Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

May 2005
© 2005 by Bret S. Beall


I am SO excited! Local organic produce is finally available to us here in Chicago! I’m particularly excited about the young arugula that is full-flavored and tangy without the characteristic bitterness of some cultivars.

Before jumping into this month’s recipes, I’m going to jump into a bit of a rant on the concept of “real food,” and its health consequences. Specifically, I want to share some thoughts on two trends in the culinary world: 1) the Raw Food Movement, and 2) Avant-Garde Food.

The Raw Food Movement: I have given lectures on the science (both pro and con) of the claims of the Raw Food Movement. I think there is absolutely no doubt that raw food should be an important component of everyone’s diet. I eat a LOT of raw food (I’m a salad fiend, and the pestos I’m sharing in this [and previous] column[s] are relatively raw … the Raw Food Movement, being vegan, would require omitting the cheese, technically). But, there is so much pseudo-science in the “movement” that no one can take some of the claims seriously. For example, I have heard that raw food is “living” food, unlike cooked food, which is “dead”; sorry, but once a leaf is picked, once a fruit is plucked, once a stem is pulled from its life-sustaining root system, it is DEAD. We know that once produce is harvested, it begins to lose nutrition immediately, but if handled properly, most nutrients will be retained for quite a long time. Another egregious example is that raw food is more nutritious; well, we do know that OVERcooking strips foods of nutrition, and we know that many raw foods have not only excellent nutritional content, but also fantastic fiber; however, there are some nutrients that only become available after a vegetable is cooked, like the antioxidant carotenoids in spinach, and lycopene in tomatoes. Mix raw foods with cooked for maximum nutrition … and book me for a talk if you want to hear the whole story!

Avant-Garde Food: This is merely a title I have chosen for the sake of making a point. Specifically, I am referring to very talented, very creative, very imaginative and very intelligent restaurant chefs (mostly young) who “deconstruct” food and “reintegrate” it in a variety of forms that will shock, amaze and hopefully please the diner. These talented, experimental chefs create “foams,” “airs,” “skins,” “dusts,” “gels,” “powders,” “puddings,” and even “ice creams.” This innovation must be commended. The consequent flavors must be commended. My only concern is the loss of nutrition. With each additional processing beyond its natural state, food loses nutrition, and these highly-processed, avant-garde preparations risk losing lots of nutrition. Knowledge is power, so be aware of the potential lack of nutrition in these meals. Not to be rude, but this is an example of when KISS is needed: Keep It Simple, Silly!

Now, given these discussions, are you wondering why I’m offering you even more pesto recipes? That’s easy. The recipes are certainly simple to prepare and to eat, with minimal equipment, and easy technique. They are sensible in that they freeze so well, take up very little space relative to what they offer, and very healthy, with little processing except for grinding. And they are sensational with fresh garden flavors bursting with every bite. This column is Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®, after all!


Some arugula (also known as rocket or rucola) is full-flavored but not bitter (primarily small, young leaves), but other arugula is very bitter (correlating positively with age and size). If you are dealing with the latter, add the optional sugar. Otherwise, it isn’t necessary. Tasting your ingredients will help you adapt your recipes to seasonal and geographic variation in flavor. Regardless, arugula is rich in thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, zinc, and copper, and has substantial amounts of fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a blender; blend until smooth, stopping the blender often and using a spoon to force the leaves into the blender blades. To facilitate blending, it may be necessary to add up to ¼ c cold water.

Use about 1 T of pesto per serving of pasta or noodles (1/4 lb pasta/noodles prior to cooking). This recipe will yield about 12 servings. As with other pestos, this version freezes well for a year.


Sorrel Pesto: Substitute 2 c fresh sorrel for the arugula. Use either orange juice or balsamico instead of lemon juice (sorrel is naturally lemony). Grind away and enjoy!


Since this is my third column about pesto, I’m not going to take up space with repeating the same ol’ applications again. Please visit the previous pesto columns at: http://www.god-dess.com/services_recipesJune04.html: two delicious cilantro pestos, with a recipe for pesto butter that will be great prepared with the arugula and/or sorrel pestos.

http://www.god-dess.com/services_recipesSept04.html: this link will take you to more traditional basil pestos that are among the best you will ever taste, and a more detailed outline of applications.

Have fun with pesto! Don’t let your preconceptions limit you … in this way, I’m like the avant-garde chefs I mentioned in the introduction … think outside the box when you are cooking. But, don’t destroy the pure, natural essence of the raw pesto: make it, remembering there’s no need to cook it … and in this way, I’m like the raw foodists.

The bottom line? By now you know I encourage moderation in everything, so try these delicious pestos in moderation (please, no more often than once a day!). Of course, with the hundreds of applications I’ve offered via the above links, you could eat these pestos daily and never repeat a preparation. Get busy getting those vitamins! And then please get busy letting me know how delicious you find these pestos by calling me at 773.508.9208 or emailing me. Don’t forget: if you or your organization or company would like to hear me speak about raw or avant-garde food and its relationship to flavor and health, I’m available with advance scheduling.