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Posts tagged ‘pesto’

Summer Simplicity and Frenzy

Faux deviled eggs (plain boiled eggs topped with aioli), boiled new potatoes and beet and avocado salad.

Herbs, hardboiled eggs, salads, fresh fruit, bread, cheese. . . .zucchini and green beans starting to come out of my ears. . . .It’s a good time of year for cooking (or assembling) with what you have. And as much as I love to cook I don’t really want to be at the stove much (other than making jam and baking pies and tarts) these days. We’ve been having a lot of  dinners of late that I loosely refer to as Abendbrot–the German word for a light evening meal, meaning literally evening bread.

I use the term to refer to any meal that is cobbled together with a variety of cold or room temperature items. Last night it was cooked green beans with aioli, the last jar of tomato jam from last fall, some bread, a few hard-boiled eggs and a bunch of blueberries. It might be steamed artichokes, a green salad and bread, or roasted beets, some canned tuna (delicious Oregon Albacore) and a white bean salad.

We’ve been digging our first couple of hills of potatoes and they need nothing more than salt or a bit of aioli or some fresh parsley to be perfect. And speaking of  parsley I made a pesto with parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds last week that may well find itself into my Herbs in the Kitchen class in August. If you grow a few of your own herbs, they are really the cheapest and tastiest way to shape a meal.

Toasted bread topped with parsley and pumpkin seed pesto and a fried egg.

When I’m really pressed for time dessert has been fresh fruit, as is, and thus my five-year-old has become an expert cherry eater and cherry pit spitter. But I have also been staying up late or baking in the afternoon and then working late at night to make this fantastic cherry slab pie from Smittenkitchen, David Lebovitz’s blackberry sorbet , the Tutti Frutti Crumble from Super Natural Everyday and jam after jam after jam.

Cherry slab pie from smittenkitchen.com–you get a bit more crust per cherry, it feeds an army and is most of all perfectly delicious.

This time of year is a conundrum for me. I get greedy. I want to pack that freezer with berries, make all my favorite jams and keep up with the green beans and parsley and squash in my garden. I have this slightly frenzied feeling in my body that is hard to control that makes me pit cherries and apricots faster and carry more canning jars up from the basement at once than is wise. I’m racing with myself and some deep-seeded need to preserve and not waste and take advantage of our ridiculous bounty right now. I feel so blessed to have all this amazing produce and fruit at my finger tips. So it’s one part greed and one part responsibility to use it and make the most of it and be frugal, frankly, so that for several months out of the year I wont buy much fruit at all. It’s a privileged position to be in–to have a flexible enough schedule to do this kind of thing–and a choice I’ve made deliberately. And I’m very grateful for that. And at the same time I want to let myself relax a bit and enjoy these fleeting weeks of warmth, neighbors on the porch sharing in that cherry pie, the sticky jam jars and even the fruit flies.

Happy eating, cooking and preserving!

 

 

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Genius Recipe

 

That’s a risky title. When I worked at a restaurant many years ago the chef, wisely, noted that you should never call anything the “best this” or “world-famous that”. . . it’s annoying, it’s highly subjective, so on and so forth. I think this falls into a slightly different category. The folks at Food52 ask folks to submit genius recipes and I believe they define them as just plain smart, unusual, surprisingly delicious, and/or unexpected in their simplicity and success. I’ve been meaning to submit this recipe to them but in the meantime, here it is. And it has an irreverent title to boot!

It’s toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, slathered with pesto and doused with brothy black beans. That’s it and it’s really, really good. Make it and tell me when you do and what you think.

Zuppa Bastarda (“Bastard Soup”)
–inspired by Carol Boutard (of Ayers Creek Farm) who got the recipe from Nostrana which got the recipe from Anne Bianchi.

Bastard soup is so named because it uses black beans, which are called fascistini in honor of what Elda Cecchi calls “that black shirted bastard who brought Italy to the brink of destruction during WWII.”

It’s very simple to make. And if you have previously cooked black beans with their broth on hand by all means just use those. The garlic and pesto on the toasted bread add lots of flavor so don’t be put off by its simplicity.

1 ¼ cups dried black beans, soaked (or 3 cups of cooked black beans in their cooking liquid, see headnote)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 tsp dried crumbled dried sage or chopped, fresh sage
6 3/4-inch thick slices good bread, toasted
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Drain the beans and place in a soup pot along with 3 cloves of the garlic, the onion, sage, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 25 – 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Cut the remaining garlic cloves in half. Using half a clove for each 2 slices of bread, rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic until the bread is perfumed with the odor, spread about 1 tablespoon of pesto on each slice. Divided the slices among 6 bowls and pour the bean soup into the bowls over the bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve hot.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted a bunch of new classes, shorter, cheaper and with new subject matter, including one for youth/kids and pantry stocking/quick meals one.

I used Black Basque beans (grown by Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon) this time around and they have a much lighter hue when cooked. Usually I use Black Turtle beans which are much darker. It works well with both or probably any other kind of black bean you have. Getting the best, freshest beans you can find is always good though.

 

 

Summer (Cherries, Green Couscous, Garlic Scapes)

Dessert in a tree.

My four-year-old son Ellis and I spent a night at my mother’s place last week.  She lives in the middle of nowhere and has neighbors with cherry trees and fruit picking ladders. Ellis climbed right to the top of this rather tall ladder and ate his fill of Royal Ann cherries, gleefully spitting the pits down onto our heads. Actually he mostly missed our heads but cackled with each dropping pit. The setting sun and a sticky, happy kid . . .. Summer, finally here (though absent again today) is so wonderful. And if you have lots of cherries and need a new idea for them, try this wonderful recipe by David Lebovitz for Cherries in Red Wine Syrup.

My cooking has been somewhat sporadic and a bit frenetic of late. We’ve been out-of-town, had visitors, had lots of picnics and barbeques, even a meal or two out. I want to be outside all the time and am spending more time processing berries than making dinner. This means we’ve had a lot of frittatas, salads and artichokes for dinner lately or anything else I can throw together in minutes so I can get back outside.

Green Couscous from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

I have made two dishes worth noting in the last few days. The first comes from one of my favorite cookbooks Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi that you’ve  heard me rave about here before. It’s called Green Couscous and is a herb-heavy, full flavored dish. If you, or you in combination with your neighbors grow mint, cilantro, tarragon, dill, parsley, and arugula, you might be able to make this salad on a moments notice. The recipe calls for toasted pistachios but I didn’t have any and substituted toasted almonds which worked beautifully. This recipe is not super quick. It has a few more steps than most of my dishes but it’s well worth it.

I know our spring here in the Pacific Northwest was cooler and wetter than others so if you no longer have garlic scapes (tops, whistles) in your neck of the woods just file this away for next year. Garlic scapes are the long, elegant stalks that grow up out of a garlic plant. So while the head of garlic is finishing up its growth underground the plant gives us a fragrant, sweet, tender shoot to work with as well. These scapes make a wonderful pesto so if you have some in your garden or see a bunch at the farmers market or in your CSA box, this is one thing to do with it.

Garlic Scape Pesto. Next to the bowl of pesto you see the very tops of the garlic scapes which hold the flower of the plant. You want to use the scape right up to this part but I typically don't include the immature flower in the pesto but come to think of it I'm not sure why. . . .

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 bunch (about 7-8) garlic scapes

generous handful of toasted (or raw) walnuts

1-2 ounces parmesan or Asiago stella

3/4 cup (or more) basil leaves

1/3 cups of good-tasting extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper

Roughly chop the garlic scapes, with our without the very top, flower part (See note in caption above). Process the nuts and cheese in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve on toasted bread, with pasta, potatoes, eggs dishes other grains. . . .

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. Two spots left in my August Eat Better Series. Save money, eat well, fewer trips to the store and more fun in the kitchen . . .

Time Well Spent

When I was growing up I often woke up to the smell of frying onions and bacon wafting up the stairs, and not in an American-breakfast-hash-sort-of-way but in a German-Zwiebelkuchen-sort-of-way. Zwiebelkuchen is kind of a cross between pizza and Quiche with lots of sautéed onions, bacon and cheese. It’s a great dish to feed lots of people, keeps well, etc. So my mother, always needing lots of food for our household, started early while she was also making breakfast.

Other days she’d have a lentil soup simmering away while we were heading off to school. So the idea of getting a jump-start on dinner in the morning has often been part of my routine too. These days I’ve been hard boiling eggs and cooking potatoes and green beans in the morning so that I can throw together a Nicoise Salad in a few minutes at night. The warmer weather has inspired more cold suppers and one of my favorites is a pasta dish with a raw tomato sauce (just blanch a few tomatoes, peel them and whizz in the blender with 2 handfuls of basil and 4 tbs of olive oil and salt) that you toss with room temperature pasta and diced fresh mozzarella. So I cook the pasta in the morning, toss it with olive oil and it’s ready for the sauce and hungry boys in no time.

There are infinite ways to split up the dinner cooking whether you start the night before while cleaning up dinner or the next morning. And I feel downright smug sometimes when I sneak steps in that way.

You can make a pesto or other sauce in the morning and cook the starch in the evening or cook some rice in the morning and toss with a vinaigrette and fresh veggies at night. You get the drift.

So, here’s the Nicoise recipe and a link to my August classes in which we’re cooking fabulous summer fare like this.

Salade Nicoise

I have adapted this classic composed French salad to my tastes over the years so this is not entirely authentic but very delicious and one of my favorite summer dinners. It’s a complete meal and beautiful to boot. As usual, please use the quantities as a guide. They are approximations and I vary them depending on how much of what I have on hand. There are very few hard and fast rules about this. And all of the components keep and are wonderful the next day so don’t worry about making too much.

3 waxy, firm fleshed potatoes (anything but russets), scrubbed and cut into large chunks or left whole if you have time (they cook more quickly if they’re cut up)

2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges or a handful of cherry tomatoes

½ lb of green beans, tipped

3-4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in half

5 oz of canned Tuna (Oregon Albacore is wonderful, low in mercury, and available at many local farmers markets, at New Seasons, Pastaworks, etc.)

1 handful of cured olives

Cook the potatoes in salted water until tender but firm. Remove potatoes from water and let them cool. You can cook the green beans in the salted potato water so don’t throw it out. Add a bit more salt to the water and bring back to a boil and then toss in beans and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender but not mushy. The flavor of cooked green beans is much better (in my mind) when they are fully cooked and no longer “squeaky” but certainly not mushy.

Dressing

½ cup of either basic homemade mayo or aioli

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1-2 tablespoons capers, rinsed well and finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely minced onion or shallot

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon or more, lemon juice or white or red wine vinegar.

a few teaspoons of warm water or milk/cream for thinning down the mayo

freshly ground, pepper

Mix all ingredients together well. Adjust seasoning to your taste with more lemon, salt, or pepper. If you don’t have any mayo on hand the traditional Nicoise calls for a vinaigrette so substitute the mayo in the above recipe for 1/3 cup of good olive oil and add more vinegar or lemon juice.

On a large platter arrange the potato chunks, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, olives, and tuna. Drizzle everything generously with the dressing and serve.

Winter greens become pesto

I have been making this version of pesto for  a year or more now and I’ve been teaching it  in my winter cooking classes and it’s usually a favorite. I originally started making it because my then, 2 year-old loved basil pesto but once basil was out of season and he had become a pickier eater I started making this version with greens of all kinds (beet greens, chard, spinach, etc.) I made it this past weekend for my son’s birthday party. I mixed it with some fresh goat cheese and spread it on toasted bread. People were eating it by the spoonful out of the bowl in the kitchen before I could even get it on the bread.

And then when I went to the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market on Sunday, the greens were back!  The hard freeze we had in early/mid December really did in the leafy greens this winter. The last few weeks, however, have been so mild that the greens are showing up in the market again.

I loaded up on collards, lacinato and Red Russian kale, rapini, bok choy and spinach. And all were beautiful! So if you have greens in your fridge, by all means try this recipe. Use whatever nuts you have on hand. Walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts or all delicious in this and if you have pine nuts, by all means use them.

And if you’re going to mix it with goat cheese like I did you can skip the hard cheese in the pesto and reduce the oil. Buon Appetito!

This is a very adaptable recipe. I use the pesto as a sandwich spread (and on grilled cheese sandwiches), on quesadillas, as a dressing for pasta or for rice salads. You could spread it on fish or meat before grilling or baking. You can mix it with goat cheese for a lovely little crostini. You can thin it down with a little water or more oil for a salad dressing for hearty green salads for roasted vegetables.

The quantity of ingredients can be adapted to your taste and what you have on hand. This pesto keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days and freezes well so feel free to make a bigger batch if you have everything on hand.

2 medium-sized bunches of greens (chard, kale, beet greens, spinach etc.)

1-2 cloves garlic

1- handfuls of hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pine nuts

2 oz of hard, aged cheese such as parmesan or Asiago stella

¼ – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper

Wash and stem greens (if stems are tough). If using beet greens or spinach keep the stems. Bring a large pat of salted water to a boil. Add greens and cook for a 2- 3 minutes. Drain, let cool and squeeze out all the water with your hands. Place cheese and nuts in food processor and process until finely chopped, add greens and garlic and salt & pepper, process until well integrated. Drizzle in the oil and periodically check for consistency and flavor. Do not over process. If not using immediately store in a sealable container in the fridge with a little more olive oil poured over the top.