There are many varieties of arugula, some are spicier than others. I have 4 varieties of arugula growing in my garden and several of them are going to seed right now. So, I can’t think of a better time to make a batch of pesto using both arugula and sweet basil to spoon over a plate of grilled fingerling potatoes and fennel. I read that hot weather makes arugula even more peppery and spicier, but the warmer weather is also a reason that the plants are going to seed now. Arugula is easy to grow from seed and once the wilder strains of your own homegrown plants are established they provide an easy supply of salad greens with a lot of spicy flavor, unlike the paler domesticated arugula with the wider leaves we find in the grocery store. Do you ever notice that the arugula we buy in the store is bruised or limp? That’s because arugula is highly perishable, another reason to create a steady supply of flavorful arugula in your own garden.
This time of year many of us are experiencing hot weather, so I thought this would be a good time to share an easy vegetable dish that can be made without turning on your oven. The small fingerling potatoes are left whole and the larger ones I cut in half before tossing in a bowl with the sliced fennel, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. They cook quickly outside on a hot grill, needing to be turned a few times with a long fork or tongs. The pesto can be made quickly in a food processor and lasts for several days in the fridge, if you want to make it ahead of time. Don’t be shy about spooning the fresh pesto over the grilled fingerlings and fennel, I don’t think you can put on too much.
My edible flowers in the garden are also taking off, so today I’m decorating my plate with both nasturtiums and borage. Summer may have it’s extra hot days where we feel slightly wilted but that’s when ice water really hits the spot and outside grilling is the best.
- 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, I used half purple, small ones left whole and large cut in half
- 4 small bulbs of fennel, trimmed and cut in quarters
- Olive oil, small amount for drizzling
- Sea salt to taste
- Edible flowers, like nasturtium or borage for decoration, or small sprigs of sweet basil.
- For the Pesto
- 4 generous cups of mixed arugula and sweet basil, washed with leaves separated from stems
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, slightly toasted
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- To make the Pesto
- Place the arugula, sweet basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture turns into a paste.
- With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you have a thick puree of herbs.
- Remove the pesto to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, set aside.
- To prepare the Fingerlings & Fennel
- Pre-heat the grill on high heat.
- Place the fingerlings and fennel in a large bowl, drizzle with small amount of olive oil-until barely coated and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Place the fingerlings and fennel on the hot grill, watch carefully and turn after dark grill marks appear on the cut fingerlings, the whole ones will turn almost black when cooked.
- Grill both sides of fingerlings and fennel, they are done when soft to touch.
- Serve platter of fingerlings and fennel hot with pesto spooned on top.