From the very thoughtful blog annekata I recently learned the Japanese term "mottainai':
Mottainai means “a sense of regret concerning waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized“. According to wikipedia, it can refer to physical waste (resources) but also to wasted and wasteful efforts and actions, activities, time, souls, talents, emotion, minds, dreams, and potential.It's a compelling concept (and look, said Wikipedia page is even illustrated with one of my favorite paintings).
But, wow, what a heavy responsibility.
A while back we had this jungle of arugula in our garden beds. And we needed to empty the beds so that we could dig in some compost and plant this year's crops.
I didn't want the arugula to go to waste, so I pulled out all the plants, stripped the leaves from them, and stuffed (I mean that literally) about half a dozen bags full of arugula into our refrigerator.
We ate some salads, and some more salads, and a really fantastic sautéed mushroom dish topped with arugula (I'll share that recipe with you in a little while), and barely made a dent.
I gave a bunch away to the neighbors. I became the neighborhood Oprah of arugula: "You get arugula! And you get arugula!"
And…we still had a refrigerator full of arugula. So I made pesto. Lots and lots of arugula-walnut pesto.
Sometimes the "highest and best use" isn't so photogenic. But let us soldier on!
This arugula thing became my hobby for about two weeks.
But now I have a huge stash of little green bricks of pesto in my freezer (I like to freeze things like this in ice cube trays, then pop them out and store them in a bag, so that I can use just a bit at a time.)
And to be totally candid, my freezer is usually the place where good intentions go to die. But I am hoping that I can avoid having to feel mottainai in this case. Because this stuff is very tasty, and good for lots of different things.
You can put it on pasta, of course.
Or toss some with roasted new potatoes. Put a few dollops on a pizza.
(I think it would also be good as a pizza base, maybe with very thinly sliced potatoes and fontina cheese.)
Serve it with asparagus.
Or in a kind of deconstructed/reconstructed egg salad sandwich.
(That's whole grain bread, arugula pesto on one side, mayo on the other, sliced hard-boiled egg, and lettuce. Serve with very good potato chips, of course.)
If you should find yourself with a surfeit of arugula ('tis the season, after all), and a desire to avoid regret, here is how to make the pesto.
6 packed cups arugula leaves, tough stems discarded, washed well and dried
1 1/2 cups walnuts
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 large clove garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
Whizz it all together in a food processor. If your food processor is small like mine, it can be tricky to get a smooth, even puree, so here is what I recommend: First, puree the walnuts, salt, and garlic. Pack in a few handfuls of arugula, pour the oil over, and puree. Add more arugula a few handfuls at a time and puree after each addition. Add the cheese with the last handful of arugula.
P.S.: I'm not sure where the recipe came from; it's been in my recipe binder since long before I ever imagined I would have a blog where I would want to credit the sources of recipes. Oops.
P.P.S: Guess what we planted in those newly harvested and amended garden beds? Oh, yes (among other things), arugula--we are gluttons for punishment.