Recipe: Summer Vegetables with Arugula Pesto and Black Rice

Got basil growing in your kitchen garden? We’ve got a recipe for you.

I suppose it’s in my Italian blood to love garlic and fresh herbs. Basil is my favorite herb and I enjoy making pesto all day long with the basil from my garden and the local market. I have recently been mixing it up and adding extra greens to my basil pesto, like arugula. With Summer starting up, there’s nothing nicer than topping some roasted Spring and Summer vegetables with pesto. I take a detour from the traditional Italian pasta and serve the vegetables and pesto in black “forbidden” rice. If you haven’t tried this rice, you are in for a treat. Black rice gives a substantial bite and has a nutty taste that’s different from other types of rice and pairs perfectly with the nuts in the pesto. Topping this dish off with a pan-fried egg makes it a meal, and complements the peppery arugula well.

My grandpa’s pesto may have involved a mortar and pestle or chopping each ingredient by hand, lovingly marrying all of the flavors together with each knife stroke. However, I’ve written this recipe in such a way that will be more realistic for all of us—using a trusty food processor. This recipes calls for pine nuts, but feel free to use or other nuts like almonds or walnuts. I made this without cheese to keep it dairy-free, but it would be excellent with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese. If you do add cheese, add salt to taste if needed.

Summer Vegetables with Arugula Pesto and Black Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 Large or 2 Medium Zucchini or Summer Squash
  • 4 Large Carrots, peeled
  • 2 Large Beets, peeled
  • ½ cup Black Forbidden Rice, soaked in 1 cup of water for 2-4 hours
  • ¾ cup Water
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
  • 2 packed cups Arugula
  • 2 cups Basil Leaves (stems removed)
  • 1.5 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts, Walnuts or Almonds
  • ½-¾ tsp. Salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice your squash, carrots, and beets (I slice the beets last or use a separate cutting board to avoid turning the other vegetables red). Drizzle the squash and carrots with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lay them flat on a parchment covered sheet. Do the same with the beets and add them to a separate pan. Roast the vegetables for 15-20 minutes, flip them over, and roast for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are browne. Season with salt and pepper and set vegetables aside.

While the vegetables are roasting, drain the water you used to soak the rice and add rice and 3/4 cup of water to a pot. Heat over medium heat until water begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low heat so water is just simmering and cover. Allow to cook on the stovetop for 25 minutes, and quickly check the rice. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on how high your heat is. Water should be fully evaporated and the rice is slightly soft and chewy. Remove from heat and keep covered until ready to serve.

Heat a small pan over medium heat and add the nuts. Watch the pan and shake the pan to turn the nuts so until they toast slightly. Remove the nuts from the heat and allow them to cool. Mince or microplane the garlic and then add the arugula, garlic and cooled nuts to the food processor. Pulse until the nuts have broken up some and everything is combined. Add in the lemon juice, basil, and salt. Pulse and slowly add in half of the olive oil while pulsing the pesto. Scoop down the sides of the food processor and pulse again while adding the second half of the olive oil. If you prefer a thinner pesto, add a bit more olive oil.

The goal for your egg is to make the white fully cooked, with the yolk runny or soft. Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to a small skillet. Heat to medium-high heat and crack the egg into the pan once you hear and see the oil shimmer and sizzle on the surface. Once the egg white begins to set, tilt the pan slightly and use a small spoon to ladle the hot cooking fat on the egg white surrounding the yolk. Alternatively, you can reduce the heat to medium and cover the skillet with a lid for 15-20 seconds.

Arrange your plate with arugula on the bottom, then roasted veggies and the rice, and top with pesto and an egg. If you’re like me and love pesto, feel free to be more liberal with it.

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Priscilla Chamessian is a Long Island native and personal chef who focuses on using local and seasonal ingredients. She loves cooking healthy and delicious food, being behind the camera, and drinking strong espresso. See what she's up to at www.priscillacooks.com.