Arugula Sunflower Seed Pesto
- 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
- 1/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 4 cups baby arugula, stems removed
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely shredded asiago cheese
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
- Mix salt and garlic in mortar (or food processor) and pesto. Add sunflower seeds and crush. Add zest and lemon juice. Gently pound in 1/3 of the parsley and arugula along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the next 1/3 of the herbs and half the remixing olive oil. Finally, add the remaining herbs and olive oil and add black pepper to taste. When ready to serve, add the cheese and mix until smooth.
Fresh arugula contains just 8 calories per 2 cups and is packed with nutrients! It contains over 50% of the daily requirements for vitamin K which must be present for important reactions to occur in the body, such as blood clotting and bone mineral regulations. It provides 20% of the vitamin A needed to protect eyes and prevent age-related macular degeneration. Arugula also contains 8% of the vitamin C, folate, and calcium needed daily.
Sunflowers and other nuts found in pesto can be high in calories and fat. A quartet cup has 200 calories and is composed of 50% fat. However 70% of that fat is unsaturated which means it may actually support heart health and decrease cholesterol levels. Sunflower seeds are low on the glycemic index, so they digest slowly and keep you feeling full longer. In addition, sunflower seeds are loaded with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and are a good source of B vitamins and carotenoid.
The olive oil in pesto is a great source of vitamin E (1 tablespoon of pest contains 10% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin E), an antioxidant that helps maintain cell structures and lipoproteins that carry cholesterol and fats through the blood stream. If these lipoproteins are not maintained, the fats they carry can attach to blood vessel walls and contribute to cardiovascular systems.
Here are some ideas for creating your own winning trifecta:
THE GREENS: parsley, cilantro, arugula, kale, collards, mustard greens, spinach, watercress or broccoli
THE NUTS: hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or peanuts
THE CHEESE: Romano, aged gouda or asiago
Grind together a leafy herb, nut of your choice, salty grating cheese (along with garlic, a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt) and presto you have a fantastic sauce full of flavor and packed with nutrients. Traditional pesto gained its popularity from its classic ingredients; basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pesto is easy to make and can be stored up to 6 months in the freezer or up to one week in the fridge. Create you own and mix with pasta, spread on toast, or over roasted vegetables.