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.
D&D_1998
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.

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

Making Baking Easier 

When most of your cooking / baking takes place on the weekends, which mine always do, anything you can do to make it easier goes a long way towards motivation. So this is something I learned from my mom. Ever Christmas my mom would make loaves and loaves of banana nut bread – it was like an assembly line. She was only slightly famous for her banana nut bread. Everyone wanted to be on the list. It wasn’t Christmas without her banana nut bread and I still make it every year since I finally got it right. Lord, that took a few years because the temperature has to change during the baking process, but I never had the timing or the temperature. Thanks mom. Can’t really blame her, I think this recipe was in her blood in a certain way. Once I figured it out, I would take it to Fred and he was happy. And it is just something I need at Christmas, but sometimes I make it in the summer because it has been six months since I’ve had it last. Guess that means it is time to make one this summer. DD_0206

Okay, back to making baking easier – my mom would always prep her dry ingredients ahead of time. Then all you had to do the day baking is get your butter and eggs out and it is super quick to mix everything up and boom! you are done.

So by Thursday night I like to have my plans for the weekend baking finalized and then measure out all my dry ingredients and put them in zip top bags to make the weekend baking easier. And once it is easier bake, it makes motivation happen. To be honest this also makes weeknight baking, when I’m in the mood, easier to just put something together to make me, The Boy, and the test kitchen happy.

I think my office and students would prefer to be called my test kitchen rather than my guinea pigs.  But I also want my friends to challenge me to try new things. 

So this is what I do on a Thursday night … get ready for my baking weekend. Yep.D&D_1950

It really works and makes life so much easier. Thanks mom!

Apple Market Ham Salad

Okay, this is another thing that I have found that someone, Apple Market, does so much better than any version I have ever made. Yes, it is ham salad.

Let’s just get all the disclaimers out of the way. I will eat deli ham on occasion – see chicken, cheddar, apricot sandwich in which ham plays a key role. But a big ol’ Easter ham is not for me. The cut is too thick and I just do not care for it which is slightly interesting since I really like the vast majority of the rest of the pig (pork) parts a lot, no really, A Lot.

The MotH says this ham salad is too sweet and I am guessing that is the sweet relish, but I really really like it.

Apple Market is an interesting place. It is a local (yeah) small grocery store that has a great deli, excellent beer selection, a real butcher shop, sushi, really fresh dairy, and I think they employ most of the teen-aged kids from the area of East Pensacola Heights. They were one of the first grocery places to open after Ivan and after that you could tell that they had increased the generator back ups for the whole store.

Apple Market is a real treat. I do not get there as often as I would like, but since I have had the ham salad recently, I am motivated. May not look like much, but you should envy me. Yes, you should. D&D_1849

Okay? Does it look like cat food? Or is that just me? Sigh. I just stay up too late. I really should not say that, but the idea just struck me. No matter – it tastes amazing. And I am going back this weekend for more. Yep. Also to see if they have some really old chickens that will make a great chicken and rice.

Misen Chef’s Knife – one of my new favorite things.

Incredible Knives
Honest Price

That is what Misen says about itself and at this point I do believe it.

I have been a fan of Misen since I first saw them and so I subscribed to their email. A few weeks ago I received an email about a discount and some really decent shipping costs. I loved the idea that Misen was trying to make a knife that normal people could afford, but could be appreciated by people that really wanted a good knife. Is it possible to make a really good knife without it breaking the bank? Yes, yes indeed.

D&D_1836I have to say that when I took this knife out of the box it was so comfortable and balanced that I was astonished. Granted it came sharp as hell, but it just felt right. If that makes any sort of sense. I have rather small hands, but I handed it to the MotH and he understood that there was a balance to it. I think that tells you a lot about the construction of this knife.

I know it sounds dorky, but it made me really happy – yes, really happy. I have kind of stopped doing Thing of the Month and just turned it into Favorite Kitchen Things and this fits that bill, um, perfectly.

German Potato Salad

When I first started eating, and loving, German potato salad I was not even in my twenties, (let’s just say that was a while ago) and had no concept of the kinds of potatoes other than russet or baking potatoes and my favorites, red new potatoes. It wasn’t until I tried to start making German potato salad that I began to understand about waxy potatoes.  This recipe calls for waxy potatoes and my favorite are Yukon Gold. dd_1657

1 1/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
4 slices of bacon, or more because it is bacon
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 Tbs white wine or cider vinegar
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/4 cup snipped chives
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cook the potatoes in salted simmering water until just tender. Just test them with a paring knife – it is the best way to decide if they are done or not. Drain, dry, and peel and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare dressing. Cook bacon in a sauté pan over medium high heat until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving bacon fat in the pan. Crumble bacon into small pieces and reserve.

In a pot, bring broth, vinegar, onions, salt, sugar, and pepper to a boil.

Combine canola oil, bacon fat, and mustard with warm potatoes. Pour broth vinegar mixture over potatoes. Toss to combine. Add in reserved bacon and chives and parsley.

– I think the best thing you can do is dress a potato while it is still warm because will just be a sponge to the liquid you are including. Another reason to love any kind of potato salad – in my opinion.

I first learned this idea from a good friend who dressed her potatoes for potato salad with pickle juice from the jar right when they came out of the hot water – it makes a world of difference.

 

Get it Right – my favorite kitchen company.

Several years ago I saw a New York Times posting on great kitchen things to give for Christmas. The one that caught my eye was Get it Right spatulas. I had pretty much your every day crappy spatulas at the time – you know – too big, stained easily, couldn’t put in the dishwasher because of wood handles, etc. and so these were really intriguing. They were pharma grade silicon, all one piece (no wood handles), in pretty colors and I had finally found an ultimate spatula that fit my small hands.* So I ordered a couple. And then a couple more. And then a few more. Shipping was free if you spent a minimal amount – no brainer. I really do need to get the bacon spatula if no other reason than just to say I have a bacon-colored spatula. Someone has a sense of humor and I appreciate it.

When I am in a baking mood, I can really go through spatulas and the GIR spatulas were dish washer safe – hell – they were safe up to 464 degrees F. I bought colors to go with my kitchen and then with my mood – first it was lemon yellow, and lime green, and orange – all my favorite colors and my favorite citrus. Then when winter turned bleak I ordered grey and black. Finally when spring started to come around again, a robin’s egg blue.

Well, this past year Get it Right had a kickstarter for there newest venture – a ladle and a spoonula – a cross between spoon and spatula – so I signed up. I have never been disappointed in anything from them and once again, I went the citrus route – orange and green. This was my Christmas present to me. And I know I made a good deal of it and I do love supporting a company that I feel like I’ve been with from the beginning. To be a bit of a dorky food geek – this is my football team. dd_1743

The coolest thing is that I have recently seen America’s Test Kitchen endorse them and use their spatulas in there show – how about that.  Get It Right has lots of other things too, but these are just my favorites. Please check them out – you will be really happy you did.

*This was important for me. I really have small hands and some spatulas are just too difficult to work with.