Basil Pesto from the Garden

Many years ago, my sister Christine took a Pasta with Pesto** dish to a quilt shop Open House, thinking I needed a night out.  I did.  I haven’t made the pasta recipe too much, but every year when the basil plants in the garden threaten to take over the entire plot, I snip the branches and make some pesto to put in the freezer.

3-4 cups of basil leaves, washed and laid out to dry on a paper towel (blot excess moisture)
3/4 to 1 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons toasted pinenuts
3 large cloves of garlic
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place garlic in a blender, and put in basil leaves on top.  Add pinenuts and cheese.

With blender going, drizzle in the olive oil, until desired consistency.

Place pesto into jars; place in refrigerator for current use.  Freeze for long-term storage; I chip out chunks to put into soups, sauces, or wherever I need that fresh-from-the-garden taste.

**To make that Pasta with Pesto, mentioned in the beginning, pour the pesto over hot cooked pasta, with a glug of olive oil.  Serve hot or at room temperatures.  Can add slightly sauteed vegetables of your choice (zucchini, carrots, red sweet peppers, etc.) and/or cooked, diced chicken meat.

Summer Squash Caponata

While I admit that the above photo of the vegetable melange doesn’t look at all like the one on the New York Times website, this is still a great summer vegetable-based dish, the kind we’re all supposed to be making these days.  I incorporated some of the suggestions from the commenters on that website, but generally, it was a pretty straight forward, chop-up-the-vegetables, juicy, sort of dish.

Ingredients
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds medium green zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 ½ pounds yellow summer squash, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons medium capers, rinsed, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes and drained
24 green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Cerignola

Optional Garnishes:
6 hard-boiled eggs (9-minute)
Italian parsley leaves
Basil leaves
Green olives

Can be served with 12 (1/2-inch) slices Italian or French bread, toasted.  However, since we are from Southern California, I cooked up some tortillas in a pan (the heat-and-serve kind), and served this caponata in a tortilla, topped with chunks of rotisserie chicken.

Preparation
Pour a glop of olive oil into a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the chopped onion.  Cook the onions over medium-high heat, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add celery and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and transfer onion mixture to a large bowl.

Sprinkle the pinch of red-pepper flakes over the onions, then the green olives (I had to take the pits out, so they were in chunks); set aside.
[NOTE: if you are going to use the green olives for a garnish at the end, don’t add them now.]

Add another pool of olive oil (roughly 2-3 Tbs) in the hot pan, and add enough zucchini to cover the bottom of the pan.  (Note: my pan had gently sloped sides, so I pushed the zucchini up the sides of the pan, too.  I was able to fit all of the 1 1/2 cups into one batch, but if you can’t, please divide into two batches.)  Season lightly with salt and pepper, letting zucchini sizzle and brown slightly. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove to a large bowl.

Continue cooking zucchini and summer squash in batches, adding oil to the pan as necessary, then transferring cooked vegetable to the large bowl.

When all the vegetables are cooked, add, sugar, vinegar and capers. Toss gently together. Taste and adjust, making sure the seasoning is bright, with a balanced sweet-sour flavor. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes and taste again. (If time permits, let the flavors marry for an hour or more before serving. The caponata may be refrigerated for up to 2 days; bring to room temperature to serve.)

We served ours from a bowl, filling our tortillas, but to do it the original way: transfer mixture to a large platter. Top with olives and hard-cooked eggs, halved or quartered. Garnish with parsley and basil.

Gluten-free Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie

It is the 14th of July, hotter than blazes, and over in France they are celebrating their national holiday, Bastille Day.  But here in the U.S. of A. I’m all about making a giant cookie that is really more like a cake, but in modern fashion, it is “everything-free.”  That means is is dairy-free, gluten-free, but not chocolate-free or taste-free.  Enjoy.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 blend)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 handfuls dark chocolate chips or chunks (about 3/4 to 7/8 cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

NOTE: I didn’t have an 8-inch oven-proof skillet, so used an aluminum cake pan instead; it was fine.

Using a pastry brush, lightly grease an 8-inch oven-proof skillet with olive oil, brushing the oil around the sides of the pan as well. Set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, tahini, the egg, and vanilla extract.  In a separate small bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients and stir to combine completely.

Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts and place the mixture in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When you’re ready to bake the cookie, spread the dough in an even layer across the prepared pan and bake.

Although the original recipe says to bake for 16 to 18 minutes, and until just baked through but slightly underbaked — my cookie-cake took about 25 minutes to get to that the-top-is-still-shiny, slightly underbaked, gooey status.  It could have been my use of the aluminum pan, or maybe not.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before inhaling.

Bastille Day Flyover

This is modified from Joy Wilson’s recipe of  Gluten Free Tahini Dark Chocolate Skillet Cookie, from her Joy The Baker website.

Crispy Rice with Shrimp, Bacon and Corn

When I posted this to Instagram, with an invitation to come to dinner, I had quite a few people accept my invitation; some even wanted the recipe.  It came from the New York Times, and was written by Genevieve Ko; however, I have modified it slightly as I’m making it for two.  Modifications are in the recipe below.  Serves 4 amply, especially if served with fresh ciabatta bread (or take-n-bake, whatever works for you).

INGREDIENTS

1/2  pound peeled and deveined shrimp, patted very dry
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4-5  strips bacon
2  ears uncooked corn
6  scallions
pinch of red pepper flakes
1  pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
2-3  cups cooked rice — I used a mixture of brown rice and white rice

PREPARATION:

Prepare the shrimp by rinsing in cool water, and removing any shells.  Lay out on paper towels to dry; blot with another paper towel.  Grind salt and pepper over one side of the shrimp.  Set it aside for now.

Cut tomatoes in half; set aside.  Trim off ends of scallions (green onions), then slicely thinly on an angle, using nearly all of the green tops.  Reserve a healthy handful of green tops for garnish, and set the sliced scallions aside.  Slice the kernels off the cobs of corn; reserve.

Lay bacon strips out in heavy skillet over med-high heat, and cook until nearly crispy, turning as needed.  Remove strips to a plate covered with paper towels to cool.  Layer more paper towels on top.

Sprinkle a pinch of red pepper flakes in the hot bacon grease, then add the shrimp, stirring for one to two minutes per side, or until just cooked.  Using a slotted spoon, remove from grease and lay atop the paper towels that are on top of the bacon.

Keeping the heat on medium-high, add the corn, most of the scallions, and a pinch of salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the scallions just wilt, about 1 minute.

Add the rice and stir until well-mixed and heated through, about 3 minutes. Press the rice evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Let cook, without stirring, as the rice and corn begin to crackle, until you smell a toasty scent and the rice browns, about 5 minutes. You can lift up a section of rice to peek and see if a golden brown crust has developed.

Layer on the bed of rice/corn, in this order:
•  halved tomatoes
•  cooked shrimp
•  crumbled bacon
•  handful of green scallion tops for garnish

With heat off, cover with a lid for about 2-3 minutes, letting the steam from the rice/corn soften the tomatoes.  Remove the lid to serve.

Note: While I realize that putting the lid on for too long might soften your “crust,” in our case, it did not.  We could still taste the crunch.  We stored the leftovers in the refrigerator and had them four days later; it was still amazing.

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

Laurel brought me a jar of her Low Sugar Strawberry Jam, which prompted me to ask for the recipe, which then entailed a drive out to the neighboring town to get the very best strawberries, then a trip to the grocery store for the special Low Sugar Pectin.
It was worth it.

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

Wash jars in hot soapy water, and turn upside down onto a rimmed cookie sheet.  Place in warm oven.  Place NEW lids and rings in hot water while you prepare the jam.

Prepare:
6 cups of strawberries – washed, hulled, and smashed
1 cup apple juice
3 Tbls  Ball Real Fruit Low or No Sugar Pectin (Don’t use regular pectin. Low or No Sugar Pectin really is necessary.)
2 cups sugar

Place prepared berries, apple juice, pectin, and sugar in a large pot and stir while you bring mixture to a rolling boil. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Use an immersion blender to thoroughly blend the strawberries.

Pour hot jam into jars, leaving about ½  inch of space at the top. Wipe rim clean. Place lid on rim and tighten with ring. Set out on counter until completely cool. You should hear the jars seal, but if you have any doubt, refrigerate or freeze the jars.

Note: It has a different consistency than regular jam, but the slightly-less sweet spread is delicious.

Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs

Another surgery, another few weeks of recovery, but that doesn’t stop the longing for soup on a rainy, cold day.  This recipe, from the New York Times, fit the bill.  My husband helped in chopping and mixing and we worked together to put this together.  I like not only the delicious lemony flavor, but that it can be made very quickly.  One commenter wrote: “wedding soup is not so named because it is served at Italian weddings, but because the flavors of stock and bitter greens ‘marry’ well to produce a harmony of flavors: a Minestra Maritata.”  Sounds great to me.

I’ve made some minor changes, reflected below in the recipe.

Italian Wedding Soup With Turkey Meatballs, by Sarah Copeland

Ingredients
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for greasing and serving
1 pound lean ground turkey
½ cup panko bread crumbs
⅓ packed cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
¾ cup orzo, ditalini, acini di pepe or another small soup pasta (see Note, below)
3 packed cups baby spinach or kale, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup fresh dill,  roughly chopped (optional)

Preparation
In a large pot, melt 1 Tbls. butter then add 2 Tbls. olive oil.  Saute 1/2 chopped small onion until just turning golden.  Add 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, add the turkey, panko, parsley, egg, garlic, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup Parmesan to a large bowl as well as 1/2 small onion, minced finely.  Mix with a fork or clean hands until combined. Gently roll the mixture into 12 medium (2-inch) or 20 small (1 1/2-inch)  or 40 walnut-sized (our preference) meatballs and transfer to a baking sheet lined with lightly oiled aluminum foil.

Heat the broiler to high and set an oven rack 3-4 inches from the heat. Broil the meatballs until brown on two sides, turning halfway through, about 5 minutes per side. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.

Add the pasta to the boiling broth and cook over medium until al dente, then lower the heat to a low simmer.  [Note: while this only calls for orzo, we thought more pasta presence would be better, say adding some farfalline, in addition.]

Add the meatballs to the broth and simmer on low until completely warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and add the spinach and lemon zest, stirring well, to wilt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add coarsely chopped dill,  and lemon juice.

before adding cheese

When serving the soup, drizzle each with olive oil, sprinkle with more Parmesan.  Goes well with some crusty bread (heat and serve, or perhaps Mary’s Retreat Bread).

Note: we added double the spinach, but Dave said it looked like an algae bloom (he’s a scientist).  It was a better balanced flavor once we got past the greens and ate the yummy meatballs and lemony soup without excess spinach.  In my recipe, I didn’t double the spinach, but you could add an extra cup, if you want.

Peppermint-Chocolate Layered Dessert

This uses three ingredients.  Now that’s a quick dessert.  However, it does need to spend some time in the freezer.
So, please, begin this the night before your event, in order to let this freeze solid.

Ingredients
One 14 oz. package chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreo type)
1/2 cube (4 ounces) melted butter
One 1-1/2 quart container of peppermint ice cream

Preparation

Prepare the pan by lightly greasing the bottom only of a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Fold a length of parchment paper in half, creasing well.  Use that crease to center the parchment paper, then smooth out, letting the paper overhang the long edges by about 2-3.”  Set aside.

I’m crushing them more!

Put all the cookies into a zipper plastic bag, OR into a bowl OR into your food processor (easiest).  Crush them thoroughly, or if you have a food processor, pulse until the texture of fine gravel, or chunky sand.  The crumbs should be small, with no obvious big chunks of cookie.

Reserve one cup of the this pulverized mixture for the crumble topping, and if it’s not really fine, do some more crushing.  Set aside.

Place the remainder of the crushed cookies into a mixing bowl, and add 1/4 cup melted butter.  (I like the real thing.)  Mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan, and press firmly with the back of a spoon to even out the crushed cookies.  Place in freezer until solid, about 2 hours.

Set out one carton of ice cream on the counter for about 15 minutes, or until the carton yields slightly when squeezed.  Dump (squirt, sort of ) into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle beater, let sit for about another 10 minutes.  Turn on mixer slowly, then up to medium, while you beat the ice cream into a creamy mixture.  If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment, use a bowl and a sturdy spoon.  You don’t want the mixture to melt; it should be creamy, not runny.  Work fast if you are doing it by hand.

Spoon it out onto the frozen layer of crushed cookie in glops; spread evenly.

Sprinkle with the reserved cookie crumbs, and refreeze.  It will take at least four to six hours for the ice cream to freeze properly.

Why the overhanging parchment paper?  When you are ready to serve, lift it out onto a board, cut with a knife, then replace remainder back into the pan. Store dessert in the freezer, either with the lid to your 9 x 13, or with foil.  (This is shown just before it received its crumb topping.)

Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Prosciutto


Pork:
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
4 teaspoons herbes de Provence
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
16 thin slices prosciutto (Italian bacon; about 4 ounces)

Preparation
Stir rosemary, herbes de Provence, and oil in a small bowl. Rub all over pork; season with salt and pepper. Wrap prosciutto slices around pork and tie at 2″ intervals with kitchen twine to hold together. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

To make life easier, I spread out a length of wax paper, cut five piece of twine, and laid them out like railroad tracks.  I laid out the prosciutto in an area that I thought might match the length of the pork loin, plus double the width.  I placed the herbed meat on top of the prosciuttio, then brought the string up and tied it, which wrapped the prosciutto into place.  We flipped them over when we placed them in a lidded container, which we then put into the refrigerator overnight.

Spray a broiler pan with cooking spray (don’t forget the bottom of the pan that catches the drippings), place the pork loin on top.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of each loin registers 145 F.  Tent and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer tenderloins to a cutting board, slice thinly and serve with plum chutney, or cranberry sauce.

NOTE: If using a charcoal grill, build a medium-hot fire; push coals over to 1 side of grill. If using a gas grill, heat all but 1 burner to high. Grill tenderloins over hot part of grill, turning frequently, until a crisp brown crust forms on all sides, 8-10 minutes. Move tenderloins to cooler part of grill to gently cook through; cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of each loin registers 145°F, 15-20 minutes longer.

Cranberry Curd Pie

I first saw this on the New York Times website, then saw it again on the Bon Appetit website, then about a bajillion other bot-driven websites (all looking the same, all “authored” by a single-named woman, who promised hearth and home and happiness while inundating the viewer with ads-ads-ads).  What is it with these robot websites??

I read about 90% of the comments on the NYTimes recipe site pertaining to this recipe, and have incorporated my changes below.  This pie is gluten-free because I wanted to make it for a woman at my church who can’t eat gluten, and has not had a dessert at a church dinner in a millenia.  This is my holiday gift to her, and to you.  First, the recipe, then the photos (reverse of the usual).

Cranberry Curd Pie

Almond Crust
2 cups almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
Place in medium bowl, stir to mix (or use food processor).

Cut in 6 Tablespoons of softened butter, until crumbs are fine, and you can gather the dough together in your hands.  If too dry, add 1-2 Tablespoons water, a bit at a time.  Press dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with removeable bottom; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom.  Prick all over with a fork.  Tear off a piece of aluminum foil the size of the tart pan, and butter the dull side.  Press onto your tart butter-side down; freeze for at least 30 minutes.  This can be made a couple of days ahead.  Just make sure the aluminum foil seals the tart well. (photos below)

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chilled tart shell with the foil into the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully take off the foil.  Finish baking for another 5 minutes.  Cool.

Cranberry Curd Filling
12 ounces cranberries, washed and picked over (almost 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
Peel of one orange, removed with a vegetable peeler, in strips (then rip into about 2″ pieces)
Juice of one orange, or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1-1/2 Teaspoons cornstarch
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened

Put cranberries, sugar, orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, and liquid has diminished, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove orange peels.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until berries are not noticeable in the pan.

Set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl, and spoon the cranberry mixture into the sieve, pressing it into the bowl. (See note below about what remains in the sieve.)

Wash the pan (or get another).  Break in the two eggs, then add in the two egg yolks.  Stir to break up yolks.  Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons (1/2 Tablespoon) cornstarch until blended.  You may see some white bumps; ignore.

Spoon cranberry puree into the yolk mixture.  Set over low heat, and constantly whisking/stirring, bring mixture to a temperature of between 140 and 160.  The commenters noted that when properly cooked, the curd should coat a spoon.  This took me about 15 minutes.  I did keep it constantly stirring, but I wasn’t beating it.  I didn’t want to incorporate any air into the mixture and disrupt the anticipated color.

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter a bit at a time, whisking well in between each addition.  Again, don’t incorporate air in your mixing.  Let cool to room temperature (mine was a little warmer), and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, in order to set the curd.  Cool on a rack.  Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sugared Cranberries for topping

Boil together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water until mixture is at a full boil and looks clear.  If you have time, let the syrup cool.
Wash and pick out your best handful of berries (3/4 to 1 cup), and stir into the syrup, making sure they are well coated.  Remove to a fine rack (or into a strainer).

Sprinkle some sugar onto a square of waxed paper, and sprinkle some more over the top.  Then roll the berries in the sugar.  If they are well-drained, you won’t get clumps of sugar, but a nice, even coating.  Let cool and dry, then decorate the top.  I meant to clip some mint sprigs to place at the center berries; you might want to consider this.

Cooks Notes:

After all was said and done, I had about 1/2 cup left of the cranberry mash in my sieve from making the curd.  This went nicely with a slice of Cranberry-Orange Bread that I had in the freezer, as it’s like a jam. Store in the refrigerator.

If using the almond crust, best eaten on the day you make it.
Day One: it was perfection.
Day Two: crust was really soft, but curd was still good.

Alternate crust: Sweet Tart Dough (more like a shortbread cookie)

Curd can made be ahead.  Cover curd with plastic wrap (pressing it against the surface of the curd) and refrigerate up to one week.

Now the photos!

Roasted Root Vegetables (for Christmas Dinner)

vegetables before roasting

Roasted Root Vegetables

12 – 13 cups red potatoes chunks (4 lbs.)
6 cups sliced carrots (2 lbs.)
8 cups chopped onions (4 medium – about 2 lbs.)
2 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Cut up the vegetables (and photo, above):

  • Scrub potatoes.  Leave skins on but cut off any bad spots. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again and slice once crossways.  (If a potato is unusually large or small, adjust cuts accordingly.) In other words, you’ll end up with 8 chunks per average size potato.
  • Peel carrots.  Trim small end on the diagonal.  Cut each carrot on the diagonal about 1 1/2” long and about ¾” wide. (Do not include the top end.)
  • Peel onions.  Cut each in half lengthwise.  Cut each half lengthwise two or three times so that the cuts are about 1” apart.  Cut these pieces across into about 1” pieces.  Don’t worry.  These will all cook down.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and toss together along with melted butter,  olive oil and seasonings.

Meanwhile, place two large rimmed baking sheets in oven and preheat to 450F.  When oven is ready, remove baking sheets and spread half of vegetable mixture onto each one. (NOTE: If the vegetables are too crowded, they will steam, not roast.  Please give them room.)

Use a pancake turner or wide spatula to turn vegetables over and mix around about every 15 minutes for about an hour until nicely browned.  Switch the top pan to the lower rack and the bottom pan to the lower rack about midway to promote even browning.  Some of the onion pieces may get quite dark.  Don’t worry about.  It adds flavor and an earthy look.

Cover the pans with foil or combine the batches into one container to deliver to the church kitchen by 5:45 p.m..  From there we will combine all of the contributions into roaster ovens to keep warm. Please take your own pans to your car to take home to wash.

Thank you!