Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pestle my Pesto!

The word pesto means "pounded" or "crushed" in Italian, called that because
the ingredients were pounded or crushed with a mortar and pestle.

When I first met my husband he called me his "Saucier" which in a French kitchen roughly means "one who makes sauce."  I was deeply flattered by his complimentary pet name, one which represented a secret passion of mine.  Needless to say we got married.  But alas, there was one sauce I had not mastered and was ashamed to admit it.


Who can't make pesto? Pesto is easy? I guess it is unless you screw it up!  "Once bitten twice shy," was the motto I lived by for years until the flood of basil from the garden this summer beckoned me to try again.  Here is the recipe I used but as in true Farmgirl fashion, made my own!

 Fresh Basil Pesto

note- I used substitutions for some ingredients that I did not have on hand.  I welcome you to experiment and do the same!
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese (I used Garrotxa, a Spanish goat cheese)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, walnuts (I used almonds since I didn't have either.)
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Special equipment needed: A food processor, blender, or more authentically a mortar and pestle
1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
2. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup.

Pesto Penne with Peas and Chicken

Add a 1/2 cup of cream to 1/2 lb of penne, peas, grilled chicken, a few tablespoons of your homemade pesto and voilĂ !

Now I think we've mastered it together!


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From Garden to Table in under an hour!

Now that's freshy-fresh!  Pictured above are our eggs, rapini, haricot verts, red and gold new potatoes, baby beets, and some hot peppers.  We boiled the potatoes, blanched the beans, sauteed the greens, topped it with a 6 minute egg and homemade honey mustard dressing to make a warm summer salad.  We call that dinner 'round these parts!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The B-Free Diet

In my insomniatic state last night I dreamed up a new diet tactic.  I figured out that most of the foods that make you fat start with the letter B.  So hypothetically, if I avoided all the foods that start with B maybe I would lose weight.  You laugh now, but wait until you read over my list.  You won't be laughing anymore.

The B's that make you fat

  1. Butter
  2. Bread
  3. Bacon
  4. Brie
  5. Burgers
  6. Beer
  7. Baby Back Ribs with BBq sauce (that's 4 B's, count 'em)
  8. Boston Baked Beans made with Bacon, Beer, and/or BBq ( ya think their bad?)
  9. Ben & Jerry's
  10. Big Mac's
  11. Butterscotch anything
  12. Biscotti
  13. Brownies
  14. Blueberry Pie
  15. Big Boy's (It used to be called Bob's Big Boy and they're famous for their Burgers. )
  16. Banana Splits
  17. Baked Alaska
  18. BLT's 
  19. Bagels
  20. Baguette
  21. Brioche
  22. Biscuits
  23. Blue cheese
  24. Barq's Root Beer
  25. Blintz
  26. Bologna
  27. Burritos
  28. Brats
  29. Buffalo wings
  30. Birthday Cake
It can get even worse when you combine two B's such as Bread & Butter or Beer & Brats.   Does that sound healthy to you?  Feel free to add to my list and try out the B-free diet...
                                                                  Your Bum will thank me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Better than a Brownie Biscotti

I have to admit that I was slow to jump on the biscotti train thinking it was a fad.  Who would want an over baked cookie?  Well, I was dead wrong.  These are amazing and definitely better than brownies.

Biscotti means "twice baked" in Italian and the double baking is the secret to making these cookies crunchy.  Sometimes I under bake them just a tad so they are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Ahh Heaven! Either way they are delicious.

Better than a Brownie Biscotti

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour (I use a mix of wheat and white flours to justify them as healthy eating.)
1/2 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts/almonds slightly smashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a baking sheet.  Grab a large bowl and with a mixer cream the butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and continue beating until it is no longer gritty.  (I have yet to accomplish the "beating until not gritty" step so don't worry about it to much.)  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  Combine all dry ingredients in another bowl.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture until incorporated.  Stir in the nuts.

At this point you will look in the bowl and see what looks more like a sticky batter than cookie dough and think "How the heck am I going to form logs out of that!?"  Here is my secret.

In the bowl divide the batter in half.  Take some butter and grease your hands up really well.  Scoop one half of the batter up and coax it into a log about 12 inch long and 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick.  Lay it on the cookie sheet.  Repeat with the 2nd half of the batter but make sure there are at least 3 inches between the logs on the cookie sheet because they will spread.  Bake 25-30 minutes.  After the first bake let them cool for at least 10 - 20 minutes.  If you don't let them cool sufficiently the logs will crumble when you slice them.  Using a serrated knife, cut the logs, still on the pan, on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices.  Carefully turn the slices on their sides and return them to the oven to bake another 10 minutes.  Let them cool completely.  Enjoy dipped in coffee, tea, or dessert wine.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

October is for Peppers

 ... I should have posted this a while ago but if you're reading this now, go put your peppers in the ground so you can make this come October! :)

When most people think about food in October they think about apples, pumpkins, or maybe even cranberries. Some people think about beer and Oktoberfest, but around these parts we consider this pepper season.  In Michigan we wait all season for lovely sweet red bell peppers but they seem to elude us until the beginning of Fall.  It seems that the chilling weather sends the plants into a mad dash to ripen their fruit before the frost can claim them thus giving us a bountiful harvest.  We also have a penchant for hot peppers, and this year has been plentiful for them as well.  My kitchen has been adorned with ristras, the cupboard is full of jalapeno jelly, and we've been choked out of the house several times by drying and grinding chiles.

This year we grew some amazing sweet peppers which I regretfully should have taken photos of before I chopped them up and cooked them.  Our most impressive peppers came from a packet of seeds labeled 'Sweet Heirloom Pepper Blend' so we will never know exactly what they are, but I saved the seeds.  They were huge, thick walled, delicious, and even the plants were attractive.  The neighbors even commented on how big they were!

In honor of our bountiful sweet pepper harvest I present you with a wonderful roasted red pepper recipe.

 Roasted Peppers with Herbs
adaptation from Williams-Sonoma Simple Classics

2 lbs or sweet red bell peppers

3 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 small sweet onion or shallot (1/2 cup chopped)
2 tbs chopped fresh oregano, thyme, or your favorite herbs
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
coarsely chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Roast peppers under the broiler, peel, seed, and cut them into 1/2 inch strips.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 1 tbs olive oil.  Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent.  Remove from heat and stir in the herbs.  Transfer to a baking dish and spread the onion mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Arrange peppers evenly in the dish on top.
In a small bowl combine the balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, 2 tbs of olive oil, and whisk together.  Spoon evenly over the peppers.  Cover and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes or until peppers are tender.  Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Summer's End

Summer's end has come. With days in the high 60's I know it won't be long until I pull the wool coats out from the back of the closet. The leaves are yellowing and some already falling and collecting in the cracks of the sidewalk. The morning sun peaks through the window later and later each morning. Fall is here and I can smell the pumpkins.

It's been a good summer for the garden. We had enormous success with our tomatoes this year. With thirteen varieties and 23 plants, we had plenty to share with neighbors and friends. We were also able to freeze, dry, and sell many of them. Our favorites by far were Black Krim, Italian Market Wonder, Emerald Evergreen, and Mr. Stripey.

We also had great success with our beans this year. We grew three different kinds of limas, some Chinese noodle beans, and a whole mess of fresh eating romano and green beans. I love beans. They are so beautiful and come in so many different colors. If you have never had fresh limas you are missing out! Some varieties to try are the Pennsylvania Dutch Red Lima, Christmas Lima, and King of the Garden Lima. For a spectacular yellow romano type bean I would highly recommend the Gold of Bacau. It out produced every bean in the garden with some of the pods growing to amazing lengths of over a foot long. The beans were always tender and never stringy.
Another wonderful producer this year was the French Fingerling Potato. It was productive and did great in our cool climate. These cute little potatoes were creamy and delicious and were great in any recipe. Note to Self: Grow more next year!

But the most exciting thing coming out of the garden this year was not something I grew from seed although I did nurture and care for it, fed and watered it, and waited patiently for it just like you would that first ripe tomato.

It was an egg.

This spring we picked up three beautiful little baby chicks. It was something I had been waiting years to do and finally I managed to convince my husband to let me get chickens. It has been an amazing experience and we've never looked back. They are funny and beautiful and raising them has been very rewarding. All of them lay brown eggs but there a subtle differences that make them all unique. I cannot imagine life or breakfast without them! hehe.

So as this summer comes to an end I look forward to planning next years garden, trying new varieties, and plotting new projects. I would really like to add a hive of bees for honey, maybe some berry bushes, maybe I should try to grow peanuts? Due to the early arrival of Fall, it looks like I'll have plenty of time to plan for next year.