Arugula sure doesn't look like an aphrodisiac, but that's exactly what the ancient Egyptians and Romans considered it to be. While I don't know about that, I do know that it's the überfood of nutritional bargains. One cup of arugula contains ... get ready ... 5 whole calories. For that you get some folic acid, vitamin A, and a surprisingly decent amount of the eye-healthy carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Combined in this fabulous pesto, arugula makes the perfect complement to grilled veggies such as squash, zucchini, sweet peppers, and heirloom tomatoes. But that's not all the benefits this recipe offers. In addition to adding a wonderful taste and texture to the salad, pine nuts are rich in minerals and fiber, and olive oil is loaded with healthy monounsaturated fat plus plant compounds, known as phenols, which have multiple health benefits. Together with the greens, they make a rich, fresh-tasting pesto you could eat by the spoonful.
Peppery Arugula Pesto
This cool, fresh dish is great even for those of us who aren't raw food addicts.
1 packed cup young arugula leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
-¹³ cup pine nuts
-¹³ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, crushed (or 4 roasted cloves)
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
-¹³ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Combine arugula, basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in food processor, and pulse until chopped. Process briefly, scraping down sides as necessary, until finely ground.
- Add oil, and pulse until well incorporated. Serve immediately, or store in refrigerator.
PER SERVING: 185 CAL; 3 G PROT; 19 G TOTAL FAT (3 G SAT FAT); 2 G CARB; 4 MG CHOL; 360 MG SOD; 1 G FIBER; <1 G SUGARS
Notes from Chef Jeannette
Arugula can have a real bite, so look for young tender leaves to minimize the bitterness, as fresh as you can find-just picked is best. You can play with the proportions of basil to arugula in the recipe, or try baby spinach in place of the arugula for a completely different flavor.
This late-summer pesto is fabulous over a hearty, whole-grain pasta, grilled or baked chicken, or white fish, but my favorite way to eat it is with grilled or roasted sweet veggies. Try it over a shish kebab of zucchini, sweet colored peppers, and heirloom cherry tomatoes for a knockout combo of peppery snap and fruity sweetness-satisfying and delish!