Category: Basil

BLT Caprese with Chicken or She Returns from the Cruise and Finds She Must Cook and Clean Up for Herself

BLT Caprese with Chicken or She Returns from the Cruise and Finds She Must Cook and Clean Up for Herself

After being on  a Canadian cruise (Boston- Quebec City- Boston on Holland America) for two weeks…. (in no special order)

                                                          

To say we ate a lot of mussels would be an understatement. Served here with lovely Prince Edward Island beer, of course.

 

Public (Victorian) Garden; Halifax, NS, Canada

Confederation Bridge:  8 miles long.  Links Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick mainland.  We went under it twice.

We clean up well.

Quebec City

We had brunch here at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.  Oh, do go!

Above photo:  courtesy Chateau Frontenac.  All others:  copyright 2013, Alyce Morgan.
Please request permission before using.  Thank you. 

Breathalize yourself for $2 bucks in the Quebec bars.

A spruce swag indicates spruce beer is available on Cape Breton.
Here’s why I cruise.  Taken off our balcony–above and below.

Margaret shows us how to tell the diff between male and female lobsters at Peggy’s Cove, not far from Halifax, Nova Scotia (left) and Dave ocean kayaking in Bar Harbor, Maine

Anne of Green Gables House — Prince Edward Island

 

Tavern at Louisbourg Fortress, Cape Breton Island, Canada–Drinkng real chocolate!

 Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove above.  The warning on it below:

…it appears I must shop, cook, clean up, and even garden for myself.  Upon returning home, Dave and I immediately were both ill for a couple of days (??) and that was topped off by several days of horrific storms in the Twin Cities, after which we were without power for two days.  Nearly every neighborhood had many trees down in the streets and on buildings–not hit by lightning necessarily, but just toppled by heavy winds after their root systems were weakened by too much rain.  Here’s what our neighborhood looks like when I walk; you’ll get the idea about how many trees we have:

Lots of cleanup all over; 410k people were without power.  Some still don’t have power from last Friday’s storm.  Today, the rain is predicted again; we don’t want it.  Rain:  go to Colorado.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Did you want the plan for the BLT Caprese with Chicken?  I’ve blogged several similar things but perhaps never this exact salad.  This is a cool meal that’s pretty much grill, slice, layer, and eat. (Or make a couple of extra chicken breasts the night before, though I do think it’s best fresh.)  It solves the problem of meals for hot days, of which there are more than I’d like.  That puts it nicely.  Enjoy!

blt caprese with chicken
 serves 2

  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Kosher salt; fresh ground pepper
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts grilled or sautéed, sliced thinly
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 4 ounce (approximate) log fresh mozzerella, sliced thinly
  •  16 fresh basil leaves (approximate)
  • 8 slices cooked, crispy bacon cut in half
  •  Juice of half a lemon
  • 12 kalamata olives, pitted, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below) 

 On a medium-sized platter, scatter spinach around the edges and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Layer chicken, tomatoes, mozzerella, basil leaves, and bacon either in two lines in the middle or in a circle inside the ring of spinach.  There needn’t be every ingredient in each layer; some layers might be  two pieces of chicken with basil between, etc.  Strive to make the layers as even as possible without being too precise.  Drizzle evenly with lemon juice and sprinkle layered salad with salt and pepper.  Garnish with olives.   Drizzle with about two tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Serve with bread and olive oil.

Cook’s Notes:  If you need to make this ahead, try to do it no more than an hour or two beforehand, cover and refrigerate. Do not add lemon juice or vinaigrette until it’s time to serve the salad.  You could also make this salad with grilled or store-bought, cooked shrimp.

Wine:  I like a very, very cold rosé with this–nearly any would do (I’m partial to French ones and they’re inexpensive as wine goes.), but a chilled nicely-rounded white like Viognier or even a lighter, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc– like one from New Zealand–would suit this dish with its herbal notes. Some folks might like a big-bellied California Chardonnay with this, but if you do go that route, don’t chill it to death.   2 hours or even room temperature works.

 Dessert:  Pineapple sherbet or fresh strawberries in melted chocolate ice cream.

…  …  …

Alyce’s (and soon to be yours) Balsamic Vinaigrette  makes 1 cup dressing

1/3 cup fine quality balsamic vinegar (I like Masserie di Sant’eramo)
2 heaping tablespoons dijon-style mustard (Grey Poupon is fine)
1 tablespoon honey
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste–this is a cup of dressing)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
several drops tabasco

In the food processor, pulse until thoroughly pureed and very-well mixed. (Or whisk by hand in a medium bowl)

2/3 c best quality  you can afford extra-virgin olive oil (I like Olio Santo (California) or Ravida (Italy)

With machine running, slowly pour the 2/3 c olive oil into the tube on top of the processor and leave running until thoroughly emulsified. (Or whisk in by hand one – two tablespoons at a time until thoroughly combined.)  Taste and adjust seasonings.

“““““““““
book news

Alyce’s Salmon Chowder

  I have a title!!!!  Soups & Sides for Every Season. We looked at lots of titles, but many are taken already. Fooey. Who knew? Well, as a longtime librarian, I did–or I guessed.   Anyway:  the designer’s designing and the artist is creating the cover art; the editor’s editing and the sommelier is “somming”–it’s nearly done.  I look for a 1 September date available through amazon.com.  Will let you know FIRST.  Meantime, this is my great,loving, and hard-working team, along with a great list of testers across the country (can’t name them all here–they’ll be listed in the book):

Patty Miller, Editor
Amanda Weber, Designer
Daniel Craig, Artist
Drew Robinson, Sommelier

THANKS!  YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL!  I love working alone on a book, but this one became lots of fun once others were involved.  There is beauty in numbers and multiple brains and talents.  Blessings.

 So what’s the book like?  The short book is divided into seven quick and easy to use chapters.  There is a chapter for every season with 6-8 wine-paired soups in each.  Each soup recipe has a little story or blurb and also has recommendations for accompaniments; many are right in the book. The other three chapters are:  Breads and Spreads, Salads and Vegetables, and Desserts.  You can put  meals together as I’ve indicated or mix and match as you like OR JUST MAKE SOUP!  I can’t wait to share it with you.

Sing a new song; think soup!
Alyce

Prosciutto Caprese with Toasty Brussels Sprouts and Parmesan Chips

Prosciutto Caprese with Toasty Brussels Sprouts and Parmesan Chips

I have a terrible time leaving caprese alone.  I just keep messing with it.  Adding this and that.  Changing it up. Or Down.  In part, I’ve just been overrun with tomatoes, so why not eat them fresh while they’re heavy, fragrant, juicy, and ripe?  Make hay while the sun shines.

Here’s the Linguine Caprese from last week:

Sauté minced garlic and shallots in olive oil; cook up some fresh pasta.  Add fresh tomatoes, chopped mozzarella, parsley and basil to the hot pasta and cover a couple of minutes.   That’s it. Black pepper, of course.

Or you might remember Bacon Caprese?  With Green Bean and mustard vinaigrette?  I also have just a wee passion for composed salads (or other dishes) on huge round platters I’ve snagged on the cheap at ARC or, in one case, simply on the huge markdown at one of Williams-Sonoma’s end of season sales.

There’s an easy recipe for making your own cheese here, though it’s not truly mozzarella.

But I digress…the Proscuitto Caprese has a little different spin and takes some extra time.  It’s worth it.  And I love the juxtaposition of the warm Brussels sprouts with the room temp caprese; I don’t like cold tomatoes.  I want them to taste of the sun.  With salt, of course.  Could you switch out the proscuitto for bacon, capacola, Serrano ham, Virginia ham, or thinly-sliced grilled chicken?  Sure! I’ll write you a note.   This is more of a method than a recipe, but I’ve written it out just in case.  Amounts are approximate.  (I also posted it on Food52.) Here’s how:

prosciutto caprese with toasty brussels sprouts and parmesan
   chips

4 servings

First cook the Brussels Sprouts.  While they’re cooking (20-30 minutes depending on size), you can prepare the caprese.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed (if large, cut in half)
  • 1/2 cup large shaved slices Parmesan cheese (use potato peeler)

Heat to medium low a large, heavy saute pan or deep skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a generous pinch each the salt and peppers.  Add the sprouts and let cook, stirring, about ten minutes until they’ve started browning and softening. Add the Parmesan pieces to bottom of the pan.  Cook without stirring until sprouts are very tender, quite brown, and the Parmesan slices have turned into chips.

In the meantime,  prepare the caprese:

  • 2 large, heavy and ripe tomatoes, sliced and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 ounces Proscuitto  (you can definitely use less if you’d like)
  • 3 cups salad greens (your choice)
  • juice of one lemon

Layer, in a circle (overlapping) on a large round platter (or in lines on a rectangular one) the tomatoes, cheese, basil, and proscuitto.  Surround the caprese with salad greens.

Then put it all together and dress the salad.

When the sprouts are done, and while they’re warm, place them at the center of the salad.  Squeeze lemon juice over everything and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle  all with just a bit more salt and pepper, making sure you season the salad greens.

Cook’s Notes: You can substitute the more traditional balsamic vinegar and oil if you’d like.  If you’re using Italian proscuitto, be very careful with the salt you add.  Our domestic (American) proscuitto, which is less expensive and perfectly usable–if different–is less salty.

{Printable Recipe}

Layers and layers of textures and flavors.

~~~~~~

If you liked this, you might also like this week’s Dinner Place Blog (Cooking for One):

farro salad with canned wild Alaskan salmon, tomatoes, basil, and spinach

or  our dinner the night after we had the proscuitto caprese….  Here are gorgeous fresh figs, fig jam, a little baguette, manchego thinly sliced and the rest of the proscuitto.   Who needs to cook?

two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

As the weather turns from hot as ___ to immediately rainy and chilly (??), it’s time to harvest basil and make pesto for the freezer.  I’m also making a treat for the choir for tomorrow night’s rehearsal.  Probably apple crostatas, but maybe pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.  I’ve got some large carafes and will make coffee and tea before I leave home, toting it to church so I don’t have to go so early to make hot drinks.  This will be our third rehearsal of the year, but we’ve been missing traveling folks until now so I waited to bring a welcoming, start of the year something special for breaktime.

Prospect Park United Methodist–Here’s where I work and worship.
Our Tuck lapping up the remaining sun.

Sing a new song; make a new caprese,
Alyce

Linguine Caprese or How I Got My Tomatoes On

Linguine Caprese or How I Got My Tomatoes On

Saute a little garlic and shallots; cook up some pasta.  Add fresh tomatoes, chopped mozzerella, parsley and basil. That’s it.

I seem to be spending every waking hour figuring out how to use up the cherry tomatoes and basil that just keep coming.  (Was there a little voice whispering, “Fresh pasta?”)

Continue reading “Linguine Caprese or How I Got My Tomatoes On”

Grilled Eggplant and Sausage Pasta Made on the Grill

Grilled Eggplant and Sausage Pasta Made on the Grill

 Every summer, I get about half-way through and want…chili.  Pot Roast.  Lamb shanks.  I’m a bit perverse, I’m fond of saying.  I can’t wait for the first grilled chicken and tomato salads.  I’m nuts about burgers on the patio in May with zin.  But there comes a day when salad looks bleh (stick out tongue) and I don’t even much care about that long-awaited burger.  I want something  real.  I want pasta.  And I don’t want it in a restaurant.

So last year, in January (way ahead),  I experimented with a pasta dish that included grilled vegetables and sausage, but I still made a cooked sauce in a pot.  A lot of folks have been interested in that post,  so here’s a continuation…

I had the idea then to create a dish totally done on the grill--much fresher– and I’ve now tried it.  Even the pasta is cooked on the side burner, if you have one.  (If not, buy fresh pasta to cook indoors; it cooks much faster.)  I’ll amend that; Dave mostly tried it.  I designed, orchestrated, cheer leaded, made fresh cheese, and ate it up.  The only true heated cooking I did was to saute some garlic in the microwave and warm the milk to make cheese! (5 minutes)  Do you have to make cheese?  Of course not.  Buy ricotta–fresh if you can get it.  But I’d love it you made cheese.

I lately have been encouraging cooks to just try making an easy, quick fresh cheese.  There isn’t much simpler to do and the brief instructions are below.  I’ll also point out that if you need a lot of ricotta, this is the way to go; you’ll save a bunch of cash.  To purists, this isn’t true ricotta, which is made with all milk; here I add some yogurt.  My idea actually is a riff  (a mistake I made and liked) from a recipe created by dessert guru and Parisian blogger David Lebovitz.  See the original here.  (See my first attempts and info on how to make a firmer cheese here.)

Imagine pasta in the summer and no hot kitchen?   Try this:

grilled eggplant and sausage pasta made on the grill
           serves 4                 

 

 
directions:  (ingredients below)

1.  On the grill’s side burner (or on stove indoors):   bring to a boil a kettle of salted water with a couple of springs of fresh basil and several grinds of black pepper.  This takes a while outside, so start here.  When it boils, add 1# whole wheat linguine.  I like Whole Foods 365 brand; it’s luscious.  Cook until al dente — where your teeth are stopped just gently as you bite into it.  (Read package directions.)
2.  Heat oiled grill to medium heat and add 2 sliced unpeeled Japanese eggplant*, 2 sliced medium zucchini, and 2 large onions sliced.  Grill, watching closely, until nicely browned grill marks appear on one side  and turn.  Continue grilling until vegetables are almost tender.   Remove to a large pasta bowl or pot.  Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and toss.

3.  Grill 4 Italian sausages (buy locally made if you can), turning once or twice, until thoroughly cooked–about 6 minutes on each side.   Remove from grill, let rest a couple of minutes, and slice into rounds about 1/3″ thick. (Juices should run clear.)  Add to the pasta bowl with the vegetables and toss.
4.  Meantime, microwave two minced cloves of garlic with a little olive oil in microwave-safe container on high about 30 seconds.  (I use a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup.)   Stir into the meat and vegetable mixture.  

5.  When pasta is done, drain well, and add to the meat and vegetables.  Add 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half.  Toss with 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil. (Cont’. below)

                                                 If you’d like to make your own cheese, here’s how:

In 2 qt saucepan, heat 2 c whole milk, 1 c plain yogurt, 1 t salt, 2t vinegar for a few minutes.  When curds form, pour the mixture through a colander or sieve lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth.

Let drain a few minutes.

Et voila…cheese for your pasta

Yum.

                                           

6.  Stir in 2 cups homemade or store-bought ricotta and 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper. a pinch of crushed red pepper and stir well. Taste and re-season.  Serve hot or at room temperature with grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.

    

*If using regular eggplant, choose one that’s 1 to 1 1/2 #, firm, with shiny dark purple skin. Unlike the Japanese eggplant, you’ll need to peel the larger one before grilling.
ingredients list
  • 1# whole wheat pasta (I like 365 Whole Foods brand)
  • sprig of basil for the pasta water, plus 1/4 cup shredded to finish dish 
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, unpeeled, and sliced (or 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ x 2″ pieces)
  • 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and sliced 1/4″-1/2″ thick
  • 2 peeled onions, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • Canola oil to oil grill
  • 4 Italian sausages
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided (a bit to cook garlic; the rest to toss with pasta toward end)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta, homemade or store-bought
  • crushed red pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

Summers in Colorado are hot days and cool (sometimes cold) nights.   Wild lightning storms across huge skies.  Stacks of summer reading take me to Italy and beyond.

I adored this.

 Testing recipes for the soup cookbook keep me in the kitchen mornings before it’s too hot.

Grinding spices for the Red Lentil (vegetarian) I’m working on.  How do you spice your Red Lentil soup?

 Neighbors pop by for a drink on the porch or get together to watch a movie in a cool basement.  Friends come for supper to try the soups on the back deck.  So far, I like the Corned Beef-Potato with Irish Cheddar best.  But I’m far from done and even that one needs working on.

Last night off the back deck after the rain we both love and fear due to mudslides.

Giving up on corner grass…planting ajuga and a bit of sod.

Tuck’s fave pose here.

You’re where I want to be, Mom.

Leaving the robin’s nest on front porch light.  Too sweet.
Close-up:  She used our Russian sage.  A work of art by an animal.

Temporary herb garden outside the front door.

Our columbine in Colorado–chooses its own spot.  Illegal to pick.

Our front yard here in the Springs.

On the front walkway—wild yarrow and milk weed I’ve left.  I usually call this the “Primrose Path.”  But I’ve yet to plant primrose this year.

Bees and Russian Sage with my one pot of annuals that must be watered daily or twice-daily.

 Sing a new song,
Alyce

38 Power Foods — Green Peppers — Alyce’s Ratatouille

38 Power Foods — Green Peppers — Alyce’s Ratatouille

IMG_0692

Ah, summer.  Here’s my favorite use for green peppers.   Right after my mom’s stuffed green peppers, that is.

I loved the movie (Ratatouille).
Also “The Big Night”
And “Babette’s Feast”
Try them.   Food movies.  Ah.

I love the real deal better.   If you become a devoted cook, your world will revolve around the seasons.  Stews in winter.  Apple pie in the fall.  Berries in the spring.  And…
High summer: Tons of vegetables at their peak.

Continue reading “38 Power Foods — Green Peppers — Alyce’s Ratatouille”

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do.  I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway.  And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it.  But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon.  While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS.  But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”

Grandpa: What the… what the hell is this?
John: That’s lite beer.
Grandpa: Gee, I weigh ninety goddamn pounds, and you bring me this sloppin’ foam?
John: Ariel’s got me on a diet because the doc said my cholesterol’s a little too high.
Grandpa: Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
John: Bacon.
Grandpa: Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha! And they keep dyin’. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?
John: What?
Grandpa: Huh?
John: Goes to show you what?
Grandpa: Well it just goes… what the hell are you talkin’ about?
John: Well you said you drink beer, you eat bacon and you smoke cigarettes, and you outlive most of the experts.
Grandpa: Yeah?
John: I thought maybe there was a moral.
Grandpa: No, there ain’t no moral. I just like that story. That’s all. Like that story.

So last week when I shelled out the big bucks for a pound of Nueske’s bacon at the butcher counter at Widmer’s for the summer BLTs, I didn’t blink.  In fact, I kept cooking that bacon daily to make sure it was all used before any stray pieces went bad.  You know how good your house smells when you cook bacon (Try it when you have a for sale sign out front..)?  Well, my house still smells like that.  The scent is fixed in the rugs and on the dogs, who can’t stop walking around with their noses up in the air.  Dave acts the same way.  And if there’s a fine layer of fat sprayed all over my stove, he doesn’t wipe it up.  “A little bacon grease never hurt anything.”

In the middle of that bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch spree came a trip to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul.  For all of you who’ve never been, this is the most beautiful market in the United States.  The food that you can’t buy there doesn’t need to be bought.

Spring market bounty

Perhaps I exaggerate.  But not by much.  At the market, I gently loved a few more Minnesota tomatoes enough to coax them out of their owner’s hands and came home to make cheese for caprese.

(See how on my Dinner Place blog.)  But that bacon called.  And before I knew it, I’d fried up the last of it to tuck in between the caprese layers.  Not only that, I threw the haricots verts in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, drained them and topped them with a dop of herb butter.  (Here’s how Ina does this. Why should I reinvent the recipe?)  I couldn’t resist making a beautiful salad of the entire thing with the beans in the middle.

I don’t see a reason for putting up a recipe for the caprese either; here’s one from epicurious.com. Just add the bacon!   I will say this about my caprese:  I place the salad on a bed of spinach and I squeeze lemon over all and dust the whole thing liberally with ground sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  I then drizzle not too much of my balsamic vinaigrette over everything but the green beans, which are already well-seasoned with the herb butter.  Lemon on the beans–yes.  One of my favorites.

 

Love summer, my friends.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The end of August isn’t the end of summer, but there are signs.  The flowers look too tired to continue blooming, despite fertilizing and watering.  The road crews appear in a big hurry to get it all done.  There are Christmas decorations out in a few stores.  I’m looking for a guy to plow my driveway.  Acorns are dropping and the squirrels are very squirrely. The big tubs of mums are for sale at Ace.  Our floor refinishing (and installation in the kitchen) is scheduled so that we can do it while windows can remain open.  And, of course, in Minnesota, it’s State Fair Week!  (Half a million sticks for food used so far.  And if you don’t know what that is, it’s anything edible that will stay on a stick.  See what you dream up.)

Neighbor’s Victory Garden (from my driveway)

I close today with lovely news!  I am now newly employed as a choir director at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, which is a church just across the line in Minneapolis.  I’m thrilled, excited, and don’t have words (right) for how light my heart is.  Watch this space for news of their fine singers and what fun stuff we’re up to.   Thanks be to God.  And:  thanks to all who supported me and prayed for my employment.  Cyberhugs as you
Sing a new song,
Alyce

Pesto, Pistou — Presto!

Pesto, Pistou — Presto!

Whirr, whirr, done.  Talk about no cook.  It’s done PRESTO!

If it’s mid – late summer, I’m gunning for basil.  (If it’s earlier, I’m planting it and watering it.)  I’ve got pots full myself, but I also have to hit the farmer’s market for more.  At a buck for a big bunch, I get arm fulls.

My piano teacher and I hit the farmer’s market.

Here it is taking a bath in my kitchen sink with the Japanese eggplant and yellow zucchini I’m cleaning for the ratatouille I blogged on the  Dinner Place blog (The Solo Cook.)  They really like to get in the tub together.  I loved looking at this gorgeous mix of veg.  Could the colors get any better?

What is pesto?  Lots of you DO know.  But!  If you don’t:
Take the basil, whirr it in the food processor (traditionally mortar and pestle) with lots of garlic, pine nuts and/or walnuts, olive oil, Parmesan, and you have saucy green love.  In Italy, it’s pesto.  In France, pistou.  And it’s Presto! (Very quick, indeed, in the language of music) wherever you make it.

When I decided to blog pesto, I almost didn’t.  Pesto isn’t something new.  It may be four hundred years old in Europe and it’s certainly no culinary upstart in the United States.

The first time I ran across pesto was in the late ’70s in THE SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK (by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin.  Workman, 1979; 362p).  This was a life-changing cookbook not only for me, but for women everywhere who cooked.  If you want to know why, check out the cookbooks that were written and printed before this one.  It’s so important in my life that I have nearly worn out my paperback copy and, while I still use it, bought a hardback copy for a back-up and for my kids later on.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided to just go ahead and put pesto on my roster of blog posts.  How could something I love so much not be here?

I still basically make pesto from that recipe, though I use others, too–the one from THE GOURMET COOKBOOK (edited by Ruth Reichl and published in 2004 by Houghlin Mifflin) comes to mind.  By this time, I’ve adjusted any and all of them to my own tastes (as should you) and am purely and simply summer-happy whenever it’s time to use all that basil. 

Pasta with Pesto….the most popular use, I’ll guess:

Here with 365 (Whole Foods brand) whole wheat pasta

  Other ways to use pesto:

  •  on/in an omelet
  • as a veggie dip
  • on grilled chops
  • as a sauce for fish or chicken
  • on pizza
  • with crackers
  • on grilled vegetables
  • topping lamb chops
  • gracing grilled baguette
  • dribbled on sliced tomatoes or sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzerella in place of basil leaves.

 Or…  well, you go next.  How about in a spoon in your mouth– or mine?

In Italy,  pesto often has cheese in it; in France, not so often.  The French version, pistou, is often used as a condiment at table to, well, to create a different or simply more engaging vegetable soup.  A simple bowl of fresh vegetable soup and a big bowl of pistou on the table.  Everyone helps themselves and no one would deny the pistou makes the meal.  Some folks want a teensy bit and others want a big dollop.  Just for fun, here’s a recipe for Wolfgang Puck’s Soupe au Pistou; this one happens to have tomatoes in the pistou, which also sounds lovely.

By the way, there are those even in the Italian mode that leave the cheese out of the pesto (to keep it bright green) and grate it on top.  There are other purists who only make the pesto from tiny, fresh basil plants with just six or so leaves and use much less basil.  Si place; do as you like! (I use the big plants that I love to grow in the garden all summer.)  The addition of pine nuts to Italian pesto is a fairly new thing; people couldn’t afford them in years past and used walnuts–as did many Americans.  I use a combination of the two as pine nuts are nearly $30. a pound.

No matter how you make it or with what (and you can make it with all kinds of herbs or greens besides basil), enjoy the bounty.  And, by the way, pesto freezes.  So, if you can, buy extra basil, make copious amounts of pesto (freeze lots) and take some out for New Year’s Day for a quick whiff of summer.

By the way, you can buy ready-made pesto.  It’s pricey, though, and it’s not as good.  Nor does it keep.  So if you buy a quart at Costco, you better plan on eating a quart right quick.  Better to make it. Yourself.  In July or August.  And be….happy.  Here’s how:

Pesto a la Alyce, The Silver Palate, and The Gourmet Cookbook makes 2 cups

2 cups fresh basil leaves, clean and very dry  (pat carefully with light weight cotton or paper towels)
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
1/2 c pine nuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the basil, garlic, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor (if using a blender, do half at a time) and pulse til well chopped and combined.  With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil.   Shut the machine off and add the cheese.  Stir well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir again.

I never told you this:  if the pesto seems a tad tame, dot in a few drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce, but don’t tell anyone.  Definitely not in the regular pesto regime. Don’t over do it; just give it a bit of body.

Keeps in frig (cover with plastic wrap right on the surface of the pesto) 2-3 days if not using immediately.  Freeze for up to six months.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Long beans grown by our local farmers:  saute or use in stir fry.

The babies.

Above:  Minnesota summer wildflowers.

Coming up soon….ratatouille a la Minnesota

Sing a new song, Alyce

Basil Chicken Fried Rice or I Wokked Out

Basil Chicken Fried Rice or I Wokked Out

   Once I read something about lo mein being standard college fare.  Nope; not for us.  Standard college fare was pizza with the occasional delivered salad… and the salad was also full of cheese.  I know this for a very real fact.  Because I worked in the restaurant (actually there were two) that made this stuff.

 But when I read about someone’s college goto being lo mein, I was jealous.  I should have gone to college THEN.  I adore lo mein and can even make a pretty darned good imitation.  Well, since then, I’ve moved over to adoring Thai and because I’m so late-trendy, I like Basil Chicken.  I seem to always miss it when things are “in.”

And I like it when Bhan Thai makes it, not me.  Mine is ok.  Still,  knowing how much Emily also likes Thai, I started looking for easy Thai recipes with videos and I came up with Thai Food Tonight…a series of lessons and videos, etc. by Dim Geefay.   Dim brings along her American-born daughter Cathy to help translate and, between the two of them, we figure it out.  The videos were, I think, originally on tv, but are now free online.

Dave has always been our wokman, though I occasionally use it, too.  For the Basil Chicken Fried Rice, I did the planning, research, shopping,  part of the prep, table set and so on.  Dave cut the chicken (he’s much better at that) and then just continued on cooking.  I stood and kibitzed while drinking a lovely halb-trocken German Riesling, which suited the Thai dish to a T.

Did I say this was YUMMY TO THE MAX?  And, unlike a lot of Asian food, it was nearly as good the next day. Yes!

Set the table before you begin to cook.

I made the rice in the afternoon and spread it out to dry on a baking sheet.

Wokman

Hates cooking alone.

Very quick, this man is.

Not sure we had the heat up high enough.

Turn off as soon as you add the basil.

Garnish with cilantro and lime.

Add pieces of cucumber for crunch and coolness.

 Basil Chicken Fried Rice  by Dim Geefay    Watch her video about how to make this dish.
4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups already cooked rice
  • 6 big cloves of garlic, crushed (together w/ peppers w/ mortar and pestle or lrg knife)
  • 2-4 Thai (bird) red and green chili peppers or 1-2 Serrano peppers, crushed  (I used 1/2 jalapeno*)
  • 1/4 c cooking oil  ( I used canola; you could also use peanut.)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs chicken meat (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs.)
  • 3T Oyster sauce
  • 2T Fish Sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 medium-sized red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 c fresh sweet basil leaves, whole
  • 1 cucumber, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 c cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, cut into quarters

 Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in deep pan or wok over high heat.
  2. Wait until oil starts to smoke.
  3. Add crushed garlic and peppers.
  4. Stir quickly; don’t let them burn
  5. Immediately add chicken, stiring.
  6. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar.
  7. Stir until chicken is cooked through. (no pink)
  8. Add already cooked rice.
  9. Stir quickly until sauces are blended with rice. (a couple of minutes)

*1/2 jalapeno made the dish tasty, but quite mild.  Use a whole if you like some spice.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

I’m busy packing.  I hate it.  Who likes it?  Enough said.  
-Had a perfect Valentine’s Day..God was good; my husband was home and he made reservations at Pizzeria Rustica in Old Colorado City, one of my favorite places.  They had a food and wine pairing deal–lovely.
-Dogs got groomed and are hot to trot.  It was almost 70 F.



If only we could just get dropped off somewhere where they threw us in first a cage, then a tub, trimmed us all up, blew us dry, tied bandanas around our necks, gave us treats, and threw us back in a cage again. (Somehow it’s just not the same when I go to the hair dresser’s, though it’s slightly reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz.  I guess I’d skip the cage.)
———————-

If you’re keeping up with some of the responses to the “Deathly Letter” from within a segment of the Presbyterian Church, USA, here is another one I found intriguing:

http://www.wilsonpresbyterian.org/2011/02/resonse-to-the-deathly-letter-to-the-pcusa-by-rev-blake-spencer-second-presbyterian-church-nashville-tn/

Very well done indeed.  If you are a Presbyterian in this country and wonder how we came to be likely to split, check this out–it’s the chart of which Presbyterians came when and did what:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Connection2_900.jpg

Perhaps today isn’t so unusual after all.  Pray for this church.  Pray for our seminarians.  I have to admit I’m a bit abashed about worshiping at the UCC (along with quite a few other Colorado Springs Presbyterians)…  But it’s been a life-changing experience.  Not enough words available.



Sing a new song,
Alyce

You Know You Love Chicken Basil, but Tell Me Why?

You Know You Love Chicken Basil, but Tell Me Why?

You know how you have an addiction to certain Thai restaurants?  (If  you know why, let me know.)  Now I like almost all things Thai foodie, except I can’t handle the tres, tres spicy dishes. “I like them; they don’t like me.” My father-in-law, Gene, says that, and he is so right.  Ever since I came back from summer study at University of St. Thomas,  I’ve been just dying to get into cooking Thai.  For two summers, we lived above a Thai restaurant and I think it began to get into my pores.

I’ve dibbled and I’ve dabbled and I’m now at the point where I’m making it up as I go along.   Perhaps it’s because I eat at Bhan Thai sometimes once a week…usually to get in an all-veggie meal that’s not a salad.   Each dish provokes, “What’s in this?

Here’s my Thai basil with regular basil.  Planted in a pot under a shade tree.  It’ll burn up in the Colorado sun otherwise.

Finally, though, I kept looking at my Thai basil out by the whiskey barrel under the tree….and I knew its days were numbered.  Not that fall is ever REALLY coming (and winter, true winter,  only makes it a couple of times a year in the Springs, despite what others think), but we do get freezes.  And herbs that haven’t been cosseted and lovingly brought in to my dining room south window bite the dust.  Or whatever herbs do.  (Sometimes they resurrect in the spring.)  All told, it was time to get my Chicken Basil on.

So google that and put it in your pan.  There’s a million Chicken Basils.  But most of them are almost all chicken.  I sooo wanted a big bunch of veg in this one.  And the one Thai cookbook I wanted to buy is out of print.  Figure it out yourself, I said.  You’re a cook; you’ve got the stuff.  And here’s what I got.  Do use fresh herbs; if you can’t do all three, don’t make it without at least the basil.  I think that if you have the minty Thai basil, you could consider skipping the other two herbs, but I like it with all three.

And, like everyone else, I’ll tell you to drink a little riesling with this.  I do so like the Oregon ones… Chehalem in particular.  They do a fairly dry one that’s just does my taster good.

Alyce’s Chicken Veg Basil  serves 4

Set the table, pour the water or wine, etc.  Then start to cook.  

Rice:

First make enough rice for four people:  Bring 2 cups of salted and peppered water and a cup of rice to boil.  Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until done.  (About 20 minutes at sea level… a few minutes more at altitude.)  Add 1/4 c chopped cilantro and toss with a fork.  Replace lid to keep warm (up to half an hour) until the chicken and vegetables are done.  (I like medium-grain, cheap rice for this.  It should be sticky.)

Ingredients for stir fry:

2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1″x1″ pieces
2T fish sauce
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1T water
1 1/2 t sugar*

2 T cooking oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, ditto
1 small zucchini, sliced thinly
1 small yellow squash, sliced thinly
1/2 red sweet pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 yellow sweet pepper, sliced thinly

1 tomato, fresh, cut into quarters and squeezed to get juice and seeds out.  Next, cut into medium dice.
1 jalapeno, minus seeds and membrances, finely minced (for mild, use 1/2 the jalapeno; add more for hot)**
1 c fresh basil or Thai basil left whole, divided
1/4 c cilantro, chopped roughly
1/4 c fresh mint, chopped roughly
Freshly ground black pepper

Have all this stuff ready to go.

 Instructions:

1.  In a medium bowl stir together cut-up chicken and the next four ingredients, fish sauce-sugar.  Let sit while you
2.  In a wok or large deep skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and cook sliced onions for about two minutes.  Add sliced garlic, squashes, sweet peppers, tomato and jalapeno.  Let cook another two minutes, stirring often.

 

3. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken from sauce and add to the pan of vegetables. Add half of the basil, the cilantro and the mint. Season well with black pepper. Cook about 3 minutes until chicken is no longer pink.  Pour sauce into wok/pan and cook another 30 seconds or so, stirring all the while.  Spoon in to serving bowl and top with remaining whole basil leaves. Serve with the hot rice.
*sauce recipe from FOOD AND WINE
**Whole jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, minced finely for hot.  (Hotter?  Pass crushed red pepper at the table.  You could also use Thai bird chiles, but jalapenos are more accessible here.)

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
Still feeling like summer around here….Decks got painted over the last two weeks.

This is what we call “The Doggie Door.”  Still in the 60’s.  Changing tomorrow.



Hasn’t frozen yet.





Are you gonna eat that?

This week, I’m testing pizza and have already made some.  I teach the Italian section of “Cooking with Music” this Saturday and I WILL be up-to-date on my crust by then!  Blog coming, I’ll hope.

This is the first try at a 15″x13″ margherita.  It had its ups and downs  Cool thing about it is it’s baked in a half-sheet pan like anyone has.  You could do it tomorrow!


Fitness update:  Gabby and I hiked the local hills instead of me going to the gym.  Spiritual practice of “putting one foot in front of the other,” as Barbara Brown Taylor says.  Dave and I worked out together on Saturday morning…before going out to breakfast.  Gee.

Here’s The Church at Woodmoor, where I’ve been worshiping and directing the choir lately.  It’s a bit hard to photograph, but you get the idea.  Lots of wood; interesting light.  Loving singers and congregation.    They’ve been very welcoming and I’ll miss them when I’m gone.   I’m in the process of new job applications now.   Today, I had to write my philosophy of music in worship.  Good experience. Not as simple as it sounds.  We’ll see.  Living “Sing a New Song,”  Alyce.
…And the living is easy…

…And the living is easy…

I have a friend who just lives for pasta.
Too bad she didn’t show up last night for this luscious bowl.
Fresh tomatoes
Olive oil
So much garlic
So much basil
Brie.  Not so much.  But enough.
I’ll just have to make it again when she can come.
She knows who she is.
Please let my tomatoes keep coming so we can have this again.
First ripe tomato this year.  Planted Memorial Day weekend.  Ooh.
This is a summer meal.
Tomatoes are ripe.
You can’t cook much because it’s too warm.
The deck calls you.
An inexpensive, but lovely white burgundy is cold in the frig.
It doesn’t overwhelm this meal, but is just so obviously fine to drink WITH it.
It doesn’t hide flavors and you’re not terribly aware, “Oh this is a fantastic chardonnay.”
Tomatoes
Basil
Pasta
Grilled corn
Eggplant
Old-fashioned garlic bread
Come on home, honey; it’s summer at Alyce’s.
And not for long either.  Last night was 57.
It was 68 at 5pm tonight and windy.
Then the rain started.
Eat fresh herbs while you can.
On to the food…
This is an old SILVER PALATE recipe; it doesn’t get any better.  It’s on page 79 if you want to look at it; here is my version.  Less salt, smaller portions.  La.
                                    
Linguine with tomatoes and basil ala Silver Palate
I think this makes 6 smaller servings, though SP says 4-6 and uses more (1.5 #) pasta
4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes  (or more if you’d like)
1 # brie, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces
1 c fresh basil, cut into strips (save stems)
3 garlic cloves, minced finely as you can
1 c extra-virgin olive oil, best you can afford (yes, you can cut back on this if you must)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1 # whole wheat linguine (I like 365 brand from Whole Foods)
Combine tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic and olive oil in a very large bowl.  Add 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper.  Let sit 15 minutes.  Meantime, bring 8 qts of water to boil in a 10 or 12 qt stockpot.  Salt and oil the water.  Throw in the basil stems.  Add some pepper.  Add pasta and boil about 10 minutes, maybe 12 if you’re at altitude like me.  Drain and immediately add to bowl with tomato mixture.  Mix well and serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold. 

                              
And what did we have with this? 
Well, I had two ears of leftover grilled corn.
I had an eggplant (cheapola at $1 per right now) that needed to be eaten, so Dave grilled that.
I had an idea they should go together, so here’s what I did:

Summer Confetti

1T olive oil
1/4 c red onion, chopped coarsely
1 stalk celer, minced
Kernels from 2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
1 eggplant, grilled and chopped into 1/2 ” pieces
2t jalapeno, very finely minced indeed
1/2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/2 ” pieces
3T mixed fresh herbs (you could use one or many; I used marjoram, oregano, rosemary, parsley and tarragon)

In a very large skillet, heat oil and add onion. Saute for several minutes until wilted.  Add everything else but the herbs and, stirring frequently, cook for about 10 or 12 minutes until vegetables are softened, but still holding their shape.  Garnish with any fresh herbs and serve hot, warm, at room temp or cold the next day.

Dessert?  Oh, it’s Colorado peach time!

So…..

This was Friday and Saturday night dessert.  David Lebovitz’ Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Colorado Peaches. 

Two-Dog Kitchen and/or Around the Hood
    I’ve started a new interim job at The Church at Woodmoor, a non-denominational church up in Monument, Colorado.  I’m directing the choir through Advent.  Come visit!  Worship is 10am.

At home:

Skippy’s here this weekend.

A Saturday run up to Florrisant to the Thunderbird Inn with our neighbors.
Bison and bottled beer.  MMM.

Skippy trying to get into the Pinot glass cabinet

Stuck on the deck–through the glass.
See the animals in their new on-line movie, a big hit on youtube:
Sing a new song,
Alyce