Monthly Archives: July 2011

Pesto, Hold the Cheese

I love pesto.

Each time I make pesto, it’s a new adventure. In days past (read: the days when cheese and dairy were a part of my regular life), I loaded my version up with tons of best-quality Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese.

My friend, Miss A, gets a regular delivery from a local farm with lots of lovely veggies and fruit. This past week, she announced that there were 6 bunches of fresh basil on offer, for just $1 a bunch. I jumped on that deal right away since pesto and summer go hand in hand in my book.

I stored the basil in the fridge for a day in a large bowl filled with water. The scent was evocative of Gran Fran’s kitchen. She used a regular blender to make pesto. I remember her stationed at our counter, wearing a kerchief on her head, an apron around her neck. She would bang and shake the blender as it did it’s thing, to ensure that all the ingredients would mix properly. It also created a great amount of noise, which Gran Fran is capable of with or without electrical appliances.

My dad bought her a food processor as a gift once, but it was promptly returned. Why? Her claim was that a food processor would cut one’s hand off, and lead to all manner of calamity for the cook. Have I mentioned that a world-class cook such as Gran Fran, refused (and continues to this day) to use real knives while cooking. She will go as far as a dull paring knife, but otherwise, depends on butter knives and sometimes an old serrated steak knife. Her fear of sharp implements has not, however, kept her from cooking up a storm.

My modern-day pesto consists of walnuts, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon and, of course, basil. I don’t miss the cheese, and hope you won’t either. Oh, and I used a food processor for the very first time for this recipe. It took me all of ten minutes to whip up three huge batches of pesto. And, I’d like to report back, I survived my food processor time with not a scratch upon me.

Pesto: Vegan-Style

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 bunches of basil, leaves separated from stems, stems discarded
  • 4 cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 1/2 cups walnuts (pine nuts or almonds work well here, too)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt (sea salt is real nice!)
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper to taste

Method:

  • Set up your food processor with the largest bowl you have and the metal chopping blade (looks like a fan blade).
  • Put basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice and salt in the bowl. You may need to do batches, depending on how large the bowl is
  • Process the mixture for 30 seconds, until the basil starts to get chopped into really small bits.
  • Through the feeder tube, start adding the olive oil, slowly, until the mixture reaches the consistency you prefer. To be honest, you may need a bit more than I recommend, based on how thick or thin you want the mixture to be.
  • Once you are satisfied with the consistency, remove pesto from the work bowl into a container that has an airtight lid.
  • Add pepper.
  • Before sealing the container, add a layer of olive oil to help preserve the green color of the pesto.

This recipe freezes well, for future pesto enjoyment.

Posted in basil, pesto, sauce, vegan, walnuts | Leave a comment

Winner, Chicken Dinner.

We ate lots of chicken growing up, but Gran Fran got hers from a butcher. A nice, old place, run by a bunch of (as I recall her saying) good looking German men. They’d always give me a mini hot dog while they got our order together.

The quality of the meat Gran Fran bought (and still does) raised all of us with the taste for only the best. She generally stuck to chicken breasts, sometimes legs if there was frying going on, or whole chickens for roasting.

As an adult, therefore, Chicken thighs were a revelation to me. I get the feeling that using Chicken thighs vs some fancier part of the chicken, ranked up there with buying inferior meat products, in Gran Fran’s world. Because the flavor and moistness of thighs is sooooo good, I am straying from the Gran Fran and using Chicken thighs a lot.

The recipe featured here only takes about 30 minutes to marinate, saute and then bake, so it’s an excellent weeknight meal. I made it for a friend, and served my daughter (remember Ms Iz?) some of the leftovers. Being somewhat cautious about sauces and flavors, I worried Ms Iz would not eat it. But, to my joy, she loved it and has asked me to make it again.

Goes to show, I should probably make the 12 year old eat more sauces….

Chicken Thighs with Oregano, Honey, Mustard and Lemon

  • 8 chicken thighs

  • 2 tbsps Honey

  • 1 tbsp Mustard

  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil, plus more for sauteeing

  • Juice of 1 Lemon

  • 2 cloves Garlic, sliced thinly

  • 1/4 tsp Dried Oregano

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • 1/4 cup White Wine or Dry Vermouth

Method
  • In a large non-reactive(!) bowl, place honey, mustard, olive oil, one half of the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. 

  • Stir until all ingredients are mixed well.

  • Add chicken thighs. Using your hands, thoroughly cover the chicken with the marinade.

  • Set aside for five minutes (if you have more time, you can let it sit for as long as you’d like).

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  • Once chicken has marinated for as long as you have, heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat.
  • Add oil when the pan is good and hot.
  • Place chicken thighs skin side down onto pan. Pour remaining marinade over chicken.
  • Do not disturb them for five to eight minutes, until you see the side of the skin curling up a bit.
  • Move thighs to one side of pan, add garlic slices and quickly turn over the thighs to rest on top of the garlic.
  • Squeeze remaining one half lemon juice over top of the chicken.
  • Remove pan from flame.
  • Add white wine or vermouth, trying to pour it underneath the chicken, so as to not soak the skin side.
  • Sprinkle oregano, salt and pepper over the chicken.
  • Place pan in preheated oven and bake for twelve more minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear.
Enjoy!



Posted in baked, chicken, chicken thighs, honey, honey mustard, oregano, roasted bone marrow, seared | Leave a comment

Slow Cooked Eggs….

Have I mentioned how much I love eggs? 
Well, I do, and I think I always have (Gran Fran can weigh in here and tell you all otherwise, though). 
I am especially intrigued by the slow cooked eggs I’ve had in Ramen. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at them for quite some time now. I just came across this recipe on Japanese Food Glossary, that looks simple enough.
I am going to try it and report back. But, I’m posting now, in case any of you friendly readers have tried slow cooking eggs (known as Onsen eggs in Japanese cooking).
Send me your comments, if you have any, I’m going to get started on this post haste!

Japanese Food Glossary Onsen Eggs
recipe from above site

  • Set fresh eggs in room temperature before cooking. Make sure eggs aren’t cold.
  • Before putting eggs, boil enough water to cover eggs in a thermal cooker pot, or thick pan or eathenware pot and remove the pot from the heat.
  • Add some cold water to make the temperature of the hot water about 167 degrees F.
  • Carefully place eggs in the hot water and cover the pot with a lid. If you are using a thermal cooker, place the pot in the cooker. If you aren’t using a thermal cooker, carefully wrap a thick towel around the pot to keep it warm.
  • Set aside for about 30 minutes in a warm room.
  • Remove cooked eggs by using a ladle to soak them in cold water, then crack into bowls and serve with broth or rice noodles.
Posted in gluten free, noodles, onsen eggs, slow cooked eggs | Leave a comment

Lettuce on the Grill??

I guess the idea first came to me when I was at a Korean BBQ restaurant. You grill your own food at your table (the one and only time Joe and Gran Fran joined me for this sort of dinner when we were finished, Joe asked “So, do we have to go in the back now and do the dishes, too.”)

If a fire breaks out (as it often does, due to the lovely sugar-laced marinade and fat dripping from the short ribs), they supply you with large romaine lettuce leaves to put the fire out. Never one to waste anything (especially if it’s covered in fat, char and delightful marinade), I ate some of the lettuce. It was almost as good as the short ribs.

Fast forward fifteen years (!) and my brother-in-law (FQ) and I were discussing a recipe for grilled radicchio that we saw in Gourmet Magazine (RIP). We tried it once, and then forgot about it.

Speed ahead, once more, to the present (well, July 4th) and I came up with a great idea for our grilled radicchio. I had two ears of corn, some shallots and a couple of other things, so we made a salad. My main man (CM) grilled up the radicchio, and in no time at all, we had a fantastic salad on our hands (er, our plates).

Grilled Radicchio Salad
Ingredients:

  • 1 head Radicchio
  • 1 large Shallot, minced
  • 2 ears Corn
  • 1 large Heirloom Tomato, chopped
  • 1 bunch Frisee, shredded
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Method:

  • Heat BBQ grill until super hot, but not smoking.
  • Cut up radicchio into chunks.
  • Pour olive oil over radicchio on toss to coat.
  • Place radicchio chunks on grill, grill on one side for two minutes, making sure flames don’t get too high.
  • Turn radicchio over, pouring remaining oil onto it. Cook for two more minutes, or until soft. 
  • Remove from heat, and chop into smaller pieces.
  • Take corn off the cobs, placing the loose kernels into a large bowl.
  • Add tomatoes, shallots and grilled radicchio to bowl. Toss, gently pulling the radicchio leaves apart.
  • Sprinkle shredded frisee on top of mix.
  • Finish with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Enjoy!!
Posted in corn, frisee, gluten free, grilled radicchio, radicchio, shallots, tomatoes, vegan, vegetarian | Leave a comment