Pesto – amazing 

pesto [pes-toh]

noun, Italian Cookery.
1. a sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan blended together and served hot or cold over pasta, fish, or meat.
In college, I made some great friends, and one of them was a girl named Karen T. (cannot believe I remembered her whole name, but somehow that makes me feel good, but won’t divulge).
She threw excellent (read: grown up) parties. If you said you would attend, you were actually expected to do so. She was a great cook – the first person I knew to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. She totally rocked, and she also introduced me to pesto. I think it was her mom’s recipe, photocopied, and I remember this most clearly, the recipe was called “Pesto by the food processor method.” Hysterical now, but at the time a totally new thing for me.
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It is basically the “recipe” I still make today, except I substitute walnuts for pine nuts. I don’t notice a difference, so it works for me. And I always have walnuts in the freezer.
It’s great for pasta, for pasta salad, add some sun-dried tomatoes and it is excellent in my sun-dried tomato pesto torte. Have I not made that for you? Damn, will rectify that situation soon.

Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed mostly
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.
1/4 cup really good olive oil
A good bit of freshly grated Parmesan – indeed.

First chop the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in and the when it is all done, add the Parmesan. And if you want to go crazy add some sun-dried tomatoes. Because that is amazing. Yep.

I was to go to Italy with Karen and Dierdre in the spring of 1993, but giving birth to the Boy put those plans into a stall. Never regret it. And he was eating pesto as a 3 years-old – he was that kind of boy. Sushi, sure. Pesto, yep. Mushroom pate – always. Kids will try anything if you don’t make a big deal of it.
Karen moved to New Jersey and we lost touch, but some things stick with you in an important way. And I miss them both.

Work Food Hacks

So I eat lunch at work quite often (most days). And I bring leftovers because I don’t care for cold sandwiches with one amazing exception*. So what to do to make it interesting and different and using the limited equipment we have at the office to make it work. In my case, that’s a microwave, a toaster, and a toaster oven, so it really is somewhat limited.

So this will be a recurring post with my terrible iPhone camera pictures. 

First up – Mushroom Fontina Toasts which is a play on Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

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Yes, this picture is pretty much awful. But it was my lunch and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

So I brought some Italian bread into the office with some of the leftover mushroom shallot garlic mixture. Then I went to the Publix and got some thick sliced Fontina from the deli. So I heat the toaster oven while I toast the Italian bread in the toaster. Meanwhile I heated the mushroom mixture in the microwave just a bit. Not too much though.

So this is how you put it all together: with the toaster oven heated, on broil, top the toasted bread with the warm mushroom mixture, and then top with the thick sliced Fontina. Broil until the desired gooey-ness factor is achieved.

Then put it on your ugly paper plate and have a great lunch at work. 

Now here are some extra tips – have some lemons available, even at the office, oh and it never hurts to have a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce for they both are fresh flavors. 

* cheddar, mayonnaise, and homemade hummus, on Italian bread. Oh yes, this is now in my brain and I have to make it again. 

 

Pecorino Chicken with white wine, & lemon butter sauce 

I have been making this for so many years.  It was in a David Rosengarten newsletter, I can’t believe I have never posted it. Dear lord, this has been so many years. I have altered it over time to reduce steps and streamline, but the flavor remains one of my favorites. Honestly, as much as I love the whole recipe I would be just as happy with the jasmine rice and the pan sauce. That way I have my favorite part and leave the chicken to the boys and a lot of the time, I do just that. It makes a great lunch with a little more finely grated pecorino and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Lots of fresh lemon. No, I am not kidding. This is a thing you must do. Yes. do. D&D_2052

My version:
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 cup dry white wine or one of those cute little individual bottles – that is just what I do.
1 1/2 cup vegetable or no salt chicken stock
2 lemons, sliced, seeds removed (duh)

Cut each chicken breast in half or in three pieces or so if that works better and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Pound with kitchen mallet until about 1/2″ thick, or at least until they are all even thickness.

So spread out another piece of waxed paper for the prepared chicken.  Place the flour on another piece of waxed paper and and some black pepper.  In a medium bowl, whisk an egg until combined and then on another piece of waxed paper spread the finely grated Pecorino.  Dip the chicken pieces in flour, then in the egg, and then press into the Pecorino.  Let sit on the additional piece of waxed paper until ready to saute in a bit of olive oil. Letting this sit is a good thing.

In a non-stick saute pan, add a bit of olive oil and let it simmer a bit – you want it hot, but not crazy. Add each piece of coated chicken and saute until each side is medium brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. At this point, add stock and simmer for a bit  – really reduce it until it is almost gone. Then turn the heat up and then add the wine. Now, add the lemon slices and let them simmer. Squish the lemon rounds and then remove them.

Add the chicken pieces again and let them simmer, but don’t turn them because you want part of the chicken to be a bit crunchy. Turning would defeat that purpose.

While this is going on make at least a couple of cups of jasmine rice. Because it will be the best part, at least to me, of the dinner.

Let the chicken simmer for a bit and then check to make sure it is cooked through. Then serve.  ~~~ A bit of rice, a piece of Pecorino chicken and a good bit of pan sauce.

You can see why I love the rice and pan sauce bit – well, if you cannot, I can. Amazing. Oh, and a little extra lemon is never a bad thing. Neither is a bit of extra finely grated Pecorino.  Sigh.

Original Recipe:
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated Pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten well
Flour for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
6 thin, round slices of lemon, seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the chicken breasts into 6 pieces of roughly equal size. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed paper, and pound with a mallet until they’re thin. Season with salt and pepper. Place cheese and parsley in a wide, shallow bowl. Slowly add the beaten egg, whisking until it’s smoothly incorporated. Place the flour on a wide plate. Dip the pounded chicken in the egg mixture. Remove, letting excess egg drip off. Place each cutlet in the flour, and coat lightly. Remove from flour and hold them in a single layer.
Add the olive oil to a saute pan large enough to hold the 6 cutlets in a single layer. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets. Saute, turning once, until the cutlets are golden on the outside, just cooked on the inside (about 2 minutes per side). Remove the cutlets, and hold them in a single layer.
Spill the oil out of the saute pan. Return the pan to high heat. Add the white wine, and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken stock and the lemon slices. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove the lemon slices. Keep boiling the sauce until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup. Turn heat to very low. Swirl in the butter until the sauce is thickened. Add the reserved chicken, turning them until they are coated in sauce. Divide cutlets among 2 plates, pour remaining sauce over them, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of David Rosengarten

Roquefort Crackers

Yet again, another cheese cracker. Obsessive though I may be, there is nothing wrong with adding more cheese crackers to my repertoire. I have learned that I like the slice and bake version of crackers the most because you can make the dough, roll it, and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake which makes for easy weeknight baking.

D&D_2038I have also learned to bake a test batch of 2 – 3 crackers if it is a new recipe just to see if the temperature and timing are okay. And I am glad I did that with this recipe.

You see, I had the oven at 400 degrees for another recipe and sliced up the dough for two test crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked it for the 8 minutes, turning half way through. The color was really good, but the center of the cracker was raw. I let them rest to see if they got a little crunchy as they cooled, but they did not.

So now my idea is to lower the temperature to 375 and baking them a bit longer. Fingers crossed this will work, because I think this might be a really good cracker. We shall see. 

Lo, and behold – the 375 degrees for about 8 minutes worked like a charm. Yippee for test crackers. 

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ozs Roquefort, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and Roquefort until smooth. Add flour and cayenne and mix until smooth.

Divide dough into two pieces and roll into 1 1/2 inch logs. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Slice logs in 1/4 inch slices. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8 minutes until lightly browned – watch closely. Cool completely.

Source: bonappetit.com/recipes/article/Roquefort-Crackers / California American Cookbook.

This is just the kind of recipe story that I love. Sometimes family stories at just the best.

Needs more cayenne , but that always seems to be the case –  because I am me.

Chorizo, Leek, Cheddar Muffins

I made some totally anemic muffins last week with zucchini and they were just so meh. I know it is zucchini season, but this was just sad. So I had to figure out some other savory muffin to make me forget that one.

So I was looking at a couple of savory muffin recipes and I just tried to cobble this together based on the best parts of things that I saw and I think this is going to be pretty amazing.D&D_2014

So I had originally thought to use bacon in this, but decided at the last minute to use chorizo which is really salty, in my opinion, so I did not add extra salt to the batter. I will use the bacon in a new cookie I’m coming up with – well, I hope so. It seems most of the cooked bacon I had in the fridge has disappeared. Hmm.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt, if needed*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
7 Tbs unsalted butter, melted, divided 5/2
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar
1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 ozs chorizo, cooked and drained on paper towels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt if needed in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and 5 Tbs melted butter.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and incorporate wet ingredients, mix until just smooth. Stir in cheese and 1 cup of leek rings and chorizo.

Line muffin cups with foil liners and spray with baking spray. Fill 3/4 full, top with remaining leek rings and brush with remaining 2 Tbs butter. Bake 20-25 minutes and a toothpick comes out clean and tops just begin to brown. 

* taste chorizo first to decide if you need salt at all. I did not.

Wow, these were amazing and I am not just saying that to pat myself on the back. I really think the fresh chorizo made the difference and also tasting it once cooked to make sure the batter, in general, was not too salty.

This was hugely popular in the home kitchen. Both MotH and The Boy liked very much and the hardest test was me. I am a fan.

And I have made this recipe myself. Cool.

Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

I know toasts are a thing, but I made this because the flavors sounded so good, and I had thyme for the Tomato Bisque recipe and a I had Fontina cheese in the fridge. Fontina is one of my all time favorite cheeses – so melty and smooth. Any time it is on sale at the Publix I pick some up. It never ever goes to waste. Sometimes I just slice some up with apples and eat it. It is the simple things.D&D_1919

Bread halved diagonally *
Olive oil, divided
1 lb crimini mushrooms
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme 
3 Tbs water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded, about 1 cup
1 Tbs chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Arrange bread on baking sheet and drizzle with 3 Tbs olive oil, but do not go overboard with the olive oil. Toast for 8* minutes until slightly golden around the edges.   Remove from oven. Turn broiler on low.

Thinly slice mushrooms. In a large skillet, melt butter over high heat until lightly bubbling , 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil and the mushrooms and cook undisturbed until the mushrooms are browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme, lower the heat and cook until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, the cook 3 minutes longer to dry off liquid. Taste and then season with salt** and pepper and remove from heat.

Spoon mushroom mixture over toasts and sprinkle cheese on top. Broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Transfer crostini to a platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve. 

* Figure out actual timing depending on bread type selected. Used Chicago Italian bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted 8 – 10 minutes. Just keep a close eye on it. 

**Didn’t need salt, but added freshly squeezed lime juice.

Used Italian Fontina. Next time, I plan to use thyme to top the toast since I already use it in the mushrooms. I like that little lemon note that thyme provides.

9 June 2017

Made at work for lunch – 

Source: 

Reuben Dip in a Bread Bowl

I am adjusting this recipe to fit with the things that work with the “Best Reuben Sandwich” from America’s Test Kitchen. Like making your own “dressing” which includes the mayo, sour cream, and chili sauce. Also using Boar’s Head sauerkraut and draining some sweet relish – though I will not go so far as to chop up my own sweet gerkins. Makes no sense. D&D_1861

I had to order the bread bowl from the Publix a day ahead of time, so consider that in your planning. I think a Rye boule would work equally well if you are so inclined.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chili sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup drained sauerkraut -Boar’s Head
3 tablespoons sweet relish, drained very well
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup diced cooked corned beef – Boar’s Head from the deli @ the Publix
salt and pepper
1 large (1#) pumpernickel boule, top sliced off and center hollowed out

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chili sauce, cream cheese, sauerkraut, and relish into a large mixing bowl and stir together until completely combined. Fold in cheeses and corned beef until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper and stir together. Scoop mixture and place into the hollowed bread bowl and place onto a baking sheet.

Place dip in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until dip is hot and baked through. Serve immediately with bread bowl by making slices of the bread into the dip – really good. Yep.

Source: Spoon Fork Bacon with some America’s Test Kitchen influence.

15 April 2017 – For Easter this year. Used my super amazing tomato knife* to slice through the bread to make bites and it worked really well.

* Victorinox 125th anniversary limited edition 4 1/2″ tomato knife. Sharpest damn thing ever – mind your fingers. So not kidding.