Walnut Arugula Pesto

I was so excited to see this recipe in Fine Cooking last month, and when my friends at The Bitten Word gave it the thumbs up today, I just knew I had to try it sooner than later. I have found myself with some sad looking arugula not long for this world, and this recipe looked like the perfect last hurrah.

There are certain foods throughout my life which fall in and out of favor. Yogurt, for example. I literally won’t touch it for years at a time, and then run back to it with open arms. Pesto is also in that category. I loved it, then I didn’t want to look at it for years, and now it’s back again in my good graces.

I love everything about this pesto. The basil and arugula compliment each other surprisingly well, and the walnuts add such richness and body that I didn’t miss the pine nuts at all. Oh, speaking of pine nuts, here’s an interesting pine nut story:

Several years ago, I found myself with a strange metallic aftertaste in my mouth. It was very strong and didn’t go away no matter what I did. Everything tasted awful for almost a whole week. (A smarter girl would have used this as an opportunity to diet, but I just kept right on eating.) Having earned a PhD from University of Google, my exhaustive research narrowed down the culprit to some pine nuts I had put in my salad (after eliminating my initial diagnosis of cancer and mercury poisoning, of course). Apparently, there is a phenomenon known as “pine mouth,” and it’s a taste disturbance caused from certain pine nuts usually originating from China (read this). I have enjoyed pine nuts for years with never a problem, so this syndrome can strike out of the blue. Interesting, eh? The good news is that pine nuts and I are back together after our four year breakup, but they are not needed for this particular pesto.

Walnut Arugula Pesto by David Bonom, featured in Fine Cooking (June/July 2012)

1/4 cup walnut halves
2 cups loosely packed fresh arugula (2-1/2 oz.)
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil (about 1/2 oz.)
3 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 medium clove garlic
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly on a plate, about 3 minutes, and then transfer to a food processor. Add the arugula, basil, Parmigiano, and garlic and process until the mixture is very finely chopped, about 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly add 4 Tbs. of the oil until well combined. If you like, add 1 Tbs. water to thin the pesto. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste with salt.

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