Monday, May 4, 2009
Arugula and Mint Pesto wtih Spicy Seared Shrimp
Every summer I grow and buy copious amounts of basil for pesto, making batches every other weekend or so, and then freezing it for the year ahead. Bright and lemony, with plenty of garlic and toasted pine nuts, pesto is like a magic elixir during the wintertime, and it refreshes the palate after one too many hearty stews or braises. My homemade basil pesto (which I freeze in individual portions in ice cube trays) tops tilapia, minestrone soup, dresses up roasted vegetables and coats spaghetti all year long.
But alas, I ran out early this year, and I just couldn’t bring myself to buy clutches of fresh basil from the grocery store; it’s highway robbery! So I came up with an alternative from ingredients already in my fridge—arugula and mint pesto, which I tossed with mini farfalle pasta and spicy seared shrimp. Baby arugula was used here—that’s what I had on hand—but I would recommend using more mature arugula leaves if you appreciate a more peppery bite. Toasted walnuts provide an unexpected velvety creaminess and depth of flavor that give pine nuts a run for their money. This pesto would also work very well with lamb chops or a simply seasoned pork tenderloin.
Arugula and Mint Pesto
1 cup packed arugula leaves (if using mature arugula, remove stems)
1 cup packed mint leaves
¾ cup chopped walnuts
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 ½ to 2 lemons (this depends on your taste; I tend to err on the side of more lemon, rather than less)
3 T finely grated parmesan cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed or desired
Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a sauté pan, toast the walnuts over medium heat, tossing frequently to prevent scorching. Nuts are done when they are lightly browned and fragrant.
2. Toss warm nuts, ½ cup olive oil, arugula, mint, garlic, cheese, and juice of 1 ½ lemons into a blender or food processor. (NOTE: I use a blender and find it helpful to pour in the olive oil and lemon juice first, so it facilitates blending of the other ingredients). Blend ingredients until smooth. Add more olive oil and/or lemon juice in order to reach desired consistency and flavor. Add salt and pepper to suit taste (if you use mature arugula, you’ll likely need less pepper).
3. Freeze or use immediately on your favorite pasta.
Spicy Seared Shrimp
In a bowl, combine peeled and deveined raw shrimp with a sprinkling of sea salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a shake or two of crushed red pepper flakes. Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Add 1-2 tsp of olive oil into hot pan, add shrimp and allow them to cook for about 1 minute or so on each side. The key to perfectly cooked shrimp with a nice crusty sear is simple:
1. A HOT pan…super hot. Don’t be afraid.
2. Don’t crowd your pan with shrimp; work in batches so that any released liquid quickly evaporates. Accumulated liquid steams your shrimp, and you lose any hope of that nice crusty sear (I only fit about 6 large shrimp in my 12 inch pan at a time).
3. Turn them only ONCE! (Mom)
4. Do not overcook! (Again, Mom) As soon as those puppies lose their translucence, get them off the pan!
Posted by Alex Harrison at 10:49 AM