Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Rant About Waste and Arugula Pesto

I really hate wasting food, so I avoid it at all costs. I feel very blessed that I'm able to have a continuous supply of healthy food, so I am most careful to eat it all up and avoid any unneccesary tossing of food.

There are a few ways I keep food waste down:

1. I only buy enough produce to last me about a week at a time.

I realize that this isn't practical for everybody, but it's always a good idea to be mindful when you're getting groceries. Try not to buy more fresh items than you think you can reasonably use (though this is easier said that done, especially when all the good stuff is on sale!).

2. I use the stuff that tends to go bad first before other foods.

For example: kale stays crispy and tasty for most of the week while mild lettuces (like Boston or Butterhead lettuce) get nasty in about two days. I always try to use the faster spoiling food items first.

3. I rotate and label my pantry.

It sounds like work, but it's actually just me writing on a glass jar with a sharpie marker when the stuff expires. I'm a foodie so I tend to have a lot of different food items lying around: a few different kinds of nuts, a medley of grains, an assortment of flours... when you don't use something that often you tend to forget about it. When I inspect my pantry now and then I'll pull an item to the front that needs to be used up, and I'll use that up before going back to my newer stuff.

4. If it's about to go, I cook it.

Bananas getting too brown? Freeze them for smoothies or make some banana bread. Spinach doesn't have much life left? Make some Palak Tofu (vegan Palak Paneer) or another cooked spinach dish. Grains needing to be cooked up? Toss in a soup. Not only does cooking extend the life of a food for a little bit, but in some cases (like in cooking spinach) you can use up the whole bag before it spoils. If all else fails, cook and freeze it (or just freeze it!).

All this ranting brings me to my recipe. See, I had a point!

I had made the Walnut Pate Sandwich with Pears and Arugula from this month's issue of Vegetarian Times (it was alright by the way... just alright). I was left with almost and entire package of arugula and I started to freak out a little bit. Arugula is pretty strong tasting and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be enjoying any arugula salads unless they were all fancied up and I don't have the cash for that (but to clarify, the organic arugula only cost me $2.50, so that was pretty awesome). I knew it needed to be used up and it needed to be used up fast. So what did I do? I googled that bitch.

After recipe browsing I finally decided that pesto would be the way to go because I had all the ingredients and because I could use up the entire package of arugula. Once the pesto was made I stuck it in the freezer, so that I can make some pasta with it later on (I'm thinking... arugula pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers... it sounds fancy, right??). I believe it will also stay good in the fridge for about a week if you cover the top of it with a thin layer of olive oil. I mixed the nuts because I didn't have enough to use just one kind, and I used some fresh basil to balance out the peppery arugula.

Arugula Pesto:
1 (5 oz) package arugula (I believe it's around 2 cups packed)
1/2 c. fresh basil, packed
1/4 c. walnuts
1/4 c. pine nuts
1 Tb. minced garlic
1/3 c. olive oil (good quality)

1. Toast walnuts and pine nuts in a 350F oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes. You could leave the nuts raw, but toasting brings out their flavor.
2. In a food processor, pulse the nuts and garlic until crumbly. Add the arugula and basil to the food processor and combine with the nuts. You will need to work in a couple of batches. Add the oil between batches to help keep everything moving.
3. Once everything is added, process until everything is well combined. Store in the fridge or place in the freezer. Enjoy!

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