When my oldest son was making the case for his college of choice last spring, he told us, more than once, that it had the second-best food in the country. According to him (and I’ve never bothered to look this up, so don’t bet the farm on it), Cornell takes the top spot. His dad and I decided it was because they have both a restaurant-management school and an ag school–they pretty much major in farm to table. Odd that our little foodie never even applied there.
Still, only weeks into his freshman year at Awesome Food U., my (spoiled??) kid was whining about the lack of arugula in the dining halls. He couldn’t stop talking about it. Seriously? I was torn between being flattered that he missed my arugula salad so much and kind of horrified that maybe I’d created a monster (cue the spooky Dr. Frankenstein accent for that last part).
But there it is. Arugula is a fan favorite in our house. We might be the only ones hoarding those “Arugula Now” pins Whole Foods gave out years ago when Obama suggested farmers might rake in some dough if they started growing arugula and selling it to Whole Foods. Just too hard to give those up. So I immediately glommed onto the arugula chapter of Hugh Acheson‘s beautiful new book, The Broad Fork. Acheson is also a fan favorite in our house–my youngest son gave me his cool pickling flip book last year as both a birthday gift and a jumping off point for mother-son pickling adventures.
His arugula pesto recipe seemed made for us–except that I actually had to make it myself. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting. Salty, peppery, bright green (he’s right about those ice cubes), and with a lovely shot of lemon late in the game, this dish was perfect for a sunny Sunday evening in the backyard. Maybe we can freeze some for a certain young foodie to take back to Arugula-Free U. next year.
Pesto should not be a forgotten fad of the ’80s. It is a staple that you need to be making, at the very least to keep from watching the slow demise of freshly picked basil or arugula in your fridge. The ice in the making of the pesto will ensure that the bright green stays bright green; a burring blender produces heat through friction, and the cold will make that heat negligible. Pesto is spring on a plate. Bring in the sunshine.
The Broad Fork
Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits
by Hugh Acheson
Photographs by Rinne Allen
- Sea salt
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 cups arugula leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for shaving
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 ice cubes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 ounces salami, thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Salt it so that it tastes pleasantly salty.
- While the water is heating, toast the pine nuts in the oven until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes, but keep a close eye on them as nuts burn very quickly. Separate them into 2 tablespoons (for the pesto) and 1 tablespoon (for the pasta), and let them cool to room temperature.
- In a blender, combine 2 cups of the arugula, the reserved 2 tablespoons pine nuts, and the garlic, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 teaspoon sea salt, the pepper, and the ice cubes. Blend on high speed for 1 minute. Then, with the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The pesto should be smooth. Scrape it into a bowl, stir in the lemon zest, and set aside.
- Add the spaghetti to the pot of boiling water, stir immediately, and then cook until al dente. Drain the spaghetti into a colander, and return it to the pot set over low heat. Immediately add the pesto, the remaining pine nuts, and the remaining arugula, and season with sea salt. Combine the ingredients over low heat for about 30 seconds.
- Divide the pasta among 4 bowls, and top each one with salami and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.