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Arugula Pesto, Wine and a Salad

My family goes camping for our vacation over the summer every year up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Calaveras Big Trees State Park near Arnold, California. Its beautiful; the trees seem to reach out towards the sky and never stop, the air smells untouched by smog, the stars shine brighter (and there’s more of them), there’s even a large river and a babbling broke.

Then the not so beautiful; its dusty and dirty, I have to wear flip flops in the shower…and mosquitoes. Some years I come home without a bite on me. This year was not that year. This year was the year of 50 thousand mosquito bites. I may be slightly exaggerating, but only slightly. I also get restless after while for the hustle and bustle of home. And my oven, stove and counter tops and most importantly my dishwasher.

So while my parents are content to stay up in the mountains, living out of a tent for 9 days, I find my way home by day 5. I made this meal the day after I arrived home as a “YAY! I have a dishwasher! And counter tops!” present to myself. I’d been wanting to try arugula pesto since it uses walnuts instead of pine nuts and my friend, Jordann, occasionally gets sick from eating pine nuts. So this was a test run before telling her “Go forth and make this! It’s delicious!”

I also had a side salad a la my cousin Angie who made one mean salad while we were camping. And a glass of wine, muscat, to be exact since it was in the fridge. If you like sweet whites, do try muscat or muscato wine. Simply wonderful.

I found this pesto recipe from Robin at  A Chow Life. Like a lot of bloggers that I link to, her pictures are simply wonderful. And they lack pesto on the sides of a bowl.

Personally, I think arugula pesto is more peppery than traditional pesto simply because arugula has a pepper taste. Not that its a bad thing, but it isn’t what you think of when you think pesto.

The only change I made to this recipe is adding the juice of half a lemon, just to brighten the flavors and only added 1/4 of a cup of oil – I add a little bit of the cooking water to thin out the sauce. I’m now actually thinking about the difference between a 1/4 and a 1/3 of a cup of oil – .25 to .33, next time just for kicks I’ll add all the oil. I usually find pesto way too oily, but this was a pretty thick sauce so I don’t think it’d fall into the too oily category.

I even added the parsley, if you didn’t already know – I hate parsley. I think it tastes terrible.  When I make this again, I think I’ll substitute the 1/4 cup of parsley for a 1/4 cup of basil. I eat basil by itself. I have problems. Maybe I don’t have a sophisticated palate (I mean, it likes Kraft Mac and Cheese with Lawry’s Salt) but I didn’t really taste the walnuts, not that I taste pine nuts when I make traditional pesto, but I guess I was anticipating a walnuty flavor.  I can’t take credit for throwing in the tomatoes, they were part of Robin’s recipe and boy howdy were they a good addition. I’m not quite sure how, but they just worked perfectly with the pesto and nicely offset…something in the pesto.

This is a recreation of my cousin Angie’s salad that she made up camping. It has pretty much everything you could ever want: romaine lettuce, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, red and green onions, mushrooms, and avocados. And if you like them – red and green bell peppers, I’m not a huge fan of their flavor so I leave them out.

I think that this salad is best with Italian dressing – after having it with Italian dressing,  a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and Champagne dressing, I think that the salad combines best with the Italian dressing.

Buuuuuuuuut, Angie likes it with blue cheese dressing. I can’t get past the mold in blue cheese, so I haven’t tried it.

Make it, eat it, love it if only for the avocados. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm avocado. Yum.

Arugula Pesto

Via Robin at A Chow Life

6 oz. arugula, tough stems removed
1/4 cup parsley leaves (I’m going to try basil next time. Parsley = ew)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus
 shaved cheese for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 1.4, but its really not that big of a difference, just use 1/3 of a cup)
1 lb. organic pasta shape of your choice
2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of half a lemon
Combine arugula, parsley, walnuts, and garlic in a food processor. Process in short, rapid pulses until the mixture is chopped finely. Add the cheese, salt/pepper, and lemon juice. Flick the switch to on and gradually add in the in the olive oil and continue mixing until the mixture is smooth. Taste and re-season if necessary.

In a pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta until al dente and then drain the pasta.

Move the drained pasta to a serving bowl (or your personal bowl if its just you) and the pesto and toss. Then add the tomatoes and toss again. Add some more cheese and serve.

And now I leave you with an artsy-fartsy shot of salad and wine:

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