I’ll See Your Pesto and Raise You an Arugula

ASA pesto Every garden, every growing season, has its bumper crops, those wildly successful experiments that you can’t anticipate ahead of time. (Just ask my mother, who has been frantically cooking, freezing and foisting tomatoes upon anyone who comes near her. Actually, maybe you shouldn’t ask her, or even get near her, unless you’re prepared to make gazpacho.) In our household, it’s arugula that keeps growing and growing, almost faster than we can use it. So, to the rescue, comes one of our favorite new easy dinners: arugula pesto.

A delicious pesto is not the territory of basil alone. It’s true that you could substitute arugula for basil in the most familiar of pesto recipes (pine nuts, garlic, parmesan), but why stop there? In fact, pesto means paste, so you should feel free add any manner of deliciousness, blend it to a paste and call it pesto. I’ve come up with a couple of variations to get you started.

A quick word on measurements: one of the real pleasures of pesto is that you just keep dropping things into the food processor until you taste it and become convinced that you are a culinary genius. Far be it from me to rob you of that magical experience. So I’ll give you some very general guidelines for enough pesto for two big portions of pasta, but really, the best thing to do is to taste it frequently throughout until you feel like eating big gobs of it with a spoon. Then you’re done.

A.S.A Pesto (Arugula, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Asiago) Continue reading

Lemon Kale & Chili Chickpea Salad ~and~ Caramelized Peach & Mint Arugula Salad

Summer salads!  We currently have a mere two rows of rocket arugula, each maybe three-feel long, planted in one of our gardens, and even though I’ve instructed all the neighbors to help themselves, we’re overrun with arugula.  If you don’t harvest it, it will bolt (produce flowers and seeds) according to Evolution’s imperative, and then you’re out of luck stuck with flowering plants sporting dinky, anemic leaves.  The solutioLemon Kale & Chili Chickpea and Caramelized Peach & Arugula Saladsn, obviously, is endless salads.

We also happen to be in peach season and kale season, and thus we give you:   Lemon Kale & Chili Chickpea Salad and Caramelized Peach & Mint Arugula Salad.  These are awesome salads because they are hearty but not heavy, and they keep well in the fridge.

Lemon Kale &… Continue reading

Earliest Spring Vegetables: Let’s Get Excited

The first day of spring brought a few inches of snow to the Big Apple, and the real apples at the farmer’s market this weekend were looking a little tired. But take heart, ye well-wintered and weary-hearted: yesterday I noticed the first new buds on a tree. Spring is coming. Taking its own sweet time to get here, maybe, but it’s coming. So in celebration, let’s take a look at the first few superstar vegetables that should be hitting your local markets any day now, along with some ideas about how to use them. Those with green thumbs should also think about getting these same plants in the ground as soon as you think you’ve weathered the last frost. (And to inspire you gardeners, I’m using images from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a favorite of ours, as well as one from Everwilde Farms.)

hudson arugula Arugula: Honestly, it took me a while to warm to arugula. It still seems to me an adult taste, like sitting through an opera or reading a Henry James novel. But warm to it I did, and at no time is it better than in the early spring, when the leaves taste perky rather than too bitter or spicy. Try them in a salad with a nice mustardy dressing (olive oil, mustard, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper), or use them in a sandwich to give it a little more kick than regular lettuce.

everwilde rhubarbRhubarb: I’m not sure I realized that you could make something with rhubarb and without strawberries until I was fully grown. But particularly if you like sour tastes like citrus (and I do), rhubarb is a natural choice. Stew it with some sugar and a little water, and you’ve got one heck of a topping for pancakes. And yes, strawberries or any other kind of berries you can get your hands on are great thrown in, as well. Continue reading

Quick ‘n Clean Ricotta Salata & Arugula Sandwich

Quick n Clean Ricotta Salata SandwichWho knows ricotta salata?  If not, you probably know ricotta.  It’s the spreadable white Italian cheese stuffed in pasta shells and ravioli and, when mixed with sugar, cannoli shells.  It’s mild enough to be put to a variety of uses.

Ricotta salata is its overworked, salty cousin who’s been around the block.  Ricotta is put under pressure, salted, and dried, and the result is an inexpensive, semi-hard cheese a bit firmer than feta and with a pleasant saltiness and maybe a hint of tang.  I think it’s great for snacking, but it’s also a fantastic ingredient in any kind of simple, clean-tasting dinner.  And thus the resulting recipe, a suuuuuper easy and uncluttered sandwich in which each ingredient stands out and is given room to breathe and be enjoyed on its own.

Quick ‘n Clean Ricotta Salata & Arugula Sandwich

  • Quality, crusty bread (this is key; weak-ass stuff from the Wonderbread aisle will sink anything)
  • Arugula
  • Capers
  • 1/4 of one lemon
  • ricotta salata
  • olive oil Continue reading

What Will Oscar Eat?: Arugula vs. Cannellini Edition

taste test

Dylan, poised to steal Exhibit C

Were you a fly on the wall of our apartment, it would not be uncommon, of late, for you to witness a seriously weird scene near dinner time: a human voice screaming “Oscaaaaaaar!” from the kitchen as a black and white cat hauls tail through the living room with a massive, floppy arugula leaf clutched in his jaws as though he just pulled off a highly impressive capture the flag victory. Oscar is the preeminent gourmand among our cats, but even for him, the frequency of this new trick is alarming, not to mention hard on our supply of salad greens.

sensei cat

Meditating and contemplating the Mysteries of the White Bean

It made me wonder if arugula had supplanted cannellini as his favorite food. There was a time when merely opening a can of white beans would send him into near-hysterics, yowling and rolling around on the floor like Beyonce at the Super Bowl halftime show. But human tastes are said to change every seven years, so perhaps cats experience something similar. I decided to devise a taste test to find out.

Let me begin by saying that trying to run a feline taste test in a small New York apartment is not an easy task. I first tried to do a comparison of different kinds of beans, but the other two cats kept dashing into the room and stealing them, leading me to the theory that beans are the salt and vinegar potato chips of the cat world. Finally I managed to divide them so that Oscar (known aliases: Tomato Slayer, Mr. Fofoscar, Fuzzle Face) was left nervously glancing at the door where Dylan (known aliases: Dyl-Sack, Dyl-Hole, Dyl-Bag) was meowing petulantly at the audacity of being shut in the bedroom. Continue reading

Overwintered Salad Goodies

Remember that hoop house video I posted in October?  Well, I’ve come to brag and to confess.

Confession:  Winter is crazy-time work-wise, and I haven’t directly watered our hoop house greens in probably two months.  I’m a bad person.

Brag:  After getting only what water they could absorb from the soil surrounding the plot, I picked this for dinner:

That's Ragged Jack Kale, Chard, and Rocket Arugula

This came from a potential harvest big enough to make about twelve monster salads.  I’m talking full-meal salads, no side or garden numbers.

Just think what I could have pulled off if I stayed on the watering and picking.