Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meatless Monday - Pesto Makeover

I like pesto, I really do, but over the years we've developed a love/hate relationship.
Pesto gets points in my book because it's really versatile. You can make it with leafy greens of many varieties, not just basil. Whip up a quick pesto in your food processor and you've got a great way to make use of leftover veggies like Parsley, Mint, or even Arugula.

Arugula and Almonds - not your mother's pesto ingredients, Photo: NK 

What I don't like about pesto is that most recipes call for a whole lot of oil. Now don't get me wrong,  I am far from a health nut, but excess oil in recipes bothers me. I almost always use less oil than a recipe calls for and often, get the very same results.

Pine nuts, a usual component of pesto, are wonderful, but those babies are pricey and they go fast!  I've seen plenty of walnut pestos (mint and walnut pesto over lamb is divine), but what about other nuts, like almonds?

My final issue with pesto is that it has such a bold flavor, it takes over the dish. This is good or bad, depending on the mood you're in or how you plan to use your pesto. Would pesto be as tasty as more of a painted-on glaze instead of an oil based sauce? The questions haunted me.

It was this sort of thinking that inspired yesterday's pesto makeover. Ok, maybe this thinking, plus the ingredients I had on hand:

Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook Ravioli

Now for the mission:
  • Create a healthier Arugula Pesto "Glaze" to highlight and not overpower the beautiful store-bought Ravioli I've been waiting to spring from my freezer: Wild Mushroom and White Truffle Ravioli in a Porcini Pasta from The Ravioli Store.www.theraviolistore.com

Here's the pesto recipe:

NK's Arugula and Almond Pesto "Glaze"
Yields about a half cup or 4 to 6 servings on a pasta or meat of your choice

8 Almonds
1 Cup (Packed) Chopped Arugula - hard stalks removed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
1 Large Clove of Garlic - Peeled 
Pinch to 1/4 Teaspoon Salt or to taste
One Squeeze of Lemon Juice - optional 

Place Arugula in a food processor (a mini chopper works great for this) 
Process until finely chopped
Scrape down the sides of the processor and add Almonds
Process until Almonds are finely chopped and scrape the sides again
Add Parmesan and process
Add 1 Tablespoon Oil and process
Add the second Tablespoon of Oil and process until mixture is wet and fully incorporated
Move the pesto to a small bowl, taste, and add salt to your liking and an optional squeeze of lemon juice,
To serve, toss a few tablespoons of mixture with your prepared pasta, or in the case of delicate pastas like ravioli, paint the glaze on with a pastry brush. 

Finished Pesto Glaze, Photo: NK

You'll like it! 

Now what did I do with our pesto and ravioli?  Below is a great dish for mushroom lovers like me that makes for an even more satisfying meatless Monday. Portobellos, the meatiest of the mushroom crew, are the key. 

Arugula Pesto Glaze on Mushroom Ravioli with Portobello Mushroom Ribbons 
Serves 4 

20 store-bought Mushroom Ravioli
1/2 cup of Arugula and Almond Pesto Glaze (recipe above)
Mushrooms Ready To Bake, Photo: NK
2 Portobello Mushroom Caps
1 Tablespoon Olive or Truffle Oil

Preheat Oven to 425.
Line a baking sheet with foil (for easier clean-up)
Brush Mushroom Caps with Oil
Put Mushrooms in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
Set a pot of water on the stove to boil and prepare mushroom ravioli as directed. 
(Mushrooms should be ready about the same time as Ravioli is done.)
Drain Ravioli and plate. 
Glaze Ravioli immediately with Pesto using a brush or gently spreading on with a spoon.
Slice Mushroom Caps into thin slices and place on top of the ravioli. Serve right away.

Mushroom Ravioli with Arugula Pesto Glaze and Portobello Mushroom, Photo: NK

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