basil pesto


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.


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.


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.

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


pork shoulder ragù

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I’ve been eating more meat recently.  I never avoided it in the past, I simply didn’t actively pursue it.  But, as my iron level remains low enough to require IV iron infusions, I figured I should start working on getting more into my diet the old-fashioned way.  Cooking in cast iron, using molasses to top oatmeal, eating plenty of spinach, snaking on almonds, etc.  A good way to incorporate the meat portion into my diet was to make a big batch of something over the weekend, using the slow cooker (or dutch oven).  We’ve tried Asian Short Ribs (from this book, yum), Steak Tacos (love) and this Pork Shoulder Ragù.  Each of these meals has been something different, that I wouldn’t normally make (I’m a veggie girl, ya know), but they’ve been so welcomed, filling and deliciously appropriate for a shared meal to just sit and enjoy.

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It makes a big batch, so I’ve put away the leftovers in the freezer for those days when I don’t get home to make dinner and I am in serious need of something deliciously filling.

Pork Shoulder Ragù
yield: 6-8 servings

recipe notes: This Pork Shoulder Ragù is easy to make (although it takes awhile, it requires very little hands-on time), has a lovely, simmered tomato-red wine + fennel seed flavor and is great for reheating.  You can serve it sloppy joe style in between buns, wrapped up in a corn tortilla, over pasta – or, my favorite way, over steamed brown rice.

2 to 2 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 large (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 cup red wine
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 sprigs fresh oregano
Small handful of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot sauce, for smokiness
Pasta/Rice/Buns/Tortillas (gluten-free)
Freshly grated Parmesan

1.  Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove excess fat from the pork shoulder.  Liberally salt and pepper the pork roast. Add olive oil and butter to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until butter melts, but does not burn. Add pork roast to pan and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes in all.

2.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel, and hot sauce and bring to a boil. Cover, and put in oven. Braise for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so. Add more liquid (water, wine, or tomato sauce) if needed. (The liquid should come to about 1/3 of the way up the pork.) The meat is done when it’s practically falling apart. Put on a cutting board and pull it apart with two forks, then add back to pot and stir. Cook 1 to 2 pounds pasta or rice according to package directions.  Or, heat up some corn tortillas or toast some hamburger buns.  Top whatever you’ve cooked or toasted with the ragu and plenty of parmesan.

source:  Dinner A Love Story






how to roast a red pepper

Let’s talk about red peppers.  Raw, delicious.  Sautéed, so good.  Roasted, a whole new ball game.  Here’s how it goes.


It’s a little scary, but you can do it.  Place one, two or three peppers over a flame.  No gas stove?  No problem, place them under a broiler.  Turn (over the flame or under the broiler) until each side is charred and black & blistered.  Over the flame this takes just a few minutes per side.  Under the broiler, a little longer, maybe 25 minutes total.


As soon as you take them off the flame, put them on a cutting board and cover with a glass or metal bowl (I love pyrex).  Let rest & steam for about 15 minutes.  Alternatively, you could place the pepper inside a bowl and cover tightly with a plate or plastic wrap.  Just make sure no steam gets out.


Once they have steamed, remove the lid.  The skin should slide off easily.  Just pull it away with your fingers.  It will be messy, you’ll have pepper skins all over your hands.  You can wash them in a little bit.


Once you’ve peeled all the peppers, I like to run them under water.  Be careful, they’re very soft now and will break open.  I clean out the seeds from the inside and place them back on the cutting board.  At this point you can stop, place them in a glass container, cover with oil and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Use them to make a panini, in a salad with feta & quinoa or with eggs & spinach in a gratin.


Or, you could keep on going, chop them up into pieces.


Toss them into a food processor with some sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, a bit of salt and a glug of olive oil.


Boom, red pepper pesto.  I enjoyed this as a pasta sauce over quinoa pasta, with a bunch of sautéed shopped spinach, toasted walnuts & goat cheese.  I’m planning on using leftovers this week to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  What do you do with roasted red peppers?  Any other ideas for leftover pesto?

Source: Roasted Red Pepper Pesto via acouplecooks, all others as linked.

sweet corn & black bean stuffed sweet potato


Before you get all excited about spring and start limiting your diet to greens, radishes, asparagus, peas, etc…grab that last little sweet potato out of the dark corners of your cupboard and add this dish to your weekly meal plan.


If you choose to use your microwave to bake the sweet potato this meal can come together in less that 15 minutes.  I absolutely love the combination of sweet potatoes and black beans (as seen here and here), sweet corn is always a welcome addition and so it was pretty much guaranteed I would like this combo when I dreamt it up as a way to use up that last, lonely little sweet potato.

sweet corn & black bean stuffed sweet potatoes
yield: 1 serving (easily adaptable for more)
recipe notes: Canned sweet corn and canned black beans are a staple in our pantry.  And while it’s one of my goals to start using less canned, making a freezing beans myself, I’ll use the ones we have while they’re there.  What usually happens is that I open a can of each for something like quesadillas and there’s always some left-over.  I love this way of using them up.  As for measurements, I don’t ever really measure anything, so everything below is an estimate.

1 sweet potato
1/4-ish cup black beans
1/4-ish cup sweet corn kernels, cooked
a tiny bit of butter, if you wish
a bit of grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend here, pepper jack would be delicious)
sour cream or greek yogurt, to top
salsa, to top

1.  cook the sweet potato: If using the oven, preheat to 450 degree F.  Poke the sweet potato all over with a fork.  Roast 45-50 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork or knife.  If using the microwave, pierce the potato all over with a fork.  Microwave for 7-9 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork or knife.

2.  stuff the sweet potatoes If you used the oven for the sweet potato, leave it on.  If you used the microwave, preheat it to 450 degrees F.  When cool enough to handle, cut the sweet potato down the center, place a few very small pats of butter on top and mash together with a fork.  The potato will be pretty flattened after this.  Combine the corn & black beans and pour on top of the mashed sweet potato.  Top with grated cheese.

3.  cook the stuffed sweet potato: Place the stuffed sweet potato in the oven for another 3-5 minutes, until the corn & black beans have heated through and the cheese on top has melted. Top with sour cream, salsa and anything else you’d like.  Enjoy.

source: anna maria original



huevos rancheros, my way


I realize this isn’t exactly “huevos rancheros” in the literal sense that it doesn’t start with lightly fried corn tortillas and there aren’t refried beans anywhere to be found.  The truth of the matter is that I couldn’t think of a better name for something that needed a good name.
IMG_5737You see, this dish was born out of leftovers (from taco night and I promise I’ll share those recipes soon).  “Eggs with leftovers” just wasn’t going to cut it as a title to this recipe that is so much more than leftovers.

Scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, salsa, greek yogurt (or mexican crema, if you’ve got that left over) and fresh sliced avocado is a delightfully bright, spicy and cool combination.  Perfect for guests.  Perfect for dinner.  Perfect way to use up all those left over condiments from taco night.

huevos rancheros, my way
yield: 1 serving

recipe notes:  The first time I made this it was for three of us and I used 2 eggs per person, mixed in the cheese, and served the big bowl of scrambled eggs in the middle with lots of little bowls of the various toppings.  This is also a great way to use up anything else you have leftover.  Peppers, mushrooms, spinach, left over black beans – if it’s sitting in your fridge, sauté it and add it to the mix!  To complete out breakfast, we also had bacon, home fries, fresh grapefruit, yogurt and granola.  It was a great breakfast and quite easy to do.  I had one person lay out the bacon and put it in the oven, another get drinks for everyone and lay out the condiments and I made the eggs and home fries.  The granola had been made earlier in the week and the yogurt just needed to be set out on the counter, alongside the halved grapefruits and grapefruit spoons.  Hosting breakfast can be that easy.  

2 eggs
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp shredded cheese, any kind you like
1 Tbsp salsa
1 Tsbp greek yogurt or mexican crema
salt & pepper
hot sauce, if you like it

1.  Combine the eggs, a pinch of salt and few grinds of black pepper in a cup or bowl.  Whisk together (a fork works well).

2.  Cook the scrambled eggs (I like Deb’s method, although I leave out the milk).  When they are almost done, sprinkle the cheese over the eggs and fold them over each other, covering the cheese with the warm eggs.  Turn off the heat, cover the skillet with a lid or plate to trap a bit of the heat & melt the cheese (it only takes about 30 seconds or even less).

3.  Transfer eggs to a plate, top with everything.  Enjoy.

source: scrambled eggs from smitten kitchen