Posts Tagged ‘pesto’
Hello food fans,
It’s been about 5-6 weeks since my last post. I would apologize for the delay but at this point it seems to be becoming a pattern that I post in bunches and then dissapear for a while, so maybe you should just expect that at this point. Anyways, I’ve got some great ideas and recipes which are coming your way over the next month or two, including: Oreo cake balls, the best stuffing recipe EVAR, White Chicken Chili, grilled pheasant breasts, and some homemade eggnog when we get close to Christmas!
Today’s recipe comes from… nowheres in particular. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work one night and got a hankering for some kind of garlicky-creamy goodness which I could spread on crackers. Since this particular grocery store happened to sell roasted garlic cloves in their olive bar, I went for those. A week later I re-made the recipe with a few tweaks which really brought everything together.
- 1 brick of cream cheese, room temp
- 1 cup roasted garlic cloves
- 1 raw garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 1 package basil leaves (15 big leaves or so?)
- 4 scallions, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup shredded/grated Parmesan
- 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt & pepper
- Sprinkle of red wine vinegar
- a big dollop of sour cream (optional)
Combine everything but the cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until its a roughly homogeneous mixture, then add the cream cheese and process until everything is mixed together. You can do a few different things with this; I imagine it would be great as a sandwich spread, you could make pinwheels, you could probably thin this out with some milk and white wine to make a bitchin’ pan sauce for something like roasted chicken, or you could just spread it on same fancy crackers and top it with some thinly sliced capocollo. I chose the latter route, and it was well received by the Thanksgiving crowd.
On a side note, please do yourself a favor and go buy a half pound of capocollo. This delicious salumi is dry cured from the meat on the neck and shoulder cuts of the pig. It’s like a cross between canadian bacon, real bacon (take that Canada!), and prosciutto. It’s not usually smoked to the best of my knowledge, but there is sometimes a spicy or savory coating on the outside of the meat. The marbling, which is amply demonstrated below, is incredible and gives it a deep, rich flavor. Get your butcher to slice it thin, and eat a few slices while you walk around the grocery store and decide what you want to do with this manna from heaven.
It’s been a while, a long while, since I last posted. A difficult break-up, followed by finals, followed by studying for the bar kept me out of the kitchen and off the blog. The last few months have been arduous.
I sat for the last day of the bar exam on July 27 and on the 28th began my return to the real world. But, when I tried to get back on ECL on the 29th I found an unfortunate “Fatal Error” message. After only a few hours of work behind the scenes I was able to break the blog even more—no contact with the server. But today, I final got everything back up and running. I had no idea when I started this thing that I would learn so much about computers.
Last Saturday, for the first Saturday in recent memory, I woke-up and didn’t open a bar study book. Instead I grabbed an ice coffee and made the mile and a half walk to the farmers market for the first time this summer. I went from stand to stand looking at all the green, red, yellow, and orange delights. But I had a mission: caprese and pesto.
I found a huge plant of basil for only $3. I say plant because it really was still a plant with roots and all. It kills me to think about how much I’ve paid in winter for a handful of sorry looking basil from the supermarket. For the tomatoes in the caprese I got some bright red cherry tomatoes. Other random finds included some garlic scapes (long shoots that grow out of the head of the garlic) and a head of broccoli. [My apologies for the details on the mundane. What can I say? I’m excited.]
On the way home I picked-up pine nuts from Russo’s Mozzarella and Pasta up the street from me. On the walk home from Russo’s I realized I had forgotten the cheese! So I stopped in a Union Market and picked-up some Parmigiano Reggiano and some amazing mozzarella.
Now when I say this was amazing mozzarella I’m not doing it justice. I didn’t realize when I bought it, but I had gotten Burrata. Burrata is basically cream filled mozzarella. It’s rich, silky, and decadent—like no other cheese I’ve had in my life. Outside is a layer of the familiar fresh mozzarella, inside is a semi-solid pudding like structure. I started cutting the fist size balls to make caprese but quickly turned to tearing with my hands. I then cut the cherry tomatoes in half and cut about a half dozen basil leaves into strips. After mixing it all together with some good olive oil and some coarse sea salt I enjoyed an incredible afternoon snack.
But I can’t forget the pesto. I used the following recipe as a template (it’s almost identical to the one in Loren’s pesto post), but improved it with two more cloves of garlic and about another cup of basil. Also, make sure you buy actual Parmesan Reggiano and some decent olive oil–the extra few bucks are worth it and can be spread over several batches.
23 cups fresh basil leaves, packed [going from 2 to 3 cups made it less runny, which I personally like]
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
36-7 medium sized garlic cloves, minced [I needed more garlic, all the vampires in pop-culture today have me worried]
- Salt to taste
Instructions: First, combine the basil with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. Then, add the garlic, pulse a few times more. Next you’re supposed to slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. I only have a miniature Cuisinart Chopper and Grinder. The lid doesn’t have an opening so I had to pulse, add oil, pulse, and oil…. you get the idea. It was a little slower going, but worked great. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula and add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Finally, hit it with a pinch of salt to taste and give it one last pulse. When you’re done the whole room will have a wonderful pesto smell and you’ll have enough pesto for a few people.
Oh, and the pesto keeps in the fridge for a few days or the freezer forever—so you don’t need to eat it all right away. This is a good thing, because I made a return to the farmers market yesterday and just made a giant batch.
It’s feels good to be cooking and typing some non-law study words again. There isn’t a lot of summer left, but I plan to make the most of it! Sometime soon I’m coming back from the farmers market with squash blossoms.
Well, summers almost here so it seems like a good time to start gathering your recipes for the fresh veggies of summer. Wait… what’s that you say? Summer’s almost GONE?! Damn it, this happens every year. So what are you waiting for? Grab your shoes, keys and a $20 bill and get yourself to the nearest farmers market! There happens to be one in downtown Minneapolis about a block away from where I work, so every Thursday is a new culinary adventure.
I absolutely love the farmer’s market; it reminds me of my Dad’s garden when I was growing up. Just a huge bounty of everything I could ever want: squash, cucumbers, green and red peppers, jalapenos, cilantro, sweet corn, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, the list goes on and on. And then there are the fake vendors who, should be banned outright from ever stepping foot in a farmer’s market. You can identify them by the fact that their fruit comes in the same packaging you see in the super-markets, and they have produce which is ridiculously out of place for the season and geographic location (note to self: pineapples are not grown in Minnesota). I see no reason why my money should go to some schmuck who got a sweetheart deal from a produce distributor rather than the local farmers who have put in countless hours of backbreaking labor in order to bring their food to the market.
Anyways, this week’s haul included a few bunches of basil, some garlic, yellow squash and bag of Wisconsin cheese curds which didn’t even make it back to the office with me, they were so squeaky fresh and delicious. But for this post we’re going to focus on the basil and garlic because with those, and just 3 more ingredients, you can make a world class pesto.
You will need:
- 2 packed cups of basil leaves
- 1/2 cup grated/shredded parmesan cheese (buy a wedge of the good stuff, it’s worth it)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 3-5 cloves of garlic depending on your taste for it.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Pack the basil into a food processor, along with the cheese, pine nuts and the garlic which you have peeled and quartered. Add good drizzle of the olive oil, and pulse it about 5 times with the processor. You could probably do this by hand, but who the hell has time for something like that? After pulsing, gradually add the remainder of the olive oil while keeping the processor running. Don’t puree the hell out of it though; it shouldn’t be a homogenous paste. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and you’re done! I guarantee that after one taste of this, you will never again buy store bought pesto.
Transfer the pesto to a jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top to prevent oxidation.
Just a few suggestions for enjoying your pesto, because you will have a fair amount of it: mix it with fresh cooked pasta and any grilled meat or fish you like, spread it on slices of artisan bread and top with mozzarella before broiling, make a pan sauce with pesto, creams and white wine before adding sautéed mushrooms to go with chicken or pork chops, throw together some halved cherry tomatoes and small fresh mozzarella balls with farfalle pasta for a caprese pasta salad. Be creative with it!