Presto Pesto

July 8, 2007

Pesto is…in a word…deep. Why deep? There are so many flavors happening at once.

Separately, the basil, garlic, Parm and olive oil have their own powerful flavors, but when they’re blended together they become something else all together.

It may be hard to believe, but we try to pack even more flavor into this pesto by toasting the pine nuts (an ingredient at the epicenter of this traditional dish).

In a dry pan, I toast the pine nuts over high heat until they turn brown (be careful here because the nuts can burn quickly).

After they’re nice and brauned, the pine nuts change from plain janes to nutty, rich pods of taste-tastic-ness.

I’m especially pleased with my pine nut pics, so check them out on my Flickr account.

Here’s the recipe (courtesy of Giada’s Family Dinners):

  • 2 cups firmly packed basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parm
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (approx)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted)
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove

Later tonight we’re making pesto-crusted trout. Stay tuned! bk

Vine Ripe & Roasted

July 2, 2007

Roasted tomato soup is something I make a lot in the cooler months, but I have tons of tomatoes coming out of the garden, and there’s only so much sauce and so many sandwiches I can take. So soup it is. I also always use plum tomatoes in this recipe, but this time I used not-plums (and some were even still a little green).

I quarter the quasi-ruby beauties and spread them on a sheet pan. I pour over 1/4 cup olive oil (plus 2 tblsps.), 2 tblsps. Kosher salt and a nice cracking of pepper. Toss the toms to get them well-coated and slide them into a 400 degree oven (place the rack in the upper part of the oven for good charring) for 45 minutes.

Near the end of the roasting time, saute 2 chopped onions and 6 cloves of garlic in 2 tblsps. of unsalted butter, an equal amount of olive oil and a nice sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

I usually just soften the onions, but this time I took them way further and got a nice, caramelly color on them. (Note: if you’re going to cook the onions longer, wait to add garlic so it doesn’t burn and bitter up on you)

When the onions are where you want them, add a 28oz can to crushed tomatoes, 1 quart low sodium chicken stock (not broth), 1 tsp. fresh thyme, 4 cups of fresh, whole basil leaves and the roasted toms with their juices. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Serve it chunky, or blitz it with a hand-held food mill. The next day it’s always better. This will be lunch for the week. Make it a meal by serving it with Aged English Cheddar sandwiches on really good bread.

Tonight we’ve discovered an amazing new concoction to add to our arsenal, the lemony-basil dressing from Giada’s Basil Chicken. When I got home from work, I marinated a whole, cut-up chicken in:

  • 1/3 cup | Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup | Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. | Fennel seeds (slightly crushed)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

I placed everything in a large ziploc bag and tossed it in the fridge. I lit the grill as Bridget made the basil dressing. First, she harvested some basil from the garden. Then she added it (amount), 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tsp. lemon zest , (amount) extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. After these ingredients had been added to the blender, she blitzed it. A few seconds later, and amazing emerald potion was created.

After about 30 minutes, I removed the marinated chicken from the fridge and threw it on the grill. After it was done, I set it aside to rest under a tent of foil. While the chicken rested, I diced some zuccini and tossed it with some olive oil, and salt and pepper. I grilled it under tender crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. I also reheated some left over corn salad from Sunday night.

The plate was served as grilled chicken with the basil dressing drizzled over top, with tender-crisp zucchini and corn salad.