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Posts from the ‘Herbs and Florals’ Category

DLW: Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil


I have been obsessed with white beans as of late.  No explanation…I just want them, all the time.  Also, tuna.  No idea why.

Luckily, Smitten Kitchen delivered and we whipped up this dish for dinner last week.  She mentioned that it makes enough to feed a couple starving armies…so we halved the recipe and still had plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week!

Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil

½ medium onion, cut into big chunks
½ medium carrot, in big chunks
½ celery stalk, in big chunks
3 garlic cloves, 2 left whole, 1 finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
½ pound short tube pasta we used Ditalini
½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add beans and 2 more cups of water to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.

Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.

To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each.

Next time we make this, we will wait until the very end to add in most of the beans as we found that we liked them a bit toothier and less mushy.  And please, don’t underestimate how critical the garlic rosemary oil is at the end.  I would even recommend making more of the oil for leftovers and dredging some crusty bread through it.

This is a great vegetarian hearty and filling dish despite looking a little bland.  Who knows, next time I might go crazy and throw some lightly dressed arugula on top!

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi


With record-breaking snowstorms back east, and some 35ºF mornings here…I’ve been in the mood for comfort food.  Spaghetti and meatballs has not been a go-to meal for me…probably because I don’t like spaghetti.  This, in and of itself seems silly…since pasta is pasta…but shapes make a rather large difference.

My problems with spaghetti start with the messy factor…I would like the sauce in my mouth and not splattered on my chin.  Also…I think the pasta shape should mirror the shape of whatever else is in the dish…and meatballs do not look like spaghetti.  Then there’s the fork issue…it seems like eating spaghetti with a fork should come with instructions like using chopsticks in a japanese restaurant – step 1: take a deep breath and prepare to stab your fork into the pile of innocent long thin noodles; step 2: Twist fork in circles with tines braced against the bottom of the dish until an appropriate bite-size amount of noodles are twirled around; step 3: Lift fork without noodles sliding, falling or unraveling off of the fork and insert into mouth; step 4: chew spaghetti and meatball bite and savor each delicious morsel…oh wait…you forgot the meatball.  See?  It’s complicated.

Let me simplify.  Don’t use spaghetti when you are making spaghetti and meatballs!

I based this recipe loosely on Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs & Spaghetti from her Family Style cookbook.  I halved the recipe for the meatballs as I only had 1 lb. of ground beef in the house, but made the full recipe for the sauce.  I deem it a very successful recipe and know that it will become a favorite!  (just my humble opinion)  :)

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi

Makes 10 golf-ball-size meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1½-2 tbsp of whole milk
¼ cup of minced onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 heavy tsp. of ketchup
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup of warm water
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 large shallot, chopped
1½ tsp. minced garlic
½ cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. of dried Italian herbs (like Penzey’s)
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, onion, garlic, ketchup into a bowl together.  Beat the egg and add the 1/4 cup of water and beat together a bit more.

Pour the egg/water mixture over the top of the beef et al., and mix together with your hands.  Mix gently and not for very long.  Overworking the mixture will cause the meatballs to be tough.  Once I get a sense of the consistency of the meat mixture, here’s where I decide how much of the milk I will add.  I used about 2 tablespoons of whole milk.  It’s a judgement call…not enough moisture or fat…and the meatballs will be dry…too much and they can fall apart or end up spongy.  Roll the mixture into balls…size is up to you…I went with golf-ball size…assuming two meatballs per person for portion size.

Heat olive and vegetable oil together in a pan on the stove top and place the meatballs in gently, making sure to not crowd them.  It’s better to cook them in batches than to squeeze them all in.  You want the meatballs to brown, not to steam.

Place the pan in the 400° oven for 25 minutes (less if they are smaller).  After 25 minutes, pull them out and give each meatball a turn, turn the oven up to 450° and then put them back in to brown a bit more for about 5 minutes.

Once browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Place the pan back on a burner…being highly aware that the pan is hotter than the sun…so don’t touch the handle!  I like to rest a hotpad on the handle as a reminder since I have a (small) history of burning myself when I ought to know better!

Now that you’ve got your pan back on the heat, pour in the tablespoon of olive oil and heat a bit before adding the chopped shallot and onion.  Cook until the onion and shallot are translucent, probably about 5 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so.  While the onions were sautéing, I prepped my tomatoes.  I had a can of whole peeled tomatoes and I wanted them chopped…so I pull them out, gave them a rough chop, making sure not to lose any of their juice and put them back in the can, ready for use.

Next pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all the delicious bits stuck on the pan from the meatballs and the onions.

Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and all of their liquid.

And it’s also time to add in the parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and the dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Let the sauce come together for 10 minutes or so, before adding the meatballs back in and cooking for another 10-20 minutes.  The timing really depends on how quickly you want dinner on the table…as long as the meatballs are cooked through and warmed back up…you are good to go!

Serve over freshly cooked al dente cavatappi (we used De Cecco brand) and top with a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan and some minced parsley.  This goes amazingly well with a buttery slice of garlic bread! Just saying!

Buon Appetito!

(but seriously…am I alone in my lack of love for spaghetti…?)

Sous Vide Turkey Breast (or Thanksgiving…Round Two!)


We had a wonderful thanksgiving…including our four cranberry sauces…with 15 friends at 3 different houses.  The evening was wonderful and the food delectable including two different turkeys (one smoked) and incredible sides and of course dessert!  Apparently, that just wasn’t enough for us.  Since we had quite a bit of cranberry sauce left…we decided to do Round Two (downsized a bit!) on Sunday.

First…let’s give credit where credit is due…

This is our official Thanksgiving feast.  Complete with turkey, brussels sprouts, beets, green beans, salad, two gravies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, four cranberry sauces and of course, stuffing.  My plate looked like this…

I may have overdone it…but that is what thanksgiving is for!

Now for round two!

We purchased a (fairly) reasonably sized bone-in, skin-on turkey breast to sous vide.

We dried it off, seasoned it well with salt and pepper, placed it in a vacuum bag, added a few pats of butter and a bunch of fresh thyme, and sealed it up.

Before getting started, we turned on our thermal-immersion circulator to get it up to the temperature that we wanted – 149º F.  Once it was ready, we dropped the turkey in and set a timer for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

We were so taken by the stuffing that our friend Paul made…we just had to remake it.  I may have mentioned in the past my issue with soggy foods – and stuffing generally falls into this category…however, I had trouble resisting this one…it has green olives!  Let me repeat…it has GREEN OLIVES!  What’s not to love!  We had  no trouble finding the recipe since it was in one of the recent Bon Appétit and is all over the internet!  Since we followed the recipe exactly (making only a half batch), I won’t write out the entire recipe here…all you need to know is that it’s called Italian Mother-in-Law Dressing and is very good!

I cooked up some chard, then onions, dried out some bread, chopped some olives, toasted some pine nuts and tossed it altogether with some rosemary and thyme!

We had one lonely sweet potato on hand, so I diced it up, steamed it a bit and then added some butter and fresh thyme.

The stuffing went into a buttered casserole dish and had the final broth and egg mixture drizzled over the top before getting covered and placed into the oven.

Cleo tends to be very interested in what we’re doing in the kitchen and has become quite bold as of late and thinks this perch on the couch is just perfect for her.  I’m not sure I agree!

Apparently I did not take any photos…but we also had some mashed potatoes cooking.  Rather than mashing, we used a food mill that was handed down from my parents.  I’ll be honest, it has been a while since I have made mashed potatoes that good!  They were so smooth and of course, it doesn’t hurt that they are really just a vessel for butter, cream and salt!

Two and a half hours later, we pulled the turkey out of the water bath.

Once you open the bag, discard the thyme and remove the skin (we saved this and cooked it up a day or two later…it crisped up nicely!).  Once the breast was removed from the bone, I cut slices and drooled a bit.

We set the table and opened a lovely rosé from Frog’s Leap that we purchased on a visit in April to Napa.

And then it was time to plate it up…oh, we also had gravy…and don’t worry…all four cranberry sauces were on the table ready to be enjoyed!

The turkey was very moist, tender and flavorful.  Until we are serving more than just two of us at our house…the sous vide option is just too easy and dependable to not do.  This is definitely just the first of many sous vided turkey options!

Oh…I almost forgot.  Let’s discuss cranberry sauces!  I personally loved the chutney.  I think it has found a way into my recipe box for future thanksgivings…it is savory and a little different while still maintaining that tart flavor that you want from your cranberry sauce.

At our feast, the chutney and the raw orange relish (a Connelly family recipe) were the favorites.  The standard cranberry sauce (another Connelly family recipe – Thanks Dad!) also had its followers.   But I have to say, I know the Mama Stamberg’s recipe is beloved by many an NPR listener, but it was just not a hit.  Perhaps there were too many options!

I hope you all enjoyed an abundant Thanksgiving and were surrounded by friends and family.  Anyone else have more than one thanksgiving?

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake


Prompted to bring a dessert over to a friend’s house for a small potluck dinner, I began scheming to find a dessert that was not overly sweet, involved a bundt pan (the husband’s been asking for of a bundt-something-or-other), and brought out the best of late summer (no pumpkin or other quintessential fall ingredients involved).

Thank you Interwebs…and Martha Stewart!

I stumbled upon her recipe for Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake and it seemed perfect!  A buttery, citrus cake with the added brightness of ginger.  I am definitely adding this one to my recipe box, it was quick, a bit intriguing with the crystallized ginger and had just the right amount of sweetness.  Don’t you just hate it when Martha is…well, Martha?

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake (via marthastewart.com)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.
  2. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and sour cream in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil). Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. (To store, wrap cake in plastic, and keep at room temperature, up to 3 days.) Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

As previously mentioned, we carted this bundt over to our friends and let it cool a bit more before dusting with powdered sugar (as Martha suggests), and unfortunately ended up with no pictures of the sliced cake as it disappeared quite quickly.

I just love how bundt cakes get that lovely dark crust on the outside and hide their fluffy cake texture inside.  I think I’ll be making this again soon!

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good


No…really…this is nothing more and nothing less than a small pumpkin stuffed with everything good!  As it is the first day (FINALLY) of fall weather here (actual rain is falling as I type), I will take a brief break from my tomato and corn obsession.

I am not the first to plaster this recipe on a blog…and I certainly won’t be the last.  This is surely a recipe that will span the test of time…and on the interwebs, that is not something to take lightly.  Take Pinterest for example; it is chock-full of seasonal sweets that utilize cookie dough, a popular candy bar and for good measure, some marshmallow fluff (examples found here, here and here).  Admittedly, my sweet tooth prefers understated, almost savory desserts (I’m not calling myself objective here!) and while these recipes have a purpose (bake-sales, holiday parties, novelty, etc.), our grandmothers would not recognize them from their recipe repertoire.  They are trends.  They may, in fact, even taste good…but they are not staples and certainly not classics.  I’m sure many out there disagree with me and that is fine…as I firmly believe that it takes all kinds.  This recipe is a classic for so many reasons – it is more an idea than a recipe, it is flexible, it is seasonal and does not waste any bits, it can be made up of leftovers and pantry items or each ingredient bought for its specific purpose, it is cheap and can serve a crowd.  For these reasons and many more, it has a place in my recipe box.  A quick google search will prove this true for many others.

The recipe is available all over the web, however I’ve posted it here is taken directly from Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table.  This dish epitomizes a perfect change of seasons dish…still emphasizing the freshness of squash while the filling is casserole and stuffing all wrapped into one.  Serve it with a crisp salad lightly dressed earlier in the fall or with some seared chicken sausages when a chill in the air is familiar and calls for heartier meals.

  • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
  • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment.

Cut the top off of the pumpkin and scrape any seeds and strings from the lid, do the same to the inside of the pumpkin.  Once it is cleaned to your satisfaction, liberally season the inside of the pumpkin with kosher salt and pepper, you can also drizzle a little bit of olive oil in there as well, but it doesn’t absolutely need it.  Place it on the parchment on the baking sheet.

Toss all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl (bread, cheese, garlic, onion, bacon, and herbs).  I had some kale on hand, so I chopped it up and tossed that in as well.  Season the mixtures with fresh ground pepper and some additional salt being careful not to over-salt as the cheese and bacon are already a bit salty.

Pack the mixture into the pumpkin…make sure it is filled!  We ended up with enough stuffing for an entire additional casserole dish which we buttered before adding the stuffing.

Mix the cream together with the nutmeg and of course, season with salt and pepper and then pour it over the stuffing into the pumpkin.

The cream provides the majority of the moisture for the stuffing, so don’t skimp…but your stuffing should not be swimming in the cream either.

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  It was so cute, I could hardly stand it!

 

Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

I cut wedges and plated it with a lightly dressed salad the included some microgreens from Trader Joe’s.

The stuffing itself is delicious, but with a scoop of the tender pumpkin flesh, it is *literally* a perfect fall dinner.  I’ve got so many ideas of what to stuff a little pumpkin with…sausage, wild rice, apples, linguiza, chestnuts, the list is endless!  What would you stuff your pumpkin with?

It is wonderfully chilly outside now, but I need to temper my excitement for fall as the forecast is calling for 90’s next week.  Look for yet another post containing corn or tomatoes…or both.

 

 

Roasted Corn Cakes with Tomato Avocado Salsa


I know that it is now, technically, October…however, Los Angeles is not behaving that way and therefore I feel completely justified cooking like it is still seriously summer…as in triple digits!  Also…I wasn’t joking when I said we have been on a serious corn and tomato kick – and this recipe uses both!

I first stumbled on this recipe through Pinterest (you can follow @lizfisch) and then I happened to have everything in the house to whip up a batch.  The best part is that the source of the pin is easy to find.  Thanks to EzraPoundCake for posting the recipe, which actually comes from “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen“.  I made a few changes to the recipe from EzraPoundCake, including roasting the corn before shucking and not adding any jalapeno peppers (didn’t have any on hand…and as previously discussed…I can’t take the heat!) to the tomato salsa.

Corn Cakes

3 ears of corn, shucked and roasted
1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup thinly sliced basil
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Canola oil for frying
Chopped Tomato & Avocado Salsa (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a brown paper bag or paper towels.
Cut the corn from the cobs into a large bowl, and scrape the stripped cobs with the back of the knife (or a spoon) to release the juices into the bowl.

I find the easiest way to do this is to set a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and use the smaller bowl as the base for the cob.  The kernels tend to fly all over the place as you are cutting them off and you can maximize the stability of the cob while also catching the majority of the kernels.

Place 2 cups of the corn kernels into a food processor, and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly puréed but still chunky.

Scrape into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels.  Add flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix.

Add the eggs, buttermilk and butter, and stir just to combine. (Do not overmix.)


Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough canola oil to barely cover the bottom, and heat until sizzling hot.

One heaping tablespoon at a time, scoop the batter into the skillet. Cooking in batches of 4 to 5 to avoid overcrowding, fry the cakes 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.


Drain on the lined baking sheet, and place in the oven to keep warm while cooking the remaining corn cakes. Serve warm topped with a heap of Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa.

Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

1-2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 scallion, minced and trimmed
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of ½ lime
1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tsp. white wine vinegar
kosher or sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

Place all of the ingredients (except the avocado) in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days.

Just before serving, add the avocado, and mix gently.

Once you’ve got everything ready to go, stack two corn cakes on a plate and top with salsa, garnish with more of the freshly chopped herbs, sliced scallions or minced red onion…any or all of them will do.

Anyone still hanging onto summer favorites out there?  Anyone…?  Bueller…?

Okay, I’ll make a promise…I’ll move on to fall dishes, as soon as the LA cools off a bit…I’m not asking for much…let’s say, highs in the 70’s?  Until then, I consider it summer!

Deal!

 

 

Fast & Fresh (no-cook) Tomato Sauce with Pasta


We are hitting the end of the summer produce season, and I am guessing that a few of you out there have already felt the first hints of fall with some crisp mornings, the sun setting a bit earlier and of course the changing of routines with the commencing of school and shifting away from the relaxed days of summer work.

I am in denial about this particular change of seasons and refuse to shift my culinary tastes quite yet.

The end of summer typically also means a surplus of a few items…the most famous of which are zucchini and of course, tomatoes!

This dish is the answer to an overabundance of tomatoes and a seeming under-abundance of time.

3-4 medium/large tomatoes (or equivalent of cherry tomatoes, roma’s etc.)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
2-3 tbsp.’s of olive oil (more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of fresh pasta (refrigerated – like Buitoni or similar brands)
parmesan cheese to garnish

  1. Chop tomatoes into roughly the same size chunks – I quartered the cherry tomatoes and used that as a size guide for cutting up the larger tomatoes.  Put all the chopped tomatoes into a bowl and include all the tomato juice and liquid that leaked out during the chopping.
  2. Chop or mince the garlic – the smaller the pieces, the more pungent the garlic flavor will be.
  3. Julienne the basil leaves, leaving a few whole for the final garnish.
  4. Add the basil, garlic and the dried oregano to the tomatoes and liberally salt and pepper the mixture.
  5. Drizzle the olive oil over the mixture and stir gently to combine and let the flavors start to marry.

Resist the urge to eat this by the spoonful!

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Once the pasta has drained, put it back into the pot and dump in the tomato mixture and mix the two together.  This is a good time to add a bit more olive oil and salt.  Remember to always season dishes as you are cooking, and taste it along the way.

Serve up the pasta into bowls and top with grated parmesan and a few leaves of basil.  A slice or two of crusty bread is a nice accompaniment to help sop up all the garlicky tomato essence.  This dish is best enjoyed al fresco even if you have to throw on a heavy sweater and long pants to keep warm!  :)

Do you have dishes that act as a protest to seasonal change?  A culinary equivalent of indian summer?  What are your favorite recipes to utilize all of those late summer vegetables that seem to grow exponentially quicker as the days of summer ween?

Fresh Corn & Parmesan Pesto with Fettucine


I don’t know about you…but, I measure my summer in corn and tomatoes.  Looking through recent photos…I’ve gone a little heavy on the corn as of late.  I was flipping through a cookbook at my parents and this recipe for Corn and Parmesan Pesto with Tagliatelle immediately caught my eye!  Fresh pasta with a fresh corn pesto topped accented with a little bacon and fresh basil just screamed SUMMER to me!  I had to make it and make it, I did.

The book is The Farm: rustic recipes for a year of incredible food by Ian Knauer, and after making this dish and drooling over the photos throughout…it is definitely on my cookbook wish-list!  He also happens to have a blog as I found out while researching a bit and I have now bookmarked this recipe (dare I try yet another buttermilk panna cotta?) as well as this one for future endeavors.

I don’t know why I had not thought of corn pesto before…but it will for sure have a place in my summer repertoire from now on!  Hmmm…I wonder what other types of pesto I could make?  Mushroom pesto…what about a zucchini and summer squash pesto…?

The recipe (courtesy of Ian Knauer) is shown below and includes a few adaptations I made…adding bacon and scallions and using store-bought fresh fettucine pasta.

Ingredients:
3 tbsp.’s plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and black pepper
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
8 ounces of tagliatelle or fettucine
5-7 strips of thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
3-4 scallions, green and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¾ cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmer.  Add the corn, onion, garlic, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, and ¾teaspoon pepper and sauté until the corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes.
  2. Transfer 1½ cups of the corn kernels to a small bowl.  Scrape the remaining corn mixture into a food processor.  Add the parmesan and the toasted pine nuts.  With the machine running, add the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and blend until the pesto is almost smooth.
  3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, according to package directions until al dente.  Reserve 1½ cups of the pasta-cooking water, then drain the pasta.  Return the pasta to the pot.
  4. Add the corn pesto, the reserved corn mixture and ½ cup of the basil leaves as well as the crumbled crispy bacon.
  5. Toss the pasta over medium heat until warmed through, adding the reserved pasta-cooking water to thin to the desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes.  Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer the pasta to a large shallow bowl.  Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup basil leaves and the sliced scallions and serve with additional grated parmesan.

I doubled the recipe as I was feeding a crowd, and having leftover bacon (what a phenomenom…leftover…bacon…?) from breakfast, I couldn’t resist adding it to the dish.  I think the smoky bacon flavor countered the sweetness of the corn, the bite of the onions and the freshness of the basil really nicely.

Are you a corn purist?  Eating it straight up on the cob with melted butter and salt…or do you prefer your corn as kernels and mixed in and amongst other ingredients?

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Shaved Baby Zucchini & Toasted Pepitas


When someone utters the words “…this is the best thing we’ve made…ever!”  ’nuff said.

Squash blossoms are available for only a short period of time in the summer and are the epitome of ‘seasonal’.  They are typically picked in the morning and brought to the farmer’s market that day and are best used within a couple of hours.  This dish is perfectly simple and refreshingly light without being short on flavor.

I spotted the original recipe on epicurious as we were walking through the farmer’s market trying to solidify our dinner plans.  Our modified recipe is shown below.

Besides squash blossoms, in looking for shallots, we stumbled upon green shallots, which I don’t believe I’ve used before.  I am positive the dish would have been delightful with regular, good ‘ole shallots…but I believe the green shallots made it just a touch more special!

Let’s talk tomatoes!  Tomatoes in the summer are serious business.  It is not summer without tomatoes that need nothing other than to be plucked from the vine and tossed in one’s mouth and with a tiny squeeze of the jaw burst forth with flavor and juice.  These miniature (sometimes referred to as Sweet 100’s) citrusy orange delights would have been so offended had we tried to cook them…they would have sprouted legs and walked right out of the kitchen (original recipe called for roasting the tomatoes).

I am often made fun of for appreciating things that come in small proportions (read: I love anything that is small or comes in a miniature size).  Prime examples of such behavior: I refuse to use anything other than the mini-taster spoons when eating ice cream from a shop; we shouldn’t even talk about the number of small bowls that crowd my cupboards; and I am addicted to small notepads and mini-books and have recently discovered some half-size mechanical pencils; so my love for baby vegetables should not surprise anyone!

How can you resist these little guys!?!

Make sure to roast the pepitas, the nuttiness and the crunch are very important for the final dish!

For squash blossoms

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 oz mild fresh goat cheese (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted until they puff
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 male squash blossoms with stems (not with baby zucchini), stems trimmed to 1 inch

Filling:

Stir together goat cheese, cream, pumpkin seeds, basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Pipe filling into each blossom and twist ends of petals gently to close.  We used a ziplock bag and cut off the tip to pipe the filling into the squash blossoms.  Chill them covered, until ready to fry.

*We realized that we should have made the mixture immediately upon returning from the farmer’s market and filled the blossoms as soon as possible as the flowers were open when we bought them and closed up tighter and tighter as the day went on making it more difficult to fill them later on without ripping the delicate petals.

For vinaigrette and shaved squash

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon minced green shallots
2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 baby zucchini, rinsed and stems discarded

Purée vinegar, shallot, oil, pepper, and salt in a blender until smooth and emulsified.

Slice squash paper-thin (lengthwise) using a mandoline, then overlap squash slices decoratively on 2 plates.  Do this shortly before frying the blossoms and plating the dish, otherwise the slices will dry out.

For tempura batter and frying

6 cups vegetable oil (preferably canola or grapeseed)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled sparkling water

Make tempura batter and fry blossoms:
Heat 2 inches of oil in a 3-quart saucepan to 350°F on thermometer.

Set a bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then whisk together flour and salt in smaller bowl. Then whisk in sparkling water until combined well.

Working in batches of 2 or 3, coat blossoms in batter, lifting each out by its stem and letting excess drip off, then fry, turning, until batter is crisp (it will not brown), 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer blossoms as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels, drain, then season with salt.

For topping

2 tablespoons green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, toasted until they puff
Handful of small basil leaves (preferably Thai) or sliced larger leaves
1 cup small cherry tomatoes (sweeter the better), halved lengthwise or served whole 

Assemble plates:

Drizzle vinaigrette over squash slices, then arrange 3 fried blossoms in middle of each plate. Sprinkle remaining oven-dried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and basil around blossoms and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of white wine – we went with a 2008 Russian River Chardonnay.

The crisp raw zucchini where perfect paired with the crunch of the tempura and the richness of the goat cheese…add in the juicy tomatoes and the acid from the vinaigrette…and it was perfection!  Seriously…perfection!

We are dying to make this again…but just might have to wait until squash blossoms are back in season next summer!

What are your favorite completely seasonal dishes for summer?

 

Spring Onion & Leek Crostada with Ricotta and Back Bacon


 

We love brunching, we frequently find ourselves trying out new places in town (like here, here or here) or venturing to old standby’s (including here, here, here and here) when the world is still quiet and sleepy.  Every now and then we are lucky enough to be invited over to friends’ houses where we can nibble bites and sip our coffee at a more leisurely pace.  A few Sunday’s back, we were just in luck and threw together a spring onion and leek crostada with back bacon and ricotta…all thanks to our CSA box from that week.

When I started cooking the back bacon – I’ll explain what it that is in a minute…I didn’t really have a firm plan about when I was making and how it would take shape.  When this happens, sometimes the end product is brilliant…and other times, well…that is when it’s time to stop by a bakery on your way over.  This time, it was lovely!  The spring onions and leeks from our CSA box were too beautiful to not use and they screamed to be the feature of a dish.

So back bacon is not made from pork belly – it is the center cut boneless pork loin and is much leaner and meatier than regular American bacon.  It might also be labeled as Irish bacon.  It can be tricky to find so regular, good ‘ole bacon will do just fine.  We found it at a Fresh & Easy market, whose parent company is British…which explains why they carry it.

I started by washing the leeks and then slicing the leeks and the spring onions into very thin slices.  The ramekin in the back holds none-other than rendered bacon fat.  We always have it in the fridge and it keeps very well.  Whenever you cook bacon, just strain the warm oil that was left in the pan and cool, then place in the fridge.  Dare I say, it makes a decadent grilled cheese and it is very spreadable!  I also prepared a short crust – something like you would use in a tart or a quiche – generally it is just flour, salt, cold butter chunks and a little ice water.  Whenever you are making a pastry dough, it is important to let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out. Which is plenty of time to slice and cook your onions and leeks and cook the bacon.  I sautéed the onions and leeks in butter and some of the bacon fat for about 5 or 6 minutes as I wanted them to sweat but not gain any color, and I seasoned them with fresh thyme.  Turn the oven on to 350º so it has plenty of time to reheat.

Next, I rolled out the crust and placed it on a piece of parchment on a half-sheet pan.  We had some ricotta left in the fridge which was perfect because this crostada needed something to hold it all together and work as a base.  I thinned the ricotta just a bit with some heavy cream and of course, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little more of the fresh thyme.  Spread it evenly on the rolled out pastry leaving a 1-2 inch border on all sides and top with the back bacon slices leaving at least 1 piece to sprinkle on top.  Next, spread the spring onions and leeks over the top and top with another sprinkle of salt.

Now, fold the pastry in towards the center starting on one edge and working your way around.  A crostada is not a fancy food…so it does not need to be perfect!  Top with the last slice of bacon either sliced or crumbled.  Count yourself lucky if you manage to hide the last piece from your husband who is trying to sneak as many nibbles as he can blaming his actions on pure famine!  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and some of the onions and leeks have crisped on top.

Our CSA box had also arrived full of late harvest citrus and some fresh mint…so we brought those along with us as well.  Start by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange and then slice the peel and as much of the pith off of all sides.

When serving citrus served like this, it is best to ‘supreme’ the fruit…I can’t figure out an easy way to write up instructions for you…but I found a great video on youtube that will show you exactly how to do it here.  Next, chiffonade some mint and toss it with the segments of orange – very refreshing and easy to eat as there is no pith or seeds to pick out of your teeth.

The crostada is delicious warm or room temperature and was a delightful addition to the brunch buffet.  It was crumbly and savory, with a nice oomph of onions and leeks!

What dishes have you made that turned out surprisingly well despite no real plan when you started?  We are always on the lookout for new recipes that travel well…what are your favorites for a potluck brunch?

 

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