Arugula Overload

Dear Friends,

I have an arugula problem. I have bouquets of it. Baskets of it. My crisper is filled with dish towels gently rolled around wads of it. And still it keeps coming.

I know I’m bragging but I’ve earned the right. I’ve suffered through many arugula-less Mays and Junes, waiting for seeds to sprout in various outdoor locations around my property.

This year I’ve been grazing on on arugula since early May, thanks to the deep, raised beds my husband built in our homemade greenhouse. The beds were a requested Christmas gift. They’re about knee height and filled with a 60-40 mixture of top soil and compost.

Arugula and mesclun mix love the environment. The cilantro is sparse and a critter ate the snap peas before they could sprout, but a crop of basil is coming along nicely.

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But all that arugula! I love the spicy greens so much that I can’t stand to waste it. The big salads I’m making daily barely make a dent in the supply. If anyone has a recipe that uses a bunch of it, please send it immediately. If any of my friends read this and want some, please stop by.

Meanwhile, I scrounged up just one recipe to try, Arugula Pesto from chef Michael Chiarello. You can skip the blanching and ice-water bath if you don’t mind a less-than-vibrant green color in the finished sauce.  To me, the sharp, spicy flavor of raw arugula takes precedence over the color.

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ARUGULA PESTO

  • 4 cups packed fresh arugula 
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted, plus 1 tbsp.
  • 1/8 tsp. vitamin C (for color retention, optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the arugula in a large sieve and plunge it into the boiling water. Immediately immerse all the arugula and stir so that it blanches evenly. Blanch for about 15 seconds. Remove, shake off the excess water, then plunge the arugula into the ice water bath and stir again so it cools as fast as possible. Drain well.

Squeeze the water out of the arugula with your hands until very dry. Roughly chop the arugula and put in a blender. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and the vitamin C, if using. Blend for at least 30 seconds. In this way the green of the arugula will thoroughly color the oil. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. The pesto will keep several days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Pull out before dinner to get to room temperature. Before serving, add the remaining 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts.

Arugula may be used as a pasta sauce, on pizza or bruschetta, or any other way you would use basil pesto.

 

 

TIDBITS

Nowadays you can’t swing a cat in the summer without hitting some farmer trying to sell you French breakfast radishes or just-picked tomatoes. That’s a good thing. I’m lucky to be within cat-swinging distance of one of the nicer farmers’ markets to pop up in the last couple of years. The grand opening of this year’s Copley Creekside Farmers market is this Thursday (June 6), and I’ll be there cooking. Please drop by, introduce yourself and have a taste.

The market runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays in the field beside River City Gift Shoppe at 1245 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, just north of Copley Circle. Forty vendors have signed up so far this year, says market manager Lois Mitchell. All of them either grow or produce what they sell.

A list of vendors and other details are on the market’s website, http://www.copleycreeksidefarmersmarket.com/.

 

 

THE MAILBAG

From Leslie:

In the yakitori recipe last week, is it 14 C. wine or 1/4 C. wine?  34 inch pieces of green onion or 3 or 4 inch pieces.??

Gotta watch the proofreading better!

Dear Leslie: A glitch in the computer program turned my fractions into whole numbers in that portion of the newsletter. Both my editor and I apologize. The correct amounts are one-fourth cup wine and three-quarter-inch pieces of green onion.

 

From Tim C., Sagamore Hills:

Do you have a brand of hot dogs you like best?

Dear Tim: I love hot dogs. I love the kind you get steamed, bun and all, from the vendors at the ballpark. I love them sizzling and slightly charred from the grill. I love all-beef, beef and pork and mystery meat dogs. I adore celery seed-dusted Chicago dogs and lean Sabrett wieners bought from New York City sidewalk vendors. In fact, I love every kind of hot dogs except chicken and turkey dogs, which are abominations.  And don’t even mention tofu dogs.

Sadly, advancing years and a waistline I must watch like a hawk preclude much hot dog chomping these days. Ones I recall with special fondness are the natural-casing gourmet wieners from the meat case at West Point Market, and those all-beef Sabretts. If I knew where I could get one of the latter, I might treat myself.

 

From Barbara:

You have written many times about your “sun dried tomatoes.”  Can you share the recipe?  I usually can all my produce, but the tomatoes sound wonderful.  When you freeze them, do you use just a zip bag or the food saver machine?

Dear Barbara: I’ve shared the recipe before for my half-dried tomatoes but I’m happy to do so again. Last weekend I planted two Sun Gold tomato seedlings so I can make more this summer. Even though every celebrity chef and Internet food blogger now touts half-dried tomatoes, I still think I invented them. (Just like I thought I had invented chicken paprikas in 1974.) I’ve been making them for years.

Cut cherry tomatoes in halves, place cut-sides up on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake uncovered at 300 degrees until the tops are dry to the touch but the tomatoes are still soft and pliable. The baking time will vary depending on the size of the tomatoes. Half-drying concentrates the flavors but doesn’t dry them out. I think half-dried tomatoes have a better texture and flavor than fully dried ones. I use them all winter in salads.

For long-term storage, cool then freeze in snack-size zipper-lock freezer bags.

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