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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun-dried tomato pesto palmier

Palmier – Also called palm leaves, this crispy delicacy is puff pastry dough that is sprinkled with granulated sugar, folded and rolled several times, then cut into thin strips. After baking, these golden brown, caramelized pastries are served with coffee or tea or as a dessert accompaniment. Food Lover’s Companion, p. 437.

Well, this is not a sweet palmier, not by any stretch of the imagination, although I would like to make a sweet version one day. I saw Ina Garten make a version of this and decided I would use my sun-dried tomato pesto in her methodology.

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Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Palmiers

1/4 cup walnuts, pulverized in the food processor
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not oil packed, but hydrated it some hot water
1 bunch basil, washed, dried, and torn roughly
about 1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in the fridge*
1 egg, mixed with a Tbs of water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whir up walnuts in food processor. You could use pine nuts, but walnuts make an excellent pesto, in my opinion.  Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and pulse a few times. Add basil and Parmesan and pulse to combine all ingredients. Add the olive oil until the paste is smooth. Set aside. Or refrigerate until ready to bake, just remove in time to make sure this will be room temperature before spreading on pastry.

Unfold puff pastry sheet on a slightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin to roll the pastry 13 x 13 inch square. Using a small offset spatula, spread the pesto to the edges. Fold the sides of the dough on two side to half way to the center, the fold again so both sides meet in the middle. Finally, fold one half over the other. But don’t press them together too much.

Slice the dough into 3/8 inch and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 6 minutes, then turn the palmier over and rotate the baking sheet and bake 5 more minutes. Rest on a paper towel and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: After doing this the first time, I don’t think I will roll the puff pastry quite that thin. I think a 12 x 12 inch square will work. I also think the pesto really needs to be much thiner so the rolls have more space to puff up. Maybe I was a bit gun-shy about adding too much olive oil. Probably.

Of course, I love my sun-dried tomato pesto, but I always do. I cannot believe I have yet to post my sun-dried tomato pesto torte  – it is highly requested and I often make them for friends just to have at home for dinner – yes, dinner, and that works for me. Put it on the list.

These tasted pretty good, but I was not happy with the puff pastry. Need to figure out what I should do differently. That said, there was left over pesto that I plan to put on pasta with lots of olive oil.

*I left the puff pastry in the fridge for a couple of days, and to be honest, it was the easiest time I have ever had with puff pastry (Not sure why, but wow – it made me feel like pro for some reason), though I did put it back in the fridge after rolling it out and before putting the pesto on.

Flavored Pretzels

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Flavored Pretzels

I love a good food experiment, especially when it seems easy, uses things I already have on hand, and in this case, I only invested the price of a bag of pretzels. Why not try it?

I’ve been seeing recipes around for an apparently easy way to make flavored pretzels. They seemed a bit too easy to be honest, but I wanted to see if the methodology would really work. So on a lazy Saturday, I just decided to give it a go. Here ’tis with my variation on the flavors.

1 pound mini twist pretzels
3/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbs Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 Tbs McCormick Montreal black pepper seasoning
1 Tbs Old Bay seasoning

In a large resealable plastic bag, add oil and spices and mix them together until incorporated. Add pretzels and mixed until throughly combined. Let sit until all flavoring is absorbed, turning the bag several times over a 24 hour period.*

Well the method worked just fine. I did see some recipes that used a full cup of canola oil, but just as many used 3/4 and I went with that. Just a bit of a warning, the heat on these, if made as above, is at the end of it.

The MotH got to the heart of it when he said, these are beer pretzels.

*you can also bake these in a 200 degree oven for 1 hour stirring several times.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes with garlic, Gorgonzola, and bread crumbs

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Roasted Roma Tomatoes w/bleu cheese & garlic

Another no recipe recipe …

Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
Olive oil
Fresh Garlic, minced
Kosher salt+
Freshly ground black pepper
Plain bread crumbs*
Gorgonzola, crumbled

Okay with this recipe you have to base it on ratios. But the methodology is solid. Roma tomatoes work because they are solid tomatoes that hold up under the heat and get better and sweeter as they roast.

So slice the tomatoes and use a grapefruit spoon to get rid of the insides and especially the seeds. Put them cut side down of several pieces of paper towels to drain for at least 5 minutes.

Put tomatoes in a bowl large enough to hold them. Add enough olive oil to coat. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add minced garlic, enough that it makes sense for the number of tomatoes but understand that garlic is a key part of this recipe. Stir everything together until the tomatoes are coated and let marinate for as long as it makes sense.^

In another bowl mix together Gorgonzola and bread crumbs.£ Place marinated tomatoes, cut side up, on lined baking sheet. Fill with Gorgonzola bread crumb mixture. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake (or should it be roast?) for 20 – 25 minutes until tomatoes are softened and topping is lightly browned.

If you want, top with chopped herbs, parsley is a good idea. I think the best idea.

+I have used my homemade lemon Rosemary Maldon salt for this and it is, in a word, amazing.

*At work we use a lot of catering from Panera and they always bring baguettes with each order. I typically take one home if no one else wants it and have two things I do – make croutons with herbs fine and make plain breadcrumbs. So these are my homemade breadcrumbs.

^For me it takes at least an hour, but I have let them sit overnight too. Works well either way.

£ Figure out, based on ratios how much Gorgonzola you think will work, you can always add more and add just enough breadcrumbs to make the cheese sandy – that makes sense to me but to explain, enough bread crumbs to barely coat the Gorgonzola cheese.

This is one of the last things that my beloved father-in-law had that I made. He asked for seconds and well, even now, that is difficult and it has been several years but it still makes me happy. He was a second father to me and I am glad that I was able to make him happy.

25 May 2009 – Memorial Day. vvg w W/J – Used just enough bread crumbs to make Bleu cheese sandy
20 June 2009 – added a couple Tbs of cream cheese – just because there were fresh local Roma tomatoes
4 July 2009 – @ W/J w/D et al
23 June 2012 – vg
4 October 2015