Anyone who knows me, knows that I HATE to waste food. I’ve had a challenge in my home for a while now with a refrigerator that freezes my produce. I’m not real sure what the heck is going on, either the door is being left slightly open, or someone is messing with the temperature on the outside of the fridge, or it’s just malfunctioning, but I am getting REALLY tired of buying beautiful fresh food only to have to throw it out when it’s ruined by my stupid fridge.
Not all foods fall victim to ruination, of course. The strawberries (an unexpected find on my trip up to Frostburg) were hulled, rinsed, popped into FoodSaver bags and then into the big freezer. The cheese too, was not adversely affected by the unexpected deep freeze. However, the spinach and the arugula were another story.
Luckily, only the top layer of leaves were frostbitten, however after getting rid of the damaged parts, I had greatly reduced amounts of each. And quite frankly, I was angry. So I got creative instead! I had to empty out the fridge anyway, so I pulled out the damaged greens, the frozen cheese (all hard varieties – two kinds of Parmesan as well as a bit of aged Gouda), I had roasted garlic too (that hadn’t been frozen) and I thought PESTO!
Wait a second.. pesto is made with basil! Well yeah, and I had that too, out in the herb garden. So I broke out the food processor and went to work.
The first thing I did was roughly chop up the cheese and put it in the processor. Pulsing, I ended up with these delicious little mixed crumbles. I dumped the cheese out onto a paper plate, and then added in the arugula. Again, pulse, pulse, pulse until the arugula was chopped up and it went into a bowl. I repeated with the spinach, and added it to the arugula. Same deal with some basil I clipped out of my garden. I wish I could tell you what the measurements were exactly, but I maybe had 1.5 cups of arugula, 1.5 cups of basil leaves, and 3 cups of baby spinach. I put all the greens back into the bowl, and added in about 10 cloves of roasted garlic, along with about half a cup of the cheese crumbles. I didn’t have pine nuts, but I DID have almonds, and so a half cup of almonds also went into the processor. I turned the processor back on until the mixture got smooth and lovely. I drizzled in olive oil until it was creamy and smiled to myself about how clever I was to create something delicious out of near ruination.
HOWEVER… when I tasted the finished product it was… bland. I mean REALLY REALLY bland. Almost boring, and pesto should never be boring. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t really taste garlic at all. The roasted garlic, I think was too sweet, too mellow… so I grabbed a head of raw garlic and added 6 cloves to the bowl. I also remarked that the sweet basil and spinach were almost TOO sweet. The bite from the arugula was getting lost. So I added a few red pepper flakes to give the sauce a little bit of zip. I also grabbed a lemon and squeezed the juice from half of it into the bowl. Re-processing, I sprinkled in a bit of Kosher salt, made sure everything was well mixed, and then tasted the finished product.
This turned out to be one of those times that my instincts proved to be spot on target. My pesto was no longer boring! The addition of the garlic and lemon really woke up the flavor of the greens and the red pepper flakes left a very tiny bit of heat at the finish. And the color was STUNNING. Bright green, with teeny flakes of cheese, garlic, and red pepper. The whole batch just looked so alive! Not a bad effort for a rescue mission.
So now I have a bowl of brilliant “everything” pesto, just ready for some chicken or pork, or even some of the few fresh tomatoes I have left. Best of all, it’s completely Paleo…so I can eat it even after my challenge starts on Monday. Maybe I should thank my flaky freezing fridge?