"It's not leftovers that are wasteful, but those who either don't know what to do with them or can't be bothered."
For the past two years, I’ve purchased a bag of arugula each week from the supermarket. The hipster lettuce. The green that was supposed to convince me that all of a sudden my days of eating In-n-Out burgers for lunch would be replaced by an enjoyable salad. I was the trend follower who saw every single food related personality on tv tell me, “Arugula has a nice peppery bite to it!” So in vain, I bought bag after bag of arugula, thinking that I too could change my life around by this wonder lettuce that would magically make me crave a medley of vegetables every single day.
As you might have guessed, the revolution didn’t happen, with bag after bag of wilted greens accumulating in my refrigerator, crying alongside the also abandoned container of quinoa and brown rice. I disposed of those greens the only way I knew how – by blitzing them into a rough pesto, to be used for a risotto fortified with cheese, butter, and in the above example, leftover pork belly rendered into crispy nuggets.
Long live arugula.
scroungy leftover risotto + arugula pesto
for the pesto
a small handful of walnuts, pistachios, or other nut you have handy
1-2 cloves of garlic
a small handful of grated parmesan cheese
red pepper flakes
for the risotto
chicken stock (roughly a 3:1 ratio stock to rice) - If you have to resort to stock cubes, or bouillon
finely diced shallots, garlic, onion, or any combination of the three
cured anchovy filet
a splash of dry white wine or vermouth
leftover add ins - cooked vegetables, cured meats, more arugula, etc.
grated parmesan cheese
mise en place: arugula pesto
In a food processor or blender, grind the nuts, garlic, cheese, and lemon zest. Once it’s in a mealy paste, add your arugula and start adding olive oil, scraping down the sides when necessary until you start forming a pesto. Season with salt, pepper flakes, and adjust. If you feel it needs more body, you can add more nuts. More salt or richness? Add more cheese. Too fatty? More lemon. Keep fixing the pesto until it gets to your liking
Keep your stock warm on a burner.
Sweat your shallots or onions and anchovy filet in a tablespoon or two of butter. Season with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sweat them over medium-low heat until they are soft and translucent, approximately 10-15 minutes. There should be a soft, melodic sizzle versus the loud hiss of a saute.
Now it’s time to toast the rice: boost your heat to medium, and add the arborio rice. Let it toast for 5-6 minutes (feel free to add more butter or olive oil if it looks dry). They should have a shiny slick from the fat, and begin to become gold around the edges. Add the white wine : you’ll see it hit the pan in a big puff of steam as it sizzles from the heat. This is when you start stirring - You don’t necessarily have to be stirring it every second risotto is on the stove, but it should be given a mix frequently. Once the wine has been absorbed (it’s pretty obvious, but a good indicator is that you’ll be able to see the bottom of the pan as you stir), it’s time to start adding stock in stages. Add enough of the warm stock to the point where you can see it bubbling around the rice (you don’t want to drown it - no more than a cup at a time should be perfect), and repeat the process of stirring until it’s been absorbed.
Repeat this process over the next 15-20 minutes, until the rice is just shy of al dente - there really should be a considerable bite to each grain (but not enough for it to feel chalky). You should just barely be able to see the small core of opaque white. At this point another hunk of butter, a hefty handful of parmesan, and whatever leftovers you have - more arugula, leftover broccoli rabe, pork belly, etc. Once added, stir the pan vigorously to emulsify the risotto and to make it creamy. You may need to add a touch more stock to make it flow slowly like lava. Serve in warm bowls with a spoonful of the arugula pesto.