Basil Garlic Pesto

This summer has been pretty rough on my gardens. I lost my peppers, eggplants and all but 2 cucumber plants. My squash plants have been flowering quite a bit but not producing like in years past. Not to say we haven’t been eating anything, we have some wonderful potatoes, carrots, beets and apparently I only know how to grow enormous cabbages; who knew!
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he one up side are my herbs; they are amazing this year so much so I think I need to do some research on how to start drying them. I’ve never attempted drying my own herbs; how hard can it be right? Stay tuned!
IMG_5393Basil being one of my favorite herbs but never really having great luck in growing it in abundance; until this year, this is the first time I didn’t have to pick up a package from the store in order to make my yummy pesto.
IMG_5375I had taken out of the freezer some bone in skin on chicken quarters the other day that I needed to cook up. I can’t express enough that a liberal amount of kosher salt and black pepper on both sides and baked in the oven for about 45 minutes on 400’F and you will have the most tasty piece of chicken that honestly doesn’t need anything else but to cover it with a little garlic basil pesto and ahhhhhhh a simple but glorious dinner. I used my trusty little vegetable swirler; I don’t even remember what it’s really called; but for about $20 a few years it is pretty cool!. A small diced up onion sauteing in a little olive oil and add your swirled veggies a little salt and pepper and in a quick 3-4 minutes you have a wonderful side.
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IMG_5392Basil Pesto

6 Ounces of washed and dried basil leaves, stems removed
4 Ounces of pine nut
6-8 Cloves of Garlic
2 Ounces of grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil – Salt and Pepper
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Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse to combine. Add olive oil until you get the consistency you like, finish by adding the Parmesan cheese a little salt and pepper pulsing until combined.  Enjoy with and/or on just about anything.

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Red Sangria – Simple & Delicious

So does anyone even remember what we did before we could google everything we needed to know? I know in my family if any of us have a discussion and happen disagree wink wink; someone immediately pulls out there phone and googles whatever we were discussing. I guess we must have been SO isolated with our knowledge back then? My husband has gone as far to dub the passenger seat in his truck the “google seat” basically meaning if he needs to know something the person sitting next to him needs to “google it”. 99% of the time it’s our son and I swear he is the fastest googler I know.
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I am fairly certain that I have mentioned in the past how I google myself for my recipes all the time.  The other day I wanted to make a batch of Sangria and recall writing a blog about it.  So I type cookingatclarktowers/sangria and it popped up but the recipe, story and pictures were all gone – sad face! I then had to try to recreate it because I KNOW its good; I have had and have also made some that I just didn’t care for. Not all Sangria is created equal. Thankfully this is a recipe that is a super easy and the best one I have ever had. Bonus is you can drink it right away ever come across one that wanted you to wait 24 hours “to meld” umm no thank you!
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Red Sangria

1 bottle of inexpensive red wine – you still want it to taste good
1 bottle of Lemonade (equal size of the wine bottle plus another cup or so)
Plum Brandy – 1 shot or use one of your favorites
Grand Mariner – 1 shot – no need to buy a large bottle – buy a nip?
Apple – peeled and diced
Orange – peeled and sliced
Lemon – sliced
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In a large enough container combine all the ingredients – I fill to the top of my pitcher with more lemonade add some ice and serve

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I had some leftover blueberries – so I added those too!

Sauteed Scallops & Swiss Chard

I have been craving scallops lately; when I order them out I love them fried; when I make them at home I tend to always sear them.  They take no time at all to cook so this could be a wonderful quick weeknight meal. Even though I made them; I still want to go out for some crispy, tender, juicy fried scallops. They are just plain delicate and delicious!
IMG_5359My husband has taken over the task from my son who is now living with his girlfriend; of asking me “what are we having for dinner?” When I said sauteed scallops & Swiss chard over rice. His face lit up and said Risotto? Well I was thinking wild rice but we haven’t had risotto in quite awhile so why not? Now I can tell you why not; since scallops are on the lighter side for flavor the heavy Parmesan flavored risotto overpowered my sauteed scallops.  Not to say dinner was a disaster; it was absolutely delicious and I would make it again, but with either a wild rice or jasmine or even a basmati rice. IMG_5355

Ingredients

Scallops – I buy by the quantity I want to serve each person plus a couple of tasting
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 small shallot, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon butter

Directions

In a large nonstick fry pan over medium heat, add a couple of swirls of the olive oil. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper. Saute until just softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm
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Scallops; remove muscle, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. In the same pan over medium high heat and another swirl of olive oil. Add the scallops and cook; without moving so they get nice and browned; after 3 or so minutes turning once to finish cooking. They are done with they are still springy to the touch and no longer translucent. Approximately 3 minutes on each side. Transfer scallops to a plate and keep warm.
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Add another swirl of olive oil and saute the shallots till they are softened a couple of minutes. Add wine and boil until it’s almost evaporated. Stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add the broth, lemon juice, mustard and the thyme. Boil until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, add the butter and stir till melted. Season with salt and pepper.


Place a spoon or two of rice on a plate or in a bowl; top with the chard and then arrange the scallops on top and then spoon the sauce over it.
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Caramel Salted Nuts

Did I get you at Caramel? Salt? or the Nuts? I am going to apologize up front for sharing this with all of you, they are sinfully delightful! If you choose to make them; you will not be disappointed. I seem to have a problem with taking something somewhat good for you; the nuts; and adding a little more love; the salt and the caramel to bring it another level.
IMG_5364I have made this 3 times in the last couple of weeks. While that may sound like we have gone overboard on eating caramel salted nuts; we only got to eat 2 of the batches. I am not sure if I ever mentioned my crazy dog. I call him my ungrateful rescue; he has a severe case of separation anxiety and he only does this out of spite; he really has NO idea how good he has it. I am fairly certain that most would have given him up with all his shenanigans. Destroying shoes, clothes, stairs, doors to name a few. He has also been known to counter surf on occasion;  yep he found the sealed container of nuts on the counter, took them into the den and ate ALL of them. Thankfully there were no adverse effects to his digestive system. I wonder if he even enjoyed them?
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I do need to share that he does have some good quality’s as well; you will never find a more cuddly animal. He is most happy when sitting near or better ON you. And if we could all be so lucky that someone; anyone be SO excited when you walk into a door.
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If you have never made caramel before; it really isn’t that hard. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Firstly it is VERY hot so don’t get any on you. Secondly stir it once and then leave it alone. You can swirl the pan but let the heat do the work and you will be rewarded in kind.

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Nuts
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of pecans
1 cup of cashews
1 cup of walnuts

On a sheet pan place in a 350’F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Just enough to barely brown them. Let them cool.
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Caramel
¼ cup water
1 ½ cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a sauce pan place the sugar and water stir to combine and then let it be. You can swirl the pan a few times until it starts to brown. It will continue to brown so don’t take it too far. Remove it from the heat and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

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While the caramel is still hot add the nuts and salt into the saucepan. Working quickly spread the nut mixture onto the same sheet pan with either parchment or Silpat. Flatten out with a couple of forks the best you can. Once cooled and hardened break apart and enjoy!

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Recipe by Ina Garten  

Weeknight Beef Tenderloin and Veggies

Summer months around here can sometimes be hectic as I am sure most of yours can be as well. Last night I spent 3 hours weeding my garden beds. That sounds like I should have a HUGE garden; well I actually have technically 6 raised beds of various sizes; they are all pretty large with one; the one I like the least being huge. It’s not my favorite because I can’t sit on the side and reach for the weeds like my others; I have to walk into it avoiding all the plants to get all the weeds. I am definitely spoiled with my other beds and I like it. Because life is busy I don’t spend every day out there, I tend to weed 3 or 4 times throughout the season and literally pick EVERY weed out of each bed; which is why it takes me so long.
IMG_5320Anyway when life is busy it’s really nice to have a quick painless meal in your back pocket. There is no take-out delivery service in my area so I tend to cook most nights. I am fairly certain that even if there were I would still cook more since I love making something delicious and using up what I have in the fridge and pantry.
IMG_5314One dish meals are wonderful on so many levels, they go together quite quickly, there is  less mess, less clean up and usually they have the opportunity to meld all of their flavors together creating a quite cohesive dish. Plus I really like the quicker clean up. I would like to say that I don’t have to clean the kitchen since I am the one making dinner; but more times than not, I end up getting back in the kitchen to clean it more of the way I like it. The fam may do the dishes but I actually clean all the surfaces so it’s ready for the next time I want to create something yummy.
IMG_5316I had picked up one of those packages of pre-seasoned beef tenderloins to have on hand when we had all the family around a couple of weeks ago. I know they tend to have too much sodium in them, but they do serve their purpose and once in awhile is OK with me. This is a peel, chop and dump kind of recipe. Believe it or not I do not have a small rack that fits in any of my 9 x 13 pans crazy I know right? So this is when your sides become the rack for you. Peel some potatoes and veggies along with some onions for added flavor a little olive oil, salt and pepper and some fresh herbs like rosemary YUM!

Potatoes – chopped
Carrots – chopped
Onions – sliced
Fresh rosemary – chopped
Beef Tenderloin
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Spray or oil your dish, chop the onions and veggies and add them to your dish, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and the rosemary. Using your hands, or spoon to mix everything up together. Then place your tenderloin over the veggies. Cook not covered for 30-50 minutes depending on the size of the meat. Remove the meat when it is done and put the veggies back in the oven while the meat rests, another 10 minutes. Take out an enjoy!

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16 Bean Soup – pasta e fagioli

Last weekend my daughter and I were binge watching some Ina Garten episodes and we have already made 3 of the recipes. She is my favorite “I can make that” person to watch.  I have on numerous occasions watched an episode and then my mind starts racing to my fridge/freezer and pantry to see if I have everything so I can make it when I’m finished watching.

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They look beautiful; before they were cooked

The one I want to share with you today I had to go to the store for 16 bean soup mix I know a few of my close friends that read my blog are going to ask me what the heck is fagioli it is simply pasta and beans. I want to share with you a couple of my thought processes; just to proving once again that that I can be a total nerd!  First thought; it was a passing thought – don’t judge me “16 beans, you have to buy 16 different bags of beans to make a soup, that’s going to be HUGE?” OK there must be a 16 bean mixture you can buy.  I get to the store and I see 15 bean mixtures; another passing thought Oh Sure Ina’s store gets 16 beans; my store only gets to 15 whatever so a few bags away there it is a 16 bean mixture bag of beans. I’ve been to this area of my store numerous times and never even noticed them there.

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So I had everything else I needed but should I actually make a hot soup when we are having a heat wave this week? The quick answer is yes I really wanted to make it as it looked awesome! Result the fam loved it and I will most definitely be making it again. I also have to share that there was one bean that kinda scared me, the fava bean was HUGE so I made sure that when I pulled out the portion to smash; to thicken the soup I made sure they were in that pile. I’m such a baby!
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Pasta E Fagioli

1 bag of 16 bean soup mix – (Goya)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package 6 ounces pancetta diced
1 large onion diced
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
4+ chicken stock
kosher salt & black pepper
1 cup miniature pasta – Ditalini
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 table spoon red wine vinegar
a few fresh basil leaves – julienned


Directions
you’ll need to soak the beans the day before. In a large bowl cover the beans and add an extra 2 inches above; cover and place in the fridge. Day 2 drain the beans and rinse under cold water.  Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about an hour.  If needed skim off any foam and toss.
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In a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat add the pancetta and onion, saute till browned, roughly 12-18 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, saute another minute. Add the tomatoes, wine and 4 cups of stock. 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon black pepper. Remove from the heat

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as I said, they were very colorful before being cooked

To thicken the soup a little drain the beans and add two thirds of them to the soup. Put the rest of them through a food mill or like to mash them. If you used the food mill discard the skins. Stir the bean puree and the pasta into the soup. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally; until the pasta is tender. If the soup is too thick add more chicken stock till you get the consistency you like. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the red wine vinegar. Serve with a swirl of olive oil, a little more parmesan cheese and some basil.

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Recipe from Ina Garten – Food Network

 

Fresh Raspberry and Lime Scones

The party we threw last weekend was a complete success! Minus the pop up thunderstorm and whipping winds about an hour before it was to start and the power outage that lasted a couple of hours in the beginning. We contemplated postponing it a day but in the end figured it was best to move ahead with our plans. We had spent the day before prepping most everything we could and the rest we would make due with the BBQ and stove top.
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The BBQ shrimp I wrote about last week was loved by all; actually all the food was so good that most of it went that day. There were a few ingredients that needed to be cooked up so since there were a few people here the next day so I held a small impromptu luncheon out by the grill. When you buy ingredients for a large or even small party there are always seems to be some leftover ingredients. I froze the leftover meat and we have been snacking on a few of the other leftovers but I had some fresh raspberries and a bag of limes that I wanted to address.
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In searching for what to do with them; I came across a scone recipe that sounded intriguing to me. I was curious how a cup of juicy raspberries would be in a dough. My daughter even made a comment that she thought they would make the dough too wet.  Well it was a little more wet that other scones I have made but the result was quite pleasant. The sweet raspberry and tart of the lime play very well together. I still have some limes leftover so I might be writing about something else made with limes soon.

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The wetness made them hard for me to keep them in perfect triangles

 

Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoon sugar
zest of 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 cup heavy cream – I used half and half which is what I had on hand
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh raspberries

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
juice of 1 lime

IMG_5303Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, lime zest and salt. Cut in the butter, using your hands, or a pastry blender. Mix just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Mix 1 cup of heavy cream with lime juice and pour over the ingredients. Stir with a spatula until dough begins to form. Careful not to over mix. Gently fold in raspberries, they will smash a bit and turn the dough a little pink but it does not affect the flavor.
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Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead by hand just until it forms a ball. Form scones by patting the dough into a 3/4-inch thick circle. Cut into 8 even triangles.

Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until scones are light brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Make the lime glaze in a small bowl while the scones are cooling. Whisk together powdered sugar, heavy cream or milk, lime zest and juice. Whisk until you reach desired consistency. Drizzle glaze over the scones.

recipe adapted from website Angean