Dear arugula.

Dear John arugula,

We started so well. Before I met you, I’d heard all about you. There’s even a book that uses you in the title. Famous chefs put you in everything. You party with foie gras and white truffles even though you cost only a fraction of what they do. The English call you rocket—what’s more exciting than a rocket? My inability to find you around here made you alluring, rare, valuable. Sometimes you showed up in the herb section at $3 for a little box, but I wouldn’t buy you then because I knew you weren’t an herb so much as a lettuce. I’ll never forget the day I finally bought your seeds and planted you in my window. You peeped through the soil and promised me a celebrated gourmet experience. I also remembered a weird smell that I attributed to the plastic pot I planted you in.

ArugulaThe day I harvested you, I dressed you in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, a grind of black pepper, and sea salt. The first taste burned my mouth. They call you peppery for a reason! But there was that weird smell again. I shook it off. They say you have to try a food at least 10 times before you can decide if you really like it. So I put you in every salad I ate last summer. One vendor at the farmer’s market started selling you in huge bags for only $2. I ate you every day for weeks. Now you’re so popular around here that you appear in spring salad mixes, are sold at my health food store, and once, I even tasted you in a cheap buffet salad at one of those all-you-can-eat places that my mother drags me to.

Well, it’s been a year now and I can’t ignore it anymore. You have a, uh…a BO problem. It’s not a good BO problem either, like the kind you smell in fish sauce or Stilton; it’s a bad BO problem, like the kind you smell in marathon feet and hairy bananas. Multiple washings don’t help. Cooking does, but frankly, you don’t hold up well then. Spinach and kale satisfy my need for cooked greens much better.

I don’t despise you, arugula, we’ve been through too much together for hate. But I can’t say I like you much either. If you pop up here and there, I can live with that, but I won’t look for you anymore. The thrill is gone.

Sincerely,
Annie

Wild garlic mustard pesto for the heart.

The Heart of the Matter - Eating For LifeI’ve been kicking myself for not participating in The Heart of the Matter event. This blog may not show it much (I guarantee more buttercream photos before the year is out), but I generally eat a healthy diet to maintain my weight loss and keep high blood pressure in check. When you have a father who has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke due to hypertension, you are constantly reminded of how invisible health problems can destroy a life and affect a family. While heart disease and hypertension are not identical, one often comes along with the other. The same recommended diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and monounsaturated fats will help heal both. It’s with pleasure that I finally participate in The Heart of the Matter and submit my pasta dish for this month’s theme.

Wild garlic mustard pestoThe wild garlic mustard I identified last week without dying tastes like a cross between young garlic chives and baby spinach. The entire garlic mustard plant is edible, including the pungent root. Unfortunately, the roots I pulled up had a hard black center that made it difficult to cut much less clean and use. In the first year of the garlic mustard’s life, the round scalloped leaves hug the ground much like violet leaves. You can see a bit of them as garnish on the pasta. In the second year the leaves develop a notched heart shape and grow from a thigh-high central stem topped with white flowers that drop their petals on the leaves below. The withered petals can look a lot like, um, bird droppings. Calling it “flower droppings” doesn’t make it sound much better. They wash right off. Thank God. Apparently the leaves become bitter as the weather warms, so if you have seen this invasive weed growing like crazy in your area, by all means, harvest some leaves now and toss them into your next salad.

Wild garlic mustard pesto with flowerThe intriguing garlicky flavor of the leaves would lend itself well to blanching and seasoning Korean style, but with basil season a ways off yet, several online garlic mustard pesto recipes caught my fancy. Oily restaurant and store pesto makes me ill within a few bites. Homemade pesto, made with just a bit of intense extra virgin olive oil and as much herb as I’d like, makes me giddy with the taste of fresh summer. Reducing the oil also happens to reduce the fat—an added bonus. A bit of real Parmigiano-Reggiano is so flavorful that just a little goes a long way without noticeably increasing the saturated fat content. But if you’re avoiding cheese, a great substitute is that vegan standby, nutritional yeast. Available in health food stores, nutritional yeast provides many B vitamins, adds a cheesy flavor, and contains glutamate, the flavor-enhancing unami that makes Parmigiano improve anything it’s added to. To make up for the modest amount of oil, starchy pasta water thins the thick pesto into a good consistency.

Wild garlic mustard with pestleA food processor makes this quick work. I used a mortar and pestle because it makes me feel like an Italian grandma and works my biceps. When you’re one of those people who hates lifting anything other than a fork, every little bit helps. Also, a mortar and pestle are easier to wash. The resulting light herbal pesto was delicious tossed with multicolored leaf-shaped pasta. I had the leftovers with julienned yellow bell peppers sauteed in olive oil and a handful of halved raw cherry tomatoes. That was even better. Bonus: This pesto will not blacken like basil and retains its vibrant green color.

WILD GARLIC MUSTARD PESTO FOR THE HEART

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Let it . . . nooooooo!

I had an exciting cake recipe post planned, but after four attempts at the recipe this week alone, the cake still sucks. So yesterday I planned a trip to the grocery store today to buy something delicious, make something delicious with it, take a delicious picture, and write a delicious post about the deliciousness.

Potted mint in front of snowy windowUnfortunately, the sky dumped a foot of heavy, white, frozen crystalline water directly on top of my portion of the planet and then some. It’s like somebody’s out to get me, some immoral food blogger with super powers, maybe. Why a food blogger would harness his or her super powers not to fight crime but instead target a food blog with fewer readers than the number of days in the average Britney Spears marriage, I can’t say. It might be nothing more than my imagination warped by snow blocking vents on the house and causing odorless hallucinogenic fumes to build up. We can only hope.

Evil super villain food blogger treachery or not, I’m posting. So here’s a picture of my potted mint plant in front of my window covered with snow. My window has never been so covered with snow before. Mother Nature really outdid herself this time. I’ll have a delicious post or two next week, I promise.