Tag Archives: Pesto

Spicy Arugula Spread

This is a recipe that almost wasn’t.  It came about last Sunday night while I was preparing beer bread and chai truffles for a food swap the next day.  I was really nervous about going to the swap, in part because I wasn’t sure whether my dishes would be fancy enough for all the foodies in attendance. This is a common fear for me. I call it Potluck Anxiety, and it tends to sneak up any time I take a large batch of treats to a social gathering. Potluck Anxiety is usually really annoying but in this instance I’m glad I had it, because otherwise I might have never made this spicy arugula spread.

Thanks to Potluck Anxiety, I was doubtful that my beer bread would be okay as a standalone dish at the swap. I thought, why not make an herb butter to gussy it up? I wasn’t working from a recipe, just from the vague idea that pesto and butter together would make a good herb butter.  So off I went. For the pesto, I improvised using whatever I could find in the fridge: some arugula, green onions, pecans, garlic, salt, and olive oil.

When I tasted the pesto I enjoyed it so much that I almost kept the whole batch for myself.  Luckily, Potluck Anxiety told me that bread alone wouldn’t cut it, and I pushed forward in the quest for herb butter. To my cup of arugula pesto, I added 4 tablespoons of salted butter.

No bueno. The butter did nothing but turn the pesto into an oily mess! I could have resolved this by adding more butter, but I had used the last of it for the beer bread. What to do?

As a measure of desperation, I threw some cream cheese into the processor with the buttered pesto. The flavor of the spread was definitely improved by the cream cheese, but I thought it was still too strong to pair with my mellow beer bread.  Not wanting to be wasteful, I put the finished cream cheese-butter-pesto mixture into a crock in the fridge and forgot about it.

The night of the swap, I was a mess. I had loaded my car and pulled out of the driveway by the time I remembered the arugula spread in the fridge. In the throes of Potluck Anxiety, I turned around to get it mostly because the little orange crock was so cute.  Boy, am I glad that I did!  While the spread was sitting in the fridge overnight it mellowed into a lovely, spreadable, spicy dip. Perfect for pairing with crackers or whole wheat beer bread.  By experimenting with the leftovers, my husband Rami discovered that this spread makes a great pasta sauce if you warm it up in the microwave.

This story has two happy endings. First, I ended up with a new potluck recipe that is easy to put together and a real crowd pleaser. Second, I met a wonderful group of friends at the food swap. There were all sorts of cooks at the party: some were fancy, some were not so fancy, and of them all were kind and accepting. I suspect I will probably have another case of Potluck Anxiety before the next time I see them; my fingers are crossed that I’ll get another winning recipe out of the deal!

Spicy Arugula Spread (makes about 1.5 cups)
4 cups arugula
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 bunch green onions, root tips and limp green tips removed
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons salted butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Place arugula, garlic and green onions in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.  Pulse until veggies have broken down into very small pieces.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until completely combined. Mixture will be very soft from the heat of the food processor; store in an airtight container overnight to firm up the spread and allow the flavors to mellow. Enjoy in place of butter on breads, as a dip for crackers, or warm with pasta.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

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Mini Rosemary Pesto Rolls

Rami and I are both in horrible moods since Texas lost to UCLA this afternoon.  We’re drowning our sorrows in rosemary, butter, and bread with these mini pesto rolls I created.

This is the recipe I’ve been tinkering with all week in preparation for the potluck at Greenling’s Best of Austin Bash next Thursday.  It meets the main four requirements for any potluck recipe:

  1. It tastes good.
  2. It’s pretty to look at.
  3. The recipe is cheap and makes a lot.
  4. It’s easy to make ahead of time, freeze and reheat.

Plus, since this is a Greenling potluck, the recipe had to use a lot of local ingredients.  These rolls use sweet potatoes from Naegelin Farms, rosemary and parsley from Pure Luck Farm and Dairy, garlic from Green Gate Farms, and Parmesan from Brazos Valley Cheese.  I am really excited to meet up with some of these farmers on Thursday so I can thank them for helping me to create this delicious recipe!

These rolls are time consuming, but worth it.  The sweet potato in the dough makes the bread very moist and tender.  The rosemary pesto, while too strong for most of my pasta recipes, holds up beautifully in the oven.  I think I’ll definitely be making these for Thanksgiving this year– but earlier in the week than the turkey since they’re so labor intensive.

Rosemary Pesto Rolls (makes about 90 mini rolls or 36 full sized rolls)
Roll Dough:
2 sweet potatoes
1 cup potato cooking water, reserved
2 sprigs rosemary
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
5-7 cups all purpose flour
Pesto filling:
1/3 cup rosemary needles
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter

Preparation: Wash and chop sweet potatoes.  Boil unpeeled potato chunks with sprigs of rosemary until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pesto filling.  Remove the rosemary needles from the woody stem. 

Combine 1/3 cup rosemary needles with the remainder of the pesto ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until ingredients are processed into a smooth paste.  Scoop out pesto filling and set aside for later use. (You’ll have just over a cup of pesto.)  Clean out the food processor bowl, we’ll use it in the dough prep!

Now, back to the potatoes.  Once they are tender, remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rosemary sprigs from the water.  Peel the needles off the woody stem, and mince with a knife.  Put about 1 tbs. of minced rosemary in the food processor bowl.  Remove peel from cooked potatoes and add those to the food processor, too.  Reserve 1 cup of the hot potato water.  Puree the potatoes and rosemary in the food processor.

You should have 1 to 1.5 cups of potato puree.  Add one cup reserved potato water and milk and puree.  The resulting liquid should still be very warm from cooking, about 110 degrees. (Use a thermometer to measure if you’re anal retentive like me.)

Transfer liquid to a large mixing bowl and add yeast and sugar.  Let yeast proof, then add melted butter and beaten egg.  If the liquid is slightly viscous and bubbly, you’re doing it right!

Add about 5 cups of flour to the mixture, stirring constantly. Stir and stir and stir until the dough becomes elastic and begins to pull away from the edges of the bowl.  If it is very humid outside, you may need an additional 1/2 cup or cup of flour for the dough ball to solidify.  Continue stirring until dough loses its sheen and can be removed easily from the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm spot for about 45 minutes, until dough volume is nearly doubled.

Punch down dough and knead on a floured surface with floured hands.  Once dough holds shape reasonably well, use a pastry cutter to divide into four even pieces.

Now the fun begins!  Set aside the extra dough and work with one piece at a time.  On the floured surface, roll dough until it is 1/4 inch thick and 6-7 inches wide and 18-22 inches long.

Spread 1/4 cup pesto filling on the dough with a spatula. Roll up the dough longways, using the pastry scraper to support the dough if necessary to keep from ripping. The tube of dough should be about the size of a broom handle.

Use un-waxed, unflavored dental floss to cut the roll into one-inch sections. Place the rolls about 1/4 inch apart in a buttered glass baking dish. Brush the tops of the rolls with butter.

Repeat this process three more times with the remaining dough and pesto.  I used one 9×13 pan, one pie pan, and two 7×11 pans to hold all the mini rolls.  Once all the rolls are assembled, cover pans with damp towels and place in a warm spot to rise.  Let sit for about an hour, or until rolls have doubled in size.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until rolls are lightly brown.  Eat these right out of the oven, or freeze them for later service. They’re delicious either way!

Rosemary Pecan Pesto

So I’m working really hard to perfect my potluck recipe for Greenling’s Best of Austin Bash next Thursday. I’m not ready to share the whole thing, but I do want to tell you about this fabulous rosemary pesto recipe I created en route to the finished product:

Rosemary Pecan Pesto
1/4-1/3 cup fresh rosemary needles
1 cup fresh Italian curly or flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup olive oil

This pesto is very aromatic, and a nice change from the traditional basil/pine nut preparation. Go easy on the rosemary at first so the flavors don’t get too strong.  Preparation: Strip needles from rosemary stems and chop parsley. Peel garlic. Combine all dry ingredients in food processor and blend or process until coarsely ground. With processor running, stream in oil until pesto reaches desired consistency. If the rosemary flavor is too intense, you can fix it by adding more cheese and parsley to balance it out.

My potluck recipe for the Bash will use the pesto above, plus some other delicious local ingredients. I hope to see some other local food bloggers & their recipes there! 🙂

Pesto Change-o!

Pesto being processed.

Image via Wikipedia

Last week I made two delicious batches of pesto, one with sorrel and another with basil.  After two pasta dinners I still have about 1.5 cups of pesto leftover. Luckily pesto is super versatile and it keeps forever! Here are some easy lunch ideas I had to use up the extra pesto.  I typically use about a tablespoon of pesto in a serving. Each recipe below serves one.

pesto + tomato + mozzarella + bread + skillet = grilled cheese

pesto + 1/4 c. vinegar + chicken breast = marinated chicken breast

pesto + 1 tb. red wine vinegar + ground pepper + lettuce = salad ala pesto

pesto + 1/4 cup yogurt + chopped veggies + cooked pasta = pesto pasta salad

pesto + pita + shredded cheese + tomato slices + oven = personal pesto pita pizza

pesto + 1/4 cup leftover cooked chicken, diced + mayo + chopped veg = pesto chicken salad

Sorrel Surprise

Instead of arugula we got sorrel in our local box yesterday.  Also some tomatoes and a patty pan squash instead of melon.  Combined with some of this week’s work drama, the change is making me a little twitchy.  I was annoyed last night, but this morning I realized I like tomatoes and squash way better than melon, so this was a good substitution.  But what to do with the sorrel?

When I tasted a raw leaf yesterday it tasted like a spicy, acidic, tangy version of spinach.  Too strong for a salad on its own. Too soft to sautee with garlic.  But just right for a pesto, which will complement the pasta dish I was planning to make tonight anyway.  Here’s how I plan to adapt my usual pesto recipe:

  • 1 bunch sorrell, ribs removed
  • 1/2 cup shelled pecans
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese*
  • 1 Tbs. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

Making pesto is really easy if you have a food processor.  We also got basil in the box, so I will probably whip up a batch of basil pesto to have on hand while I have the food processor out.  The recipe is just like above, except I sub basil for the sorrell and pine nuts for the pecans.

*use more cheese if you’re planning to serve hot with pasta or pannini