basil pesto

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I’m an amateur gardener at best, but if there’s one thing I can grow, it’s basil.  And boy, do we love basil.  It’s so summer.  It’s so fresh, peppery and absolutely delicious torn and loosely sprinkled over just about anything from pizza fresh out of the oven to an ordinary everyday salad.  But when the weather gets warm and the basil starts multiplying before our eyes, I gather up cupfuls and make pesto.

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Ah, pesto.  It’s so simple and so quick.  We love it over (gluten-free) pasta, slathered in between two slices of (gluten-free) bread along with mozzarella and tomato and grilled for a caprese panini and in place of pizza sauce on (gluten-free) pizza.  And – bonus – it freezes beautifully.  So gather up some bunches of basil, make some pesto and keep it in the freezer for when you want a little taste of summer later in the year.

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basil pesto
yield: 4 servings (if using over 1 pound of pasta)

recipe notes: The following recipe makes enough pesto to cover one pound of pasta and is written as if you are also making pasta.  If not making the pasta right away, skip those parts and just make the pesto.  The ratios can easily be doubled if you find yourself with much more than 2 cups of pesto.

If you don’t have pine nuts – or don’t want to splurge (I find Trader Joe’s and Costo to have the best prices if you’re looking) – just substitute another, less expensive nut, like walnuts or almonds.  If you don’t have basil but have, say, parsley, growing like wild then make parsley pesto.  The recipe doesn’t call for this, but I do love my pesto with a good squeeze of lemon juice.  If making pasta, I’ll make the pesto and then squeeze half of a lemon over the pesto pasta after I’ve tossed everything together.   It wouldn’t hurt to squeeze it in before.  Just taste and see what you like.  To freeze , you can simply put the pesto in a freezer container (a tupperware is fine), cover the top with a small film of olive oil and freeze like that.  If you want smaller portions, you can fill an ice cube tray, place in the freezer until the cubes are frozen and then pop them out & store in a freezer ziploc bag.  I like doing the smaller portions because I can control how much I defrost.  If using on sandwiches, I’ll defrost just one cube.  If making a bunch of pasta, I’ll defrost 2 or 3.

salt
2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, or more to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts, optionally toasted*
1/2 cup olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or Pecorino) cheese, plus more for garnish
1 pound any pasta (I like gluten-free brown rice pasta for this)

1.  Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it.  Meanwhile, to toast the pine nuts, simply place them in a small pan over low-medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to smell toasty & nutty and are slightly browned.

2.  When the pine nuts are toasted and slightly cool, combine the basil, a pinch of salt, the garlic, nuts and about 1/2 the oil in a food processor or blender.  Turn the machine on, stopping a couple times to scrape down the sides of the container and gradually adding the rest of the oil.  Continue processing or blending until you have a smooth, thick consistency.  Stir in the cheese.

3.  When the water boils, cook the pasta until tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes.  When the pasta is almost done, thin the pesto by stirring in some of the pasta-cooking water – start with just a tablespoon or so.  You’re looking for the pesto to coat the back of a spoon.

4.  When the pasta is done, scoop out and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain it.  Return the pasta to the stockpot and quickly toss it with the pesto, adding more cooking water if necessary to coat the noodles.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, top with more grated cheese, if you like, and serve.

source: How to Cook Everything the basics by Mark Bittman

pesto, elsewhere:
10 Ways to Use Pesto (Besides Pasta!) by thekitchn

zucchini ribbon carpaccio

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Gosh, I’m really loving summer this year.  Perhaps it’s the excitement of watching our peppers grow on the balcony, the fact that I had a week of vacation in the mix or that the temperatures have been mild enough to really enjoy being outside on sunny days.  It doesn’t hurt that I’ve somehow managed to squeeze in a visit to the farmer’s market almost each week (of course, it helps to have a Saturday & Sunday option).

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I’ve loved trying new foods like purple carrots (so pretty) and fresh apricots (recipe, soon).  And of course, we’ve had our fair share of old favorite, too – vine-ripe tomatoes, mushrooms, blueberries & zucchini.  The zucchini has been plentiful and cheap, prompting me to buy at least one zucchini at each visit.  And while I’ve made plenty of my favorite zucchini recipe (for a GF version, I just sub a GF flour mix for the AP flour and it works perfectly), it was time to try something new.  Enter zucchini carpaccio – fast & fresh & seriously delicious.  Summer.  On a plate.

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Dig in, friends.  This delicious weather won’t last forever.

zucchini ribbon carpaccio
yield: 1-2 servings

recipe notes: The original recipe calls for cutting the zucchini crosswise into thin discs.  I’ve done it that way and it works.  I like the look of the ribbons a little better.  As for serving size, I’d say one medium zucchini is good for 2.  Double or triple as needed.

1 medium zucchini
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
2 T – 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1T fresh mint leaves

1.  Cut zucchini crosswise into thin slices (a mandoline works great if you’re going this way).  Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini into thin ribbons.  Spread the ribbons (or discs) out on a platter.

2.  Drizzles zucchini evenly with oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle evenly with salt and cheese.  Finely slice (or even tear) the mint leaves and let fall over the salad.

source: Gourmet Quick Kitchen – Fall 2010

black bean & red pepper salsa

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My Aunt Jan & Uncle Charles are two of the best hosts I’ve ever known.  They are incredibly generous and gracious people, welcoming family and friends into their lovely home for holidays or a simple weekend away in Southern Indiana.  Whenever we visit, the company is wonderful and the food is fantastic.  I remember one particular visit many years ago when a few of us arrived early and sat outside by the pool waiting for everyone else to get there.  There were drinks and snacks, one of them this incredible salsa that disappeared too quickly.  I couldn’t figure out what exactly was in it – there were beans, cilantro, jalapeño, peppers, and something else I couldn’t put my finger on but that made it so good.  It was, as it turns out, a little bit of balsamic vinegar.  ah-mazing.  This salsa is a quicker version of my aunt’s (not that either recipe takes long at all).  It is just as delicious.

black bean & red pepper salsa
yield: about 2 cups salsa

recipe notes:  This is one of the simplest salsas you can make.  It can be embellished in any way you like.  As mentioned above, I think the real gem here is the little drizzle of balsamic vinegar – it does something that wakes up all the other ingredients – adding a little sweetness and a little tang that is so delicious.  Other embellishments?  Jalapeño, freshly grated corn off the cob, cilantro, red onion…

2 cups (or 1 can) cooked black beans, drained
1 red pepper, minced
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1.  Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.  If you can, let sit for about 30 minutes before serving so the flavors can mingle.  If you can’t wait, that’s fine, too.  If you have leftovers, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.

source: my aunt jan 🙂

broccoli & red cabbage slaw

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I originally bookmarked this recipe back in the fall when I first sat down with Deb’s fantastic cookbook.  But then it got cold and things like wild rice gratin and mushroom bourguignon started to sound a little bit better.  This broccoli slaw got put on the back burner, and stayed there.

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But now (finally), spring is here.  And with it comes outdoor farmer’s markets, green produce galore and plenty of neighborly get-togethers requiring contributions from anyone in attendance.

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This slaw is a perfect contribution to any get-together, but if you don’t feel like sharing, that’s ok, too.  I’ve halved the recipe and eaten it on its own for lunch throughout a week at work.  Welcome, spring.

broccoli & red cabbage slaw
yield: 8 cups slaw (about 8 side servings, fewer if it’s a main)

recipe notes:  Deb makes her slaw with all broccoli.  I had a half head of red cabbage in my fridge left over from making sesame noodles the week before so subbed it for half the broccoli.  Deb’s recipe calls for cranberries but raisins sounded better to me at the time.  I’m sure any combination would be great.

1 head broccoli (3/4 to 1 pound)
1/2 medium red cabbage
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup buttermilk, well shaken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

1.  Trim the broccoli, and chop it into large chunks; then cut each chunk into thin slices.  Slice the red cabbage into thin strips.  Toss the slide broccoli, sliced red cabbage with the toasted almonds and raisins.

2.  In a small bowl, which together the buttermilk, mayo, vinegar, sugar and table salt until smooth.  Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture, and add a generous amount of black pepper.  Stir the salad until the broccoli is evenly coated with the dressing.  Serve immediately, or keep covered in the fridge 2-3 days.

source: the smitten kitchen cookbook

 

chile lime tequila popcorn

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So, March is here.  I’m not sure how it came around so fast, but it did, and I’m pretty excited about it.

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I’ve been experimenting with my fair share of gluten-free snacks these days and this popcorn was one I tried a few weeks ago as a contribution to a neighborhood game night.

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It’s deliciously spicy, naturally gluten-free and party friendly.  Whether you’re celebrating March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day or simply looking for a spicy snack, this popcorn is a sure winner.

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chile lime tequila popcorn
yield: 2 quarts (about 8 cups & about 8 servings)

recipe notes:  I like to pop my popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave à la Mark Bittman.  I measure out 1/4 cups of kernels, place them in a brown paper bag with nothing else (Bittman says to add oil but I’ve found you don’t need it), fold the top down many times and microwave it for 2 minutes until there are at least 3-4 seconds between pops.  You can also pop it over the stove in a little bit of oil à la Heidi’s instructions.  In regard to tossing the popcorn, I’ve done the bag way and also tossed it in a big bowl.  I didn’t notice much of a different between either.

2 quarts (8 cups) popped popcorn
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 teaspoon tequila
1/2 small jalapeno, seeds and membrane removes, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.

2.  Put the popcorn in a large bowl, a large paper bag or a clean washable muslin bag.  In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the butter, lime juice, tequila, lime zest and jalapeño and set aside.  In another small bowl, combine the pepper, salt, red pepper flakes and cumin.

3.  Pour the butter mixture over the popcorn, a little at a time, tossing the popcorn to coat as you go.  Next, pour the spice mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat.

4.  Spread the mixture out on the baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes or until dry.

source: 101cookbooks