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Rocket & Walnut Pesto

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The glorious weather remains! While I can’t help but feel sorry for my Canadian brethren who continue to experience a less-than-ideal summer, I’m also kind of glad to have escaped the country in time for Ireland’s best summer in… how long has it been? I feel like I’ve been hearing about awful summers, full of rain and cold temperatures, since Patrick and I first met over five years ago. The Irish deserve this weather, and I’m glad I get to experience it, too.

When picturing my first summer in Ireland I may not have envisioned endless beach weather, but I did anticipate at least a day or two of sunshine a week. With that in mind, one of our first big purchases upon moving into our little house in Waterford was a BBQ and patio set (complete with umbrella; a good move on my part). I don’t feel homesick in Ireland – I’m surrounded by family and a culture very similar to the one I grew up with, so I’m very comfortable here – but there are a few things every Canadian needs in their life during the summer, regardless of the weather. Those things are a BBQ and an outdoor space fit for relaxing on nice evenings. Now that we have those things, I’m content.

Needless to say, with this weather we’ve been grilling all week. I’m loathe to turn on the oven, so the most I do for dinner indoors is a quick pasta or sauté to accompany our grilled proteins.

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For Canada Day you might recall I made a pasta salad with a pesto made from the rocket in my garden. Well, I had so much rocket I was able to make enough pesto to last the whole summer (in covered ice cube trays in the freezer – the perfect portion every time!).

Last night we grilled chicken that had been marinating in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. To accompany the chicken, I sautéed some diced onion, garlic and seeded, diced tomato (not canned), wilted some spinach into the mixture and tossed it all with cooked spaghetti before adding a splash of chicken stock, a knob of butter and a few tablespoons of pesto.

Topped with freshly grated grana padano it was the perfect accompaniment to the chicken and we dined al fresco for the third time this week, enjoying the amazing summer evening.

This pesto is a cinch to make in a food processor, but you can also make it in a blender or plain ol’ mortar and pestle. The food processor gives the best consistency – if you like a completely smooth pesto, go with the blender and if you like it really chunky make it by hand.

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Rocket & Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

3 bunches fresh rocket (about 2 bags from the grocery store)

1 wedge grana padano, finely grated (about 300 grams)

juice of two lemons

3 heaping tablespoons grainy mustard (or plain dijon)

200 g chopped walnuts

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  • Assemble all of your ingredients so you have them right in front of you.
  • The best technique when making any kind of pesto is to blend the garlic, mustard, nuts, cheese and lemon juice into a chunky paste before adding anything green – that way you won’t over-blend the green stuff, which could cause it to discolour.
  • In the food processor or blender or mortar/pestle, blend the garlic, mustard, lemon juice, cheese and walnuts until they’re well combined and the nuts have broken down into a grainy paste.
  • Add the rocket (you may need to do this in batches if all the rocket won’t fit in the processor at one time, if that’s the case, cut the other ingredients in half and make two smaller batches of pesto to then mix together by hand). Make sure there’s an opening in the top of your blender or food processor, then start blending the rocket into the nut/cheese mixture. As you’re blending in the rocket, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. You’ll probably end up adding about 1/2 a cup to a cup of olive oil before it reaches the right consistency (thick and slightly chunky, able to hold it’s own shape).
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Use for pastas, salads, marinades or mix with mayo for sandwich spreads. Store in ice cube trays covered with plastic wrap and use as you need it.
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