After being on a Canadian cruise (Boston- Quebec City- Boston on Holland America) for two weeks…. (in no special order)Continue reading
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.
|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?”)
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
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|
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.
- 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)
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,
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.
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,”
|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.
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.|
Above: Minnesota summer wildflowers.
|Coming up soon….ratatouille a la Minnesota|
Sing a new song, Alyce
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.|
|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 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
- Heat oil in deep pan or wok over high heat.
- Wait until oil starts to smoke.
- Add crushed garlic and peppers.
- Stir quickly; don’t let them burn
- Immediately add chicken, stiring.
- Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar.
- Stir until chicken is cooked through. (no pink)
- Add already cooked rice.
- 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:
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:
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,
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.
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
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.|
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.
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!
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.
Skippy’s here this weekend.
Skippy trying to get into the Pinot glass cabinet