Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pesto Passion

Song Pairing:
Days Go By by Dirty Vegas
I love the funk and groove of this song - not to mention the cool video that went with it.  In my mind, I dance just like that guy.  But the reactions of onlookers when I do dance, and by onlookers I mean my children, I'm thinking that my moves don't quite come across the same way his does!  The funk and groove of this song has me thinking about today's recipe.  If ever a food had a funk and groove - this one does!  By my own daughter's account, I was (am) obsessed with this song.  And it's the same with this pesto sauce.  Days go by and still I think of - Avocado and Arugula Pesto!  I think you will, too!

The painters showed up a little earlier than I thought they would to paint the outside of the house.  I had a huge bush of basil up next to the house that needed to be picked before they started spraying.  I dropped what I was doing and ran out and started cutting it down.  With my daughter's help, the next thing I knew I had lovely scented fingertips and this:

 A huge bowl of basil!

And this is where I start to get excited.  I love pesto.  

It's such a small thing but it adds flavor and beauty in everything it touches.  It goes with every meal.  It's a lovely note on an egg sandwich.  Just a tablespoon or two added to a steaming bowl of pasta negates the need for anything more - other than a light sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.  It dresses up fish and chicken in high enough fashion for the most important of guests.  Pesto is a hard worker - yet you don't have to work hard to get it.

But then - this past summer I watched one of my favorite shows with one of my favorite chefs, Giada.  Yeah - we're on first-name basis (I wish.)  She showed me (and a million other people) how to make pesto out of these ingredients -

 Which is amazing because I simply ADORE arugula!  And avocados!  And in a few short minutes you have this!

It also uses basil but not as much as in a regular pesto recipe.  Also, there's no oil!  You use the fat from the avocados to get the creamy texture.  Toasted almonds are substituted in place of the fattier pine nuts.  Now - I haven't sat down and done the nutritional profile on this yet but, in my mind, it's sounding healthier, right?  At least that's what I'm telling myself.  

The thing with pestos are that a little goes a long way.  And the same is true of this pesto recipe.  It packs a powerful punch of flavor.  Giada's recipe calls for a pound of pasta for this quantity of sauce, but I think you could easily double the amount of pasta using the single amount of pesto and have plenty to coat those noodles.  

Actually - what I like to do is make up the pesto and keep it in an airtight tub in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap pressed to the surface to keep it from oxidizing.  (If you forget, it's ok.  Just give it a stir.  Just like with regular pesto, the top goes brown but underneath it's still that vibrant green.)  

For a quick lunch I'll cook some pasta, put a dollop of pesto on the noodles fresh from the pan, toss to coat and I'm ready to eat!  Add some pesto to mayo for your sandwiches and you'll be thinking you're in a fancy bistro!  I intend on finding as many creative ways to sneak this green goodness into as many things as I can! I'll give you an update as my investigations continue.  But, for now, I'm going to get my funk and groove going, clear the dance floor - aka my kitchen - and make up as much Arugula and Avocado Pesto as I can from my mondo bowl of basil. 

Avocado and Arugula Pesto
Printable Recipe Card
2 medium avocados, halved, peeled, and scooped
3 c. baby arugula leaves (3 oz.) I find mine in the specialty lettuce section of the produce department
1 packed cup of fresh basil leaves
3 T. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes - but PLEASE measure!  Some limes are juicier than others and too much lime juice overshadows the other flavors)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1 c. grated Parmesan (optional)

Toast the almonds in a saute pan - WATCH CLOSELY!  Remove from heat as soon as you start to get that toasty aroma.  Slice them right in to a cool dish.  If they stay in the pan they'll keep cooking and be burnt before you know it.  If you burn them, start over.  There's no saving it and the flavor will permeate the dish.

Into the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a blade, place all the ingredients, except the Parmesan.  It'll be tight quarters but relax - it'll all be fine once you press that "on" button.  Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice, until it's well blended.  Make sure there's no lumps of garlic hanging out somewhere.  Scrape into a bowl, cover with plastic touching surface, put on airtight lid and refrigerate.  You can also freeze it in either freezer bags, ice cube trays (pop out and store in baggies when frozen) or freezer tubs.

NOTE:  I say that the Parmesan is optional only because we have folks watching their waists around here.  The sauce, without it, is fine.  I just like to give others a chance to control at least that part of their meal!

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