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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Italian Bruschetta – Florence Cooking Class

Let me start off with Italy was awesome and everything I thought it was going to be! Let me next apologize for the delay in sending out my weekly blog. Last week I mentioned I wanted to travel light so I left my laptop at home. Well that would have all worked out fine and dandy had the airline Alitalia not understood the concept of how to cue lines and decided to sell my ticket plus several others to the people in the standby line versus us who were waiting 2½ hours in line to check in. So while being stranded another night in Italy sounds like a pretty cool place to be, I was less than thrilled or prepared for that matter. I got home last night around 10:30 versus Saturday night which had I been prepared I could have written my blog plus maybe a short novel with how much time I spent sitting in the airport. But enough about that, let’s get to why we are all here – YUMMY FOOD!

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I can say with some certainty that tomatoes, mozzarella and basil were the basis of pretty much every meal we ate, breakfast included. If it wasn’t a margarita pizza, it could have been caprese salad or bruschetta, or even in a sandwich form; the options were endless. We had the most amazing burrata ever. I want to learn how to make this; the Italian way of course.

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Caprese

A few interesting things we learned in the cooking class that I wanted to share. They like a specific bread for bruschetta, it is rustic and doesn’t have a lot of flavor so you taste nothing but the basil, tomatoes and garlic ahhhhhhh love or better yet Amare! When they use onions they do not add any garlic and vice versus. I definitely do not follow that rule; I add garlic to just about everything I make. This other is a huge no no with them but I can go either way with it. They take great offense to pineapple on pizzas. Not my first choice but I can deal.

Class Pizza - artichoke hearts OK
Class Pizza Abbi and I made – artichoke hearts OK

I would like to recommend to anyone traveling to Italy to take a cooking class. The one we took in Florence was jammed packed with history and information and yummy food. We met some very nice people and I am very happy we signed up.  We went with Taste Italy Food and Wine Tours. Oh yeah I haven’t even brought up all the wine we drank, I mean tried. First night walking around Rome we picked a restaurant randomly and ordered their bruschetta and a glass of wine. We ended up enjoying both so we ordered a margarita pizza and another glass of wine. Our waiter was SO disappointed in us, he told us next time we have to order the bottle of wine; it is less expensive that way. SO that is how the rest of the trip went.

Just sharing how adorable my daughter is
Just sharing how adorable my daughter is

Italian way to make bruschetta

3-4 ripe from the vine tomatoes chopped

Rustic bread sliced and toasted

1 Clove of garlic chopped (I personally would use 2-3)

Bunch of fresh basil ripped and chopped with the garlic

Extra Virgin Olive oil – the extra virgin means first press of the olives – we learned that in class

Black pepper

Salt

Toast bread dry, set aside. Chop several tomatoes and place in a bowl. Chop basil and garlic together add to the tomatoes, add about 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Only add salt when serving. Side note, they did say we could rub garlic on the toast if we wanted to.

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Burrata – Best I have ever had!

I don’t know how to make burrata just yet but I will learn and share, if you haven’t tried it or know what it is, it starts as mozzarella and ends with a creamy curd center mozzarella ball . I have had it before and liked it, now I LOVE it! I hope it’s not only awesome in Italy.

30 Minute Skillet Thin Crust Pizza

I got an email Monday morning asking if there was room at Clark Towers for the night. I had not taken anything out for dinner and wasn’t sure what I really wanted to make. I was going through what I had on hand and decided to try a new skillet thin crust pizza recipe I had been dying to try. I LOVE thin crust pizza and if I could make it quickly for dinner any night of the week, I HAD to check it out.

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The dough came together super easy and very quickly; with the help from my food processor. The simple toppings, if you keep them to a minimum, which you really should help make the crust stay crispy and keeps the time to a minimum.

You could make this any night of the week and look like a rock star. At least that was how I felt Monday night, or that could have been the wine talking.

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Toppings

4 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated

½ cup chopped fresh basil

Dough

1 cup AP flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

7 Tbs olive oil – divided

1/3 cup dark ale

Toppings – toss tomatoes in a bowl with the salt and let sit a few minutes; then transfer to a paper towel, let drain for 15 minutes. Mix cheese and basil in a bowl and set aside.

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Dough – process flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. With the processor running, slowly add 1 Tbs oil and beer, process just till dough pulls away from the sides.

Using floured hands, form into a ball, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough in quarters, roll each half into a very thin 8-9 inch round pizza on a lightly floured surface.

Heat 3 Tbs of oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Transfer 1 dough round to skillet and cook. Poking any bubbles that form with a fork until the bottom is golden brown and crisp 3-4 minutes; flip dough and sprinkle with half of the drained tomatoes and half of the cheeses.

Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until second side is crisp and cheeses have melted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, wipe out skillet and repeat.

Garlic Cream Sauce – this is for you KP

2 Tbs butter,

2 Tbs Flour

1 ½ cup milk or heavy cream whatever you have on hand

1 clove minced garlic

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in saute pan, add flour to make a roux, cook on low for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in cream add garlic and cheese simmer on low till thickened

Tip – as long as you keep the ingredients to a minimum per pizza and make sure like the tomatoes they are dried on a paper towel, you can add what you would like. We added sausage, and garlic cream sauce to some of our pizzas – Also the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and spend a week in the freezer if needed.

Lasagna throw down

Last weekend a girlfriends’ mother asked “would you like this magazine (all recipes) I won’t be making anything out of it” I generally grocery shop on Sunday’s; I take a look at my supermarket flyer, ask the guys what they might like and have a tentative weeks’ worth of meals planned before I head out.  I am pretty lucky that my family are willing to try anything at least once; or maybe they are the lucky ones that I love cooking new recipes. You never know when you will come across a winner and in some cases a dud.

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I took the magazine and immediately ripped out 6 recipes I would like to try. I ended up making 2 of them on Sunday 2 more by Wednesday.  A couple of them were definite keepers (Gumbo, Slow-Cooker BBQ Ribs), one was very good (Stuffed Peppers) but maybe not a weekly/monthly meal but I will be making them again. The last turned out to be a pretty sweet surprise for me.  It was dubbed “World’s Best Lasagna” I was very intrigued how this could be; I never had a formal recipe for the lasagna that I have been making for many many years. I followed this recipe and instructions exactly.  Since it makes a 9×13 inch dish I invited my in-laws over to share. The consensus was it was good, but they all liked mine better.  They said my lasagna had more of a bite than this one.  Everyone was in agreement that you could serve the “World’s Best” to just about anyone and they would all like it, it was a solid good lasagna.

OK not a real thrown down but 5 people voted mine better – might not count since they were all family but if you knew my family they will let you know if they like something or not. if you get my drift.

Here is my recipe – I only make a huge pan of it if we are having guests otherwise I use smaller dishes and freeze all but one that we cook up and eat for dinner with a nice salad and some yummy bread.

Package Sweet Italian Sausage casing removed and crumbled and cooked

2 jars’ of your favorite spaghetti sauce

Large yellow onion diced

4 cloves Garlic crushed

Olive Oil if needed

White wine

1TBS dried oregano

1TBS dried basil

1 TBS Garlic powder

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked Black Pepper

32 oz. Ricotta cheese

2 Eggs

2 TBS dried Parsley

1 ¾ Cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

2-3 Packages Mozzarella

1 Box no-bake Lasagna Noodles

The amounts above can all be adjusted to your taste

In a large stock pot cook the sausage to well done.  Remove and set aside; add the onions to the sausage oil and sauté until softened about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.  Add sauce, take the wine and swirl around the empty jars; add to the pot.  Add oregano, basil, garilc, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime mix the Ricotta, eggs, parsley and ¾ Cup parmesan cheese.  Once you have the above made you can decide if you want to make 1 9×13 pan OR 3 or 4 smaller one.   The layering is the same.  1/3 of the Sauce – Noodles slightly overlapping – Ricotta – Mozzarella – Parmesan cheese; repeat 3 times.  Cover with tinfoil and cook for 45 minutes, remove tinfoil and cook for another 45 minutes.

Not easy being green – why do veggies get such a bad rap

I am just as guilty as the next for steering clear of everything green growing up!  I was brought up in the era of having to sit at the table until my plate was cleared.  I see good and bad in this approach.  I still feel the need to finish my plate, which is bad for your waist line; good for making you try food that scares you.  I recall as a child placing peas along the underside rim of my plate in hopes that no one would notice.   The family dog wasn’t opposed to any veggie of any color; pretty sure because they don’t see color hmmmm.

I didn’t change my ways until my early 20’s and it has been ongoing challenge ever since.  I have been pretty successful over the years hiding things I dubbed yucky!  I can cut up an onion so small that it disappears in a soup love the flavor, didn’t like the texture – I don’t have to do this as much anymore.  Broccoli was hidden in stir fry or covered with cheese sauce.  Peas were usually covered with gravy mostly only in chicken pot pies.  Asparagus was always covered with hollandaise and just in the last 2 weeks I have been working on brussel sprouts.

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There is speculation that if you eat something 7-10 times you can train yourself to like it.  For the most part I do believe this.  I can now eat Peas, Asparagus and Broccoli without smothering them with anything.  Brussel sprouts are still a work in progress; I am only on try 4 but I haven’t given up hope yet.

Asparagus – we love (except my son) roasting or even grilling with just a little olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. We now have an asparagus patch in our garden
Peas – I only like frozen sweet peas – and they are a great tasting side as well as a punch of color – presentation, presentation, presentation.
Broccoli – great steamed or pan seared with some shallots, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. We have been growing broccoli for many years with great success – We harvest and freeze when we can’t keep up before it flowers.
Brussel Sprouts – we are still eating them with a gravy or sauce of some sort – we are working on it – these look cool but they won’t be making it into my garden anytime soon.

Pasta

1lb tube pasta such as rigatoni, (whole wheat works too)
2 cups frozen peas
3/4 cup pesto
2 handfuls argula
8 oz goat cheese

boil pasta (in salted water) according to the packages directions, at the last minute add the peas, drain and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine.  Add the arugula and toss. Cruble goat cheese on top and a grind of fresh crack black pepper.

*If you wanted to use this as a meal add some diced cooked chicken

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Basil Pesto

6 ounces fresh basil, stems removed, washed and patted dry
4 ounces pine nuts
5-6 garlic cloves (or 7-8 like I do)
2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup olive oil – more or less
kosher salt
fresh crack black pepper

Combine basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor or blender. Pulse until all combined and chopped. Add olive oil to desired consistency. Finish by pulsing in the parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste.