Arugula Pesto is the Lazy Person's Pesto
Plus: A Freeform Stone Fruit Galette, Chainsaw LA, and Ben Mandelker on Lunch Therapy.
Long ago, I emceed the food tent at the LA Times Festival of Books and when it was Suzanne Goin’s turn to command the stage, I watched as she pulled individual parsley leaves off of stems of parsley to make a salsa verde. I couldn’t believe that she was taking the time to do that, but she said the leaves had a different flavor from the stems and she only wanted the flavor from the leaf.
Well, when it comes to pulling leaves off of stems, I’m no Suzanne Goin. Sure, the best pesto to make in summer is a basil pesto. Get a big bunch of fresh basil, pull off the leaves (ugh) and make your pesto. If you’re truly a glutton for punishment, you can make it in a mortar and pestle. Me? I’m sometimes too lazy to even just deal with the basil leaves. Which is why I love arugula pesto.
Are you ready? Put some almonds in a skillet:
Toast them with some salt until taking on a little color. Set them aside to cool. Then put them in a food processor with 3 to 4 cloves of garlic and blend them up. Then add handfuls and handfuls of arugula — about 4 cups. That’s the other reason I like arugula pesto: you get more arugula in a bag of arugula than you get basil leaves in a bunch of basil. So your pesto will be greener.
Start blending that in and then drizzle in olive oil through the tube, slowly, about 1/2 cup to start until it begins to looks like pesto. At this point, you’ll want to season with lots of salt (it takes a lot) and lemon juice (you need it to brighten up the bitter flavors). Then, to thicken it, add a lot of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (let’s start with 1/2 a cup).
Taste, taste, taste, adjust, adjust adjust, and then boil some pasta — a pound — and stir it all together. This time I added chopped red tomatoes and mozzarella that made it all look like the Italian flag.
A summery dinner that you can actually make at all times of the year (shhh, don’t tell the seasonal police).
So there you go, lazy pesto makers.
Another lazy thing that I did this weekend? I made a stone fruit galette without a recipe.
That may look super fancy, but all I did was halve my usual pie dough recipe — 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 sticks very cold butter, then 1/2 to 3/4 cups ice water — so that was 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt stirred together in a bowl.
This time, I didn’t use my food processor (that was still getting washed from the pesto). To that mix, I added one stick of very cold butter that I cubed, and then I pinched it all together, forming little clumps, and working quickly so my hands didn’t heat up the butter. The resulting mix looked like wet sand with some large peas in it. To that, I added 1/4 cup ice water (plus more as necessary), then worked it together, until it came together like a disc (I finished it on a floured board). I refrigerated for an hour, then rolled it out, just like pie dough.
As for the fruit, I eyeballed it: a few peaches, nectarines, and plums, a few tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons corn starch, and a pinch of salt.
All I did was fold the dough over the fruit, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Then I baked for 10 minutes at 425, lowered the oven to 375, and let it go for 45 minutes more, until the outside was golden brown and the inside juices were bubbling.
The resulting crostata was summery and just sweet enough and way less work than making a pie.
Plus: that crust that I made by hand was better than the pie crust I usually make with a food processor. That’s because the food processor chops up the butter too much; when you do it by hand, it leaves bigger pieces, making the pie dough flakier. Just keep everything cold and you’ll be fine.
Everything was cooked over an open flame, which I couldn’t manage just cooking for one, let alone 40+ people.
The resulting food was outrageously good: all of the meat and chicken flame-licked from the grill and the corn and the plantains and paella also terrific.
My old pal Ben Mims was there — here we are together:
And speaking of Ben Mims, a few days earlier, he and his partner J had me and Craig over for dinner. Everything was amazing as always: cheese, then sausages roasted with Jimmy Nardello peppers, and for dessert, a fig cake that Ben was testing for the LA Times.
He spoils me, that Ben Mims. Also, check out his cookbook collection. I thought I had a lot.
Our session covers everything from Jill Zarin to Ben’s hatred of stone fruit and berries, with lots of talk about needing to be the golden child when you’re gay, the link between eating crappy food and watching too much crappy TV, how Giada DeLaurentis turned him on to cooking in the first place, and where we all stand these days on Alison Roman.
CLICK HERE to listen.
Here are the links that caught my attention recently:
The ultimate guide to tequila — a great overview by Bill Esparza (Eater);
Lunch Therapy alumn Celia Sack previews this fall’s best new cookbooks (Taste);
Eleven Madison Park isn’t ready to be a world class vegan restaurant — shots fired by Ryan Sutton! (Eater NY);
I need some caramel almond pie and David Lebovitz has the recipe (David Lebovitz);
George’s Forbidden Treat is peanut butter + tomato on a sandwich (Gawker).
That’s all for this week folks!
In case you missed Thursday’s paid-subscribers only dispatch, I shared my favorite recipe for corn chowder — which is the perfect thing to make right now, when corn is at its sweetest. If you’d like to become a paid subscriber, here’s a discount code so you can see all of the past Thursday dispatches and get this week’s directly in your inbox:
Until next time….