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.

Pasta salad with Swiss chard pesto

Today I am posting a cold pasta salad. This recipe is perfect for the warmer months to come and it makes large use of Swiss chard in its pesto, so it is perfect for those of you who receive a CSA box and are overwhelmed by leafy spring greens.

I spent the last weekend at a friend’s place in California. I had a work commitment there and it was a good chance of catching up. When she asked me to help her create a dish for a family visit that made good use of some of the many greens she had in the fridge I started thinking about one of my mom’s quiches made with spinach, tuna and black olives.

Since we needed to make food for 10 people, I thought a pasta would be much easier to make in large quantities. Also, making a pesto would allow using a bunch of Swiss chard that was still delicious, but looked a bit battered. Adding tuna and olives would recreate much of the flavor profile of the quiche and the tomato would add freshness and texture.

We prepared the pasta in the morning and then let it cool down until lunch time, when we served it to the whole family. It received thumbs up from the whole family: from grandparents down to grandchildren.

Pasta salad with Swiss chard pesto

Ingredients

Swiss chard pesto

    • 1 bunch Swiss chard
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
    • 1/4 cup parmesan
    • 1 small garlic clove
    • 2 tbsp olive oil

Pasta salad

  • 2 lb pasta (I used bow ties)
  • Swiss chard pesto
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cans tuna packed in oil
  • 1/4 cup black pitted olives

Directions

Swiss chard pesto

    1. In a food processor or blender, process the Swiss chard with the rest of the ingredients until smooth. It might help to add a bit of water to get the blending process going.

Pasta salad

  1. Cook the pasta al dente in a lot of salted boiling water.
  2. Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and place in bowl. add in the drained tuna and the drained olives.
  3. When it is ready, drain the cooked pasta and dress it with the pesto. Add oil if the pesto is too thick and the pasta sticks.
  4. Top with the tuna and tomato salad.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.