Arugula Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Parmesan, and Toasted Pine Nuts with a Lemon Vinaigrette

This is our first weekend home in over a month, and while it’s good to be in the comfort of our own home; I was feeling somewhat nostalgic of our trip we took to the Russian River.  It was the perfect weekend get-a-way, kind of trip, that wasn’t too far, but just far enough to relax, eat, and drink plenty.  We kayaked eight miles down the Russian River, enjoying the company of one another and the scenery around us.  We visited… oh who are we kidding, wine-tasted at some of the most beautiful vineyards/wineries around Sonoma county.

We also dined at some amazing restaurants, too.  The one restaurant that we constantly reminisce about is Boon Eat + Drink in Guerneville, CA.  It was such a sweet restaurant right off the one main street.  The food was simple and seasonal; creative, but not over-the-top.  It was, well, perfect.  The one dish that still stands out to me the most was the arugula salad with roasted cauliflower, golden raisins, and toasted pine nuts tossed with this spicy, lemon dressing.  It was just so fresh and crisp.  The flavors of each ingredient complimented one another so well.  It was brilliant.

 I’ve been meaning to recreate this dish, and what not a better day than today while we reminisce of our trip.  And I must say, my creation is pretty spot on, if not better.  I’m just sayin’ 🙂

Arugula Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Parmesan, and Toasted Pine Nuts with a Lemon Vinaigrette

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 bunches baby arugula
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/8 crushed red chili pepper flakes
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Place onto a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula with the lemon dressing, toasted pine nuts, and golden raisins. Plate the salad, and garnish with shaved parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

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Fresh Basil Pesto… the perfect prescription to doctor up pasta, grilled chicken or salmon, or as a dip!

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Our basil and parsley have been growing out of control. Okay, that’s sort of an exaggeration. But it has been doing quite well since we planted the starter plants. We made it our goal to harvest and use everything from our small “farm” this year because we let everything die or go to waste last summer.  It’s true.  We had roma tomatoes, basil, key limes, and peppers growing up, down, and sidways, and we left it to die.  We always have so much fun with planting the starter plants, but rarely do we ever enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s silly.  But I think it’s pure laziness, and partly because who wants to harvest stuff when it can get up to 115 degrees F during the summer months.  Blech.  But this year is going to be different.  I can feel it.  I intend to eat every darn thing that grows this year, whether I get sick of it or not.  Again, another exaggeration.  But you get the point.

Anyway, getting back to this post.  So what not a better way to use up the basil and parsley than to make a pesto. Especially since I had extra parmesan, lemons, and garlic lying around from my latest obsession with caesar salads. We also always have an abundance of a variety nuts in our freezer for salads, desserts, and what not.  Basil pesto is our favorite prescription to doctor up pasta, over grilled chicken or salmon, as a sandwich spread, and as a dip for our caprese “salad” skewers for party hors d’oeuvres.

What’s your favorite way of using pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto

3 cups fresh basil, packed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, packed
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for tasting
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste

In a medium sized pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts until they get fragrant. Watch these carefully as these can get toasty fragrant to burnt very quickly.

In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, solive oil, and lemon juice. [But not the parmesan cheese. We’ll get to that in just a little bit.] Pulse until the mixture has a smooth, but thick paste-like consistency.

Poor the basil mixture into a medium-sized bowl, and fold in the parmesan cheese. Mix until the cheese has been thoroughly incorporated.  Add more lemon juice and salt to taste. But trust me, you really won’t need anymore salt after this because of the saltiness from the parmesan cheese. However, do add more lemon juice because it really livens up the pesto sauce. But then again, we like lots of lemons in almost everything we eat 🙂

Makes 3 cups of pesto.