, drizzled olive oil, sprinkled salt, black pepper and hot pepper and then grated some amazing raw cheddar cheese from Vermont.  I fried up some eggs and toasted the biscuits.  The eggs go on top of the greens and then I grated more cheese on top of everything.  A quick meal with plenty of protein and even a serving of greens!

Coming soon: my cookbook based on the recipes in this blog and a new class series, “Healthy Living in the Berkshires” which will be hosted by Bisque, Beads and Beyond on North Street starting with two information and sign up sessions May 23rd and 24th.  Mark your calendars and stay tuned!

Shaved Fennel Salad

Fennel Bulbs: crunchy, slightly sweet and packed with Vitamin C!

I wasn’t sure how I felt about fennel, apparently thin sliced is the way to go.  The combination of these few, simple ingredients is pretty amazing.  A refreshing summer salad that you can make ahead of time, and it has feta in it, what’s not to love?!

1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins

2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved paper-thin (you can use a knife to carefully slice the veggies but a mandolin works best and fastest.  Also, you maybe able to use an attachment on your food processor if you have one that slices thin!)

2/3 cup   loosely chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup  fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

fine grain sea salt

4 or 5 generous handfuls arugula

Honey, if needed

1/2 cup  pine nuts, toasted (I used almonds)

1/3 cup   feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.

Thanks for a great shot of this salad, Heidi! Image from 101 Cookbooks

When you are ready to serve the salad, put the arugula in a large bowl. Scoop all of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and pour most of the lemon juice dressing on top of that. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt if needed. If the lemons were particularly tart, you may need to counter the pucker-factor by adding a tiny drizzle of honey into the salad at this point. Let your taste buds guide you. Serve topped with pine nuts and feta.

Serves 4 to 6.

Prep time: 10 min

Another great recipe from 101 Cookbooks, here’s her original recipe!

Asparagus and Mushroom Herb Salad

Hadley Grass, looking good.

I have learned to love asparagus.  As a kid, it was my least favorite vegetable.  I’m pretty sure I made my little sister eat most of my share, sorry Elise!  Then one day I had baby asparagus, the thinnest, most tender little stalks lightly steamed and tossed with butter, lemon and salt, perfection!  Larger asparagus is great for the grill and you can even take a peeler to the ends to get rid of the toughest fibers.  This recipe from New York Times writer Martha Rose Shulman is an awesome summer salad.  Asparagus is an excellent, low-calorie source of vitamin K, folatevitamin C, vitamin A and such nutrients as tryptophan, manganese and fiber.

If you live in Massachusetts then you know that we also refer to asparagus as Hadley Grass as the area is famous for its abundant and superior asparagus.  This is a link to a Saveur article on what was once the asparagus capital of the world!  It’s worth the read and the trip to Hampshire County.

Asparagus, herbs, mushrooms and cheese, LOVE! I totally boosted this photo from The New York Times

Asparagus and Mushroom Salad

1 pound asparagus (Both thick and thin stems will work)

1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon and chives

1 cup baby arugula

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small garlic clove, minced or mashed

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ounce slivered Parmesan

1. Steam the asparagus for three to five minutes, depending on how thick the stalks are. It should be tender but still have some bite. Rinse with cold water, and drain for a minute on a kitchen towel. Cut into 1-inch lengths. Place in a salad bowl, and toss with the mushrooms, herbs and arugula.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic and olive oil. Toss with the asparagus mixture and the slivered Parmesan, and serve.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: You can assemble this several hours ahead through Step 1 and refrigerate. Toss with the dressing shortly before serving.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 222 calories; 4 grams saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 13 grams monounsaturated fat; 6 milligrams cholesterol; 8 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 5 grams TOTAL carbohydrates; 115 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 148 calories; 2 grams saturated fat; 1 grams polyunsaturated fat; 9 grams monounsaturated fat; 4 milligrams cholesterol; 5 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams TOTAL carbohydrates; 77 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 5 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”