Creamy Pesto ….

I know I have never done this before but I think the idea is really solid.   I love pesto. I could eat it in a different way and on daily basis. And that includes breakfast.  On pasta which might just be my favorite, but I love pesto mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and spread between layers of cream cheese. And it is amazing yes, and stupidly good.  I just keep saying that, don’t I?

D&D_2020Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed
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
Whole milk ricotta

First mix 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 until you have it the consistency you want. Since I knew I would be adding ricotta, I opted for a little less olive oil than usual. Add about 1/4 cup of ricotta and see what you think. You might want a smidge more oil or a little more ricotta. If you want to go all crazy, toss in a few oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Never a bad thing.

As always I add my Parmesan last and make sure I have extra for garnish.

I have to say that I’m glad I tried this the night I made it because after that the Boy ate the rest. Guess that’s a testament to the fact that it was good. Yep really good. Adding the ricotta did make the pesto a bit heavier, so it might be better if the fall, but I will be doing it again and I think the next time sun-dried tomatoes will be added.

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. 

 

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking


Chex Mix or something like it – round 1

My mom, (here we go again), always made chex mix for Christmas Eve. No idea why really. Actually that is kind of strange – Christmas was always banana nut bread, magic bars, M&M cookies, vanilla taffy, and chex mix, oh, and then the very strange cheese ball that I always made. Once again I mention that. Strange.

Take away story: yes, do let your eleven year-old run Christmas Eve. It makes for some great stories. But not necessarily great cheese balls. Just saying.

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This is so not my mom’s recipe, but mine since I decided to make it for Christmas Eve this year. That said, this is an experiment and I want to see what I like and what I want to change. I think my “part 2” will be for the Super Bowl. Yep.

4 cups Crispix Cereal
8 ozs lightly salted cashews
1 cup pretzels twists
1 cups of bagel chips and/or pita chips
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, bruised – not too mashed
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
4 sprigs thyme
1/4 tsp ground garlic
1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
good pinch kosher salt

In a heavy bottomed pot over low heat, melt butter with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, ground garlic, Herbs de Provence. Let simmer super low while preheating oven to 250 degrees.

Remove thyme and garlic clove. Add Crispix, cashews, pretzels, and bagel chips to a heavy-duty foil lined baking pan. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and mix well to combine and let soak in just a bit, 2 – 3 minutes. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes and if you are like me adding just a bit more Worcestershire sauce each time. Spread on paper towels to cool and then store in an zip top bag. I plan to make it dinner several times this week. I mean it is cereal for dinner, right?

Modified from : www.halfbakedharvest.com/moms-secret-Christmas-eve-Chex-mix

Guess I’m not the only person who had a mom that made this for Christmas Eve. Cool.

 

Amazing Roasted Mushrooms

I follow several food bloggers and one that I really admire is Kevin’s Closet Cooking. I really have an affinity for Kevin. His recipes are pretty simple, not lots of ingredients, not too many steps, but these are the kind of recipe that I like. I like that he is kind of all over the place. From one day to the next, you never know what you are going to get and for me, that is really great. A challenge, trying something different, something outside of what you normally make – yeah, I really like that.

D&D_1542It does not take lots of ingredients or lots of directions to make something that tastes really good, at least to me. None of this means I do not adjust Kevin’s ideas to my own. It is cooking and experimenting, after all.

I am a huge fan of mushrooms. That said, I do not like raw mushrooms at all. Ugh. So gross. I love to saute them. Funny how that changes the entire equation. There are so many dishes I love cooked mushrooms in. Pasta with asparagus and mushrooms with a sauce of mascarpone cheese, lemon, and lots of real (read: imported and expensive) Parmigiano-Reggiano. I make a great vegetarian pate with mushrooms – so good on toast with fresh lime juice. I could just go on and on, and I expect that I will. That is just me. You do not spend a decade as a vegetarian and not have recipes that still make you stupidly happy. Many of my recipes are on the vegetarian side. That makes me happy, but I do love a good steak every now and again. And bacon, and um, sausage … here we go again. Pretty much any version of pork.

8 ozs crimini mushrooms, washed and stem removed*
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme or not as you prefer
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggino

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray just to avoid sticking. Place cleaned mushrooms in the baking dish and spoon the butter, garlic, and thyme mixture over the mushrooms. Season with kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Bake for 10 minutes.**   Remove from the oven. Add the breadcrumb Parm mixture*** and press down and bake until lightly golden – 8-10ish minutes. Garnish with chives, parsley, or scallions. And a splash of lemon juice would not go amiss.

*I cannot help it, I just remove stems from crimini and button mushrooms. Maybe not necessary, but I have always done it. You could also use button mushrooms for this recipe. I just went with what was on sale this week.

**This is one of those dishes you need to serve right out of the oven … with a little bit of cooling time so you do not burn yourself. That said, I think you could put it all together in a baking dish a day ahead and then fire up the oven for the first 10 minute part, so that makes it dinner party friendly. I did it over two days and really was wonderful.  Cover the slightly baked mushroom with foil and let them get close to room temperature before putting them in the fridge and then finishing the dish when you want the next day. I do love recipes that give me flexibility.

*** You might have extra, but I wanted to be sure I had enough and now this gives me an excellent thought – what to do with the rest. It is in the fridge for now, but the possibilities are pretty much everywhere. Maybe some kind of crostini. So Kevin, what do you think?

 

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Torte

Another recipe that isn’t really a recipe. I’ve been making this for ages. I can’t even remember where it came from, but it is very simple but amazingly satisfying  – if you like the ingredients that is.

When we have a pot luck at work, I usually just say – “somebody tell me what you want me to make” and this comes up again and again. I think that is a double-edged sword; it is good that so many people like it, but it also does not challenge me much. This time I agreed to it because it was a Mardi Gras pot luck which fell two days after the Super Bowl – hello real food holidays lining up – ugh. This, normally, would not be a big deal, but this year, after my Super Bowl prep – on Saturday night, I fell up the stairs – yes, up. And split my knee open in rather a dramatic fashion, so I needed something for the pot luck that I could make ahead and let sit and this sun-dried tomato pesto torte always does make-ahead really well. I was sort of pleased with how it turned out and as ever, it was popular.

It is so kind of dead simple that it makes me feel a little bit silly, but it is, well, awesome. The Boy loves it. My friend T at work likes and has asked me to make a few for a party or two of hers. This may not have been my prettiest version, but standing on a jacked up knee was not easy either. That said, it still tasted great. Like it always does.

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So you do have to scale it to fit the vessel you are using for a mold. I usually use my white ramekins – small ones if it’s for a small family event and the larger for bigger groups – like pot lucks at work with our students.

Cream cheese, softened, usually 8 oz block, but more if you want more layers
bunch of basil, washed, stems removed, and dried very well (wrapped in a tea towel)
3/4 cup walnuts, or something like that (or fresh pecans) – not a fan of pine nuts
2 good sized cloves of garlic or more if that is your preference
a really good pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), softened with warm water, and then drained
olive oil – I use olive oil from our local Greek Market – Shoreline – which is imported from Chiana on the Island of Crete – cool, right?

Line a ramekin with  plastic wrap, leaving a good bit of it to hang over the edges of ramekin.

In the bowl of a food processor, whir up garlic, walnuts, and salt.  Then add sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Slowly add in olive oil until a paste forms, but do not add too much olive oil (you can do that later with the leftovers to make pasta sauce).  I know – it’s a non-recipe. Sometimes you just have to wing it.

Spread the bottom of a ramekin with a layer of cream cheese, about a 1/2 inch. Then carefully add a layer of pesto covering the cream cheese. Add the last layer of cream cheese being careful not to mix things up too much. Cover with plastic wrap.  If you are making a large version of this, add a bit of a weight to it.  Let chill overnight, at minimum, but this can be done at least three days ahead.

To plate, let sit at room temperature for about a half an hour and unwrap ramekin and tup it out onto a plate. Surround by crackers and baguette slices (or if your really feeling like a hedonist, Hawaiian Sweet Rolls).

When I have leftovers of this, which is not often, I use it to make either A) a sandwich – which is pretty amazing (if you like garlic), or B) a pasta sauce, for just some rotini, you might need to add a little olive oil and will certainly need to add grated Parmesan to the finished product, but hello – stupid good.