I hate withery greens! Like when you open a perfectly fresh looking box of lettuce or other leafy greens only to discover that several of the leaves in the middle are covered in brownish mush where once-fresh leaves were. The more you dig, the more you discover that the withering has spread, until you’ve plucked out about a third of either withered or contaminated leaves and are now cursing out loud.
I’ve found the best way to use up greens that are starting to turn is to either cook them down a bit or make pesto out of them. Because I always have garlic, some kind of nuts, lemon and olive oil on hand, I made my picked-over arugula into pesto. I added a couple big basil leaves because their anisey sweetness tempers the peppery arugula a little, but they’re definitely not a requirement. (Nor is it a requirement to make this out of almost turned arugula that you’ve spent the last 15 minutes rifling through and swearing at.)
Once you’ve made the pesto, your rage will melt into pure giddiness as you realize all the possibilities for your facelifted arugula. Stir it into pasta! Smear it on bread and top with sliced avocado! Or salami and cheese! Or fried eggs! Swirl it into polenta or vegetable soup! And with every smear, plop or swirl, be proud–because you refused to let some ugly greens get the better of you.
1 box prewashed arugula (about 5 ounces)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Method: Add the arugula and basil to a food processor along with the nuts, garlic and red pepper flake, and blend on low until they form a coarse purée. You might have to scrape down the sides a few times with a spatula to get everything chopped up.
Add the lemon juice, and with the food processor running on low, slowly stream in the olive oil and blend until it forms a paste.
Remove the blade, and fold in the Parmesan cheese. Taste, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
To store the pesto, place it in an airtight container and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. It should keep for about a week.