Arugula pesto and cooking class

In the past month or so I have been volunteering for these cooking classes at this awesome place called Kitchen in the Market at the Minneapolis Midtown global market.  I  always have a great time there. Even when I’m doing dishes. So today I went and took one of their classes. It was a class about “preserving the bounty” and Chef Scott Pampuch and Stephanie Mayer from Fresh Tart taught us a bit about pickling, salting, blending and otherwise preserving all the wonderful vegetables we will get in the next few months.

And the class was great fun!

We learned about making flavored salt with ramps and nettles and morel mushrooms. We learned about “passive” and oven drying. We learned about pickling liquid and how long we can store pickles. We learned about preserving radishes in butter and about making pesto. And we learned that the best place to buy the necessary gear for pickling is fleet farm.

Then we got to work and we produced the bounty you can see here: from top ramp salt, pickled ramp, arugula pesto and pickled radishes. And we all got samples of everything to take home with us.

Now, if you are in Minneapolis, and you are interested in learning about storing and preserving, check out the Kitchen in the Market website. They will offer two more classes for this series and they seem to be well worth your time. I for one am planning on heading to fleet farm to get the jars and then start canning.

Of the things we did during class, I was responsible for arugula pesto. As usual when it comes down to cooking I cannot bring myself to follow a recipe. I might read the list of ingredients, but ultimately I use the recipe much more as a guideline than as real instructions. And with something like pesto you should do too!

So I made arugula pesto. I started out with the arugula and added the other ingredients try the pesto after every addition. At the end of the whole process there was something missing. The pesto was just too grassy and herby. I was kind of at a loss. And then chef Pampuch came to the rescue and suggested to add lemon zest which gave it a bit of brightness and then some honey which took away some of the bitterness from the nuts. And then we let it sit and develop its flavor. And then it was awesome spread on flat bread.

I only have two pieces of advice for pesto: 1) keep it pasty it is healthier, cheaper, tastier, stores better and you can always thin it out when you serve it; and 2) go easy on the garlic. For the rest is just add everything a bit at a time starting from the herb you use as a base or the pesto.

Arugula pesto

Ingredients

  • 4-6 cups arugula
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cups pecan nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon (zest + juice)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Start blending the arugula with 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of pecan nuts. Keep blending until you have an arugula paste. If necessary add another bit of oil, but you want it to be a paste.
  2. Add about 2 spoons cheese and keep blending. Taste and adjust adding more nuts/parmesan as needed.
  3. Add the lemon zest, half of the juice and the honey and blend again. Taste and add more lemon if needed.
  4. Salt to taste and use to dress pasta or spread on bread.
  5. Preserve in the freezer or in the fridge covering with a bit of oil to avoit it getting dry.