Spring has officially hit Northern California which means it’s spring dress, sipping rose and grilling outside weather. Last night I was at a loss for dinner. I had just done a Costco run which meant I had the basics but I was tired and wasn’t sure what to make out of what I had. So I started with the spiralizing the zucchini that I needed to use up. I decided to make a quick pesto for the zoodles out of the basil I had in the backyard but after heading out to gather it, I realized I didn’t have as much as I needed so after doing a quick vegetable drawer raid, I decided to substitute the rest of what I needed with arugula. A few whirls in the Vitamix later, I had a easy pesto for my zoodles. I didn’t need all the pesto for the zoodles so I used the rest of it as a quick marinade for chicken thighs that I had in the fridge and grilled up after letting them marinade for about an hour. I diced up a container of cherry tomatoes and had a perfect colorful spring dinner that came together quickly and easily.
When I make a batch of pesto, I always have extra. Here are a few ways I like to use it up:
My favorite sandwich from a hole in the wall bakery in San Francisco is a grilled fresh mozzarella, tomato and pesto sandwich so that’s always first on my list to make with leftover pesto. You can also swirl a few tablespoons into your ranch dressing (I love this yogurt ranch) for salads and mayonnaise for sandwiches. I also fold it into meatballs and use as a sauce for noodles, diced vegetables, as well as marinade for chicken and fish. Pesto freezes well so I sometimes spoon into ice cube trays and freeze for future use. Note: I have ice cube trays that I use just for savory things like broth, pesto and minced garlic.
- 2 cups basil - washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
- 2 cups arugula - washed (I buy the bag of preached organic arugula)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 1 cup olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 lemon
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Toss arugula and basil in a blender (or food processor) along with garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil and pine nuts. Blend for about 30 seconds, then with the blender going slowly drizzle in oil until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of your machine a couple of times until you get the consistency you want. Add the cheese and lemon juice and pulse a few times to incorporate.
You can substitute walnuts for pine nuts if you don't like pine nuts or don't have them at home. You can also leave out the cheese if you are dairy free.
Lemon isn't a traditional ingredient for pesto but I like to add it for a brightness of flavor and to also to keep the pesto from oxidizing and turning brown.