Tag Archives: Pesto

Summertime is Pesto Time

Summer is here in all of its radiant (and humid) glory. I love this time of year. Flowers are peaking, showing their most vibrant color and gardens are beginning to give forth their bounty. Basil plants are thriving and beg to be snipped back almost daily. Basil always brings pesto to mind. I’ve shared my version of the traditional Pesto recipe and it is still number one on my Hit Parade, but this summer I have stepped out of my comfort zone (a little) and experimented with some different flavors and ingredients.

First off is a Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Pesto. Grape tomatoes and garlic are roasted to perfection before they are added to ricotta and pine nuts. Basil actually plays a supporting role here, but is present enough to lend some color and lots of flavor.

This is wonderful on pasta. or as a base for bruschetta.

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Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Pesto
Servings: 2 Cups
Ingredients
  • 1 Pint Grape Tomatoes
  • 4-5 Large Garlic Cloves Skin on
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil Plus more for roasting
  • 3/4 Cup Ricotta I used Part Skim
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts I toasted mine
  • 1/2 Cup Basil Leaves Firmly packed
  • Salt and Pepper To taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss the tomatoes with a generous dose of olive oil, add a bit of salt and pepper. and spread them out on the baking sheet. 

  2. Place the garlic cloves on a piece of foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil and pull the foil up around the cloves to make a nice bundle. Seal well, but leave a little room for steam.

  3. Roast the garlic for about 30 minutes until it is very fragrant. Roast the tomatoes 15 - 20 minutes until the begin to blister and give off a little juice. Remove things from the oven as the are done and set aside. 

  4. In a processor combine the tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, oil, and the cheeses. Process until fairly smooth. Add the basil and pulse just long enough to coarsely chop. You want those pretty green flecks.

  5. Use with your favorite pasta or as a base for bruschetta or pizza.

This pesto takes its inspiration from what is flourishing in my (balcony) herb garden. These are my standbys that are always planted. Nothing exotic or fancy just some rosemary, basil, and lemon thyme. Just out of camera range is a chive plant that is happily snipped at everyday.

This Garden Herb Pesto is based what’s in my garden. You can make it your own by snipping in you own garden. Lemon juice and zest along with some toasted almonds join the traditional pecorino, olive oil, and roasted garlic to create a bright blend. Once again, basil doesn’t take center stage, it co-stars with thyme. Rosemary is there but in a quantity that imparts flavor without hitting everything else over the head. Parsley would be a welcome addition here. Sadly, my success with parsley has never been great so I use it at times that I have enough. This was not one of those times. Herb Pesto is the perfect sauce for some angel hair pasta. It also shines as a topping for grilled or roasted vegetables. I’ve even added bread crumbs and a little stock and used it to stuff chicken breasts and pork chops.

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Garden Herb Pesto
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon Zest & juice
  • 4-5 Cloves Garlic Roasted
  • 1/2 Cup Thyme Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Basil Leaves
  • 2 Tblsp. Rosemary Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Chives
  • 2 Tblsp. Slivered almonds Toasted
  • 1/4 Cup Pecorino Romano Grated
  • 3 Tblsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper To taste
Instructions
  1. Roast the garlic by wrapping the skin-on cloves in foil. Add a bit of olive oil before sealing the packet. Roast 30- 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

  2. Combine all of the ingredients, except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is chopped but not to the point of being a paste.

  3. Drizzle in the olive oil blending until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper as needed and it's ready for its culinary adventure.

There you have two quick pesto recipes that are ready for their day in the sun. I know that these are only a small corner of what can be done with garden bounty. Let your green (and red if you are using tomatoes) flag fly and make pesto your own. Its time is now.

Mama D’s Fall Kitchen Adventures

There  is more than just a hint of fall in the air. Cool days and cooler breezes make it abundantly clear that the season has changed here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m ready for Fall, at least I think I am. I enjoy the cooler days and the leaves changing colors. No longer having to rake them makes the whole process even more enjoyable. While I’m not anxious for Winter, I am ready for this change and the change in my cooking focus that it brings.

I want to share a few quick picks of what’s been happening in Mama D’s Kitchen. Many of these are Non-Recipe Recipes; that is they really are just musings on what’s in season and more importantly what’s in the house. So come join me as we a take a culinary walk back over the last couple of weeks.

I bought some Nan bread (the garlic variety) to go with a curry dish. The curry wound up being paired with some Brown Basmati Rice and the Nan was left to fend for itself. In case you’ve never thought of it, Nan makes a great quick pizza crust. It’s the perfect shape and size for personal pizza and works in the oven or on the grill.

I opted for a version of White Pizza using some of my Homemade Ricotta (thanks, Ina Garten) and Pesto. I mixed the two together to create the “sauce” I drizzled the Nan with some olive oil and toasted it in the oven briefly before adding said sauce. The toppings were Italian Sausage and Mini Heirloom Tomatoes both of which were on hand and waiting for their moment to shine. The cheese was a marinated mozzarella that was purchased on speculation, but perfectly suited to the pizza.2015-09-29 19.07.46 Once baked it was topped with some basil, olive oil, and served with baby greens dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil. Now, that was a delightful and very easy supper.2015-09-29 19.17.31

I found some lovely beets at the store and since they are one of Papa D’s favorites I had to bring some home. My preferred method of cooking is to roast them. This also is the most stain proof way, in my opinion. Wash them off and remove the greens leaving a little of the stem. Lay them on a couple of sheets of heavy foil, drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap them up tightly. Let them roast at 375 – 400 degrees until they are easily pierced with a knife and the kitchen has the earthy aroma of beets. This can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the beets.2015-09-27 19.45.11 Let them cool long enough to make them handle-able. I love beets, but beet red is not my color, so I opt to wear gloves to rub the skins off. If you enjoy red fingers go ahead and use bare hands and paper towels. Once peeled, I cut them into chunky chunks and dressed them lightly with a Balsamic Vinaigrette that was laced with some orange peel. Any dressing that you love would work here. I set them on top of some baby greens (left from guess what?) and garnished them with some goat cheese. Wonderful!2015-09-28 19.34.01

Finally I have to share another “Pork Love” dish, Stuffed Pork Chops. I have recently re-fallen in love with pork chops, particularly the thick cut, bone in, center variety. They are eating perfection. The thin ribbon of fat on the edge and the succulent bone along the side create a depth of flavor that is divine. They are wonderful simply prepared on the grill or in the oven, but I knew they were just begging to be stuffed.

This stuffing was inspired by what I had on hand and included some frozen chopped spinach, red bell peppers, and whole grain bread. Honestly anything could go into the stuffing. Leave out the bread and go all veggie, or use rice, quinoa or any other grain you have within easy reach. I started my stuffing with onion and garlic that I sautéed in a little olive oil (Is there any other way to begin?). The spinach and bell pepper jumped in and got very friendly with them. I put the bread in the toaster and then crumbled it into the veggies. I added a little chicken stock to moisten everything and packed it generously, albeit lightly, into the pockets that I had cut. I added a little wine to the pan and salt and pepper to the chops. For a crowning flavor boost I topped them with some sliced onions.2015-09-28 18.42.53

I let them bake covered for 20 minutes or so then I lifted their foil blanket and let them roast another few minutes to get lightly golden. I opted for 350 degrees because that seemed right. Baking time depends on the thickness of the chops and what’s inside…use your best guess, but do not overcook them.2015-09-28 19.38.31

The chops were scrumptious; moist and tender and positively dripping with flavor. I’ve started a mental list of what to add the next time; herbs, sausage, cheese, the ideas are endless.

So there you have it, three quick and easy kitchen adventures. Now it’s your turn to take my ideas and run with them.

 

Inspired Supper: Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu-Italian Style

I absolutely love coming up with recipes. It’s so much fun to ponder, “What should I make for supper?” and then let my mind wander until the perfect blend of ingredients comes to mind. I must confess, however, sometimes my ideas are not always completely my own.

I like nothing better than to read a cookbook as if it was the hottest best seller. There are so many things to learn from the pages of any given culinary tome. Another source of inspiration comes from the myriad cooking magazines that are available. I make it a point to pick up two or three every month, choosing something different each time. The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of those magazines.

Food Network Magazine featured a Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe in its September issue. It was a classic recipe turned inside out and prepared on the grill. It was interesting enough to catch my eye. Once my eye was caught, my brain started thinking about how I could make it my own. It was easy to prepare and the ham and cheese wrapper was definitely open to interpretation. The question became, “Where should I go with this recipe?” The answer was quickly obvious. Why to Italy, of course. I kept the chicken breast and the grill leaving the other ingredients behind. Except, that is, the zucchini which is always a pleasant partner in any Italian caper. Prosciutto and provolone cheese became the wrapper. A few sage leaves came along to provide an earthy surprise.2015-09-20 18.58.24

I decided that boneless, skinless chicken breasts can always use a little help in the flavor department, so I marinated them in olive, oil, lemon juice, and some Italian herbs. A bit of onion and some garlic also joined the mix. Then the grill did its magic and when the chicken was almost done, I added the sage, cheese, and prosciutto, 2015-09-20 19.35.29The beautiful bundles returned to the grill for a few minutes to turn a lovely pale gold. I decided to top it with some of my pesto to round the final turn for a classically Italian dish.2015-09-20 19.46.00Then there was the matter of the zucchini. My grill isn’t very large and can only provide a friendly and hot haven for one thing at a time, so the zucchini roasted in the oven. It was paired with red and sweet onions a glug of  olive oil and some Italian herb blend.2015-09-20 18.51.15Towards the end of the cooking I added a sprinkle of finely grated Romano cheese and let it brown up under the broiler. A little roughly chopped parsley and it was ready.2015-09-20 19.38.26This was a very satisfying supper, not too heavy and bursting with flavor. Other than marinating the chicken, everything was ready in about  half an hour. Perfect for a weeknight, but great for a weekend meal after a busy day.2015-09-20 19.48.05

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu: Italian Style
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu: Italian Style
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in a zip top bag. Mix together the lemon juice, grated garlic, chopped onion, one teaspoon of the herb seasoning, and one tablespoon of the olive oil. Pour into the bag with the chicken squeeze and turn the bag to coat the chicken evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  2. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a hot grill. Grill until lightly browned. Turn and grill until the second side matches the first.
  3. Remove the chicken from the grill and lay three sage leaves on each breast. Top with a slice of the cheese and wrap with the prosciutto. Return the chicken to the grill cheese side up and cook for a few minutes to melt the cheese and crisp up the prosciutto.
  4. While the chicken is grilling, combine the zucchini, onions and the remaining olive oil and herb blend in a baking dish. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes.
  5. Top the zucchini with the Romano cheese and broil until the cheese is golden. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
  6. Top each chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of the pesto. Plate it up and serve.
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I’m happy that this recipe inspired me and happier that the inspiration turned into something delicious. The moral of this story is that any recipe worth “borrowing” is worth making your own. 

Mama D’s Minestrone Adventure

MInestrone, every cook seems to have a recipe. Mama D has one, too. In fact over the years she’s made various kinds of Minestrone. I must confess this one is new. My old go-to recipe was kind of boring so I decided to reinvent it. I also wanted to find out a little more about where it came from and see what other people put in their soup. Inspiration is a good thing, after all.

Minestrone has lots of different versions. Even Italians can’t agree (no surprise there). Every recipe I looked at had a slightly different ingredient list. Some featured meat, others didn’t. Vegetables varied from a few onions and tomatoes to an entire produce market. The only constant seems to be that it is a vegetable soup with beans. Historically, it is considered “cucina povera” food of the poor because the ingredients are accessible to all and usually change seasonally. Anyway you cook it it’s cheap.

DIGITAL CAMERAThere are two inspirations for this recipe. One is the vegetable DIGITAL CAMERAstock that I recently made. The other is an article from “Fine Cooking” magazine about dried garbanzo beans. Pot O’ Gold by Melissa Pellegrino. These have become the basis for the soup I’m sharing today.

DIGITAL CAMERAI would call this recipe a Winter Minestrone. It is winter (snow on the ground and single digit temperatures). I steadfastly like to use what I have in the house so the ingredients are quite basic. The soup starts with a medley of vegetables with onion being in the majority. Carrots and garlic round out the aromatics. These are sweated in some olive oil along with a little potato. Canned tomatoes are added for color and flavor. I went with a modest amount of tomatoes, but feel free to use the big can.

I used a combination of vegetable stock and garbanzo cooking water (this adds a little more DIGITAL CAMERAbean flavor and also thickens things a bit), and added a small Parmesan rind because I had one. I added lots of garbanzo beans There really is a difference with garbanzos home cooked, They are creamier and oh, so flavorful.  I would probably go with fresh green beans in this, but I couldn’t find any that looked like they would actually taste like green beans so I opted for frozen cut green beans that I thawed. That rounded out the main ingredients.

I like most of my soups a little on the thick side. To create a little more body in many of my soups, including this one, I add potato flakes. I’m using them as an ingredient so I won’t call them by their real name, Instant Mashed Potatoes. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t use them in their traditional way. They incorporate almost instantly, and because they are used in small quantities they don’t impart much flavor. Give it a try…you’ll be surprised.

DIGITAL CAMERAPesto is green goodness. It adds that slap you in the face flavor DIGITAL CAMERAand takes whatever you put it in to another level. I always have this in my freezer for just his kind of occasion. It is a wonderful addition to the soup. I like my pesto subtle so I make it with roasted garlic. I freeze it in 1/4 cup portions. it sounds like a small amount, but it goes a long way. If you choose to add more, I won’t be offended. i won’t even mind if you leave it out. That goes for anything in this recipe. I will probably make this soup differently the next time depending on my mood and my pantry. That’s the beauty of cooking…what rules there are, can usually be broken or at least bent a little.

Mama D's Minestrone
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Mama D's take on an Italian classic..
Servings
6
Servings
6
Mama D's Minestrone
Print Recipe
Mama D's take on an Italian classic..
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Cook 5 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook stirring often until the garlic becomes fragrant, 2 minutes or so.
  2. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine everything. Cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes stirring often. Add the garbanzo water, vegetable stock, and cheese rind. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered 30 minutes.
  3. Add the garbanzo beans and the herbs. Cook for 5 minutes or so. if you like a thicker soup add the instant potato flakes and stir to combine. Cook for 3 minutes or until you notice things beginning to thicken. Add the green beans and heat for another 5 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat and add the pesto. Sir to combine. Taste at this point and add salt and pepper to your preference. Continue to heat until everything is beautifully steamy.
  5. Divide the cooked pasta into 6 soup bowls. Ladle the soup on top of the pasta. Top with the Parmesan shavings and garnish with more pesto if desired.
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Winter has only just begun. There’s plenty of time for a hearty bowl of Minestrone.           Enjoy – Mama D

Mama D’s Harvest of Love

Basil in the yardDIGITAL CAMERAFall is harvest time everywhere and here at Mama D’s Kitchen of Love we have our own mini harvest festival. I am harvesting from what can be loosely called a kitchen container garden. It’s some herbs and the amazing colossal tomato plant.

If you follow my Facebook page Mama D’s Kitchen you know that I have a Grape Tomato plant that was over 6 feet tall at maturity. The plant continues to produce fruit and if the frost holds off, we may be eating homegrown tomatoes at Thanksgiving. I also have Basil which I’ve written about twice (but I don’t play favorites). It had a rough go midsummer. But some love and a small dose of Miracle Grow gave it a new lease on life.

So, back to the harvest. I checked on the tomato plant yesterday and  there was another pint of tomatoes ready to pick. I already had almost 2 pints in the house. When the plant gives you tomatoes, make sauce! I decided to try a roasted tomato sauce. I thought the sweetness of the Grape Tomatoes would work well.DIGITAL CAMERA So I tossed them with garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and olive oil.DIGITAL CAMERA They spent a little over an hour in the oven and once cooled , were blended until fairly smooth. It was so beautiful that I had to make something with it.DIGITAL CAMERA                        Enter some Italian Sausage and Cavatapi and there was dinner.

Basil is a delicate plant. It likes lots of sun and a good amount of water and it’s not too crazy about cold nights. It also has a number of insects that like to call it home, most damaging being the Japanese Beetle. I was feeling like the basil may be on borrowed time so a batch of Pesto was in order.  I make Roasted Garlic Pesto ( see What Is It About Garlic? posts). Aside from roasting the garlic it’s a pretty traditional cast of characters. DIGITAL CAMERA All are pictured here except for the pine nuts which were toasting in the oven when the photo was taken. Once the pesto is prepared it can be frozen for several months. DIGITAL CAMERA I divide it out in 1/4 cup portions, put it in zip top bags and freeze it. When I’m ready to use it, I thaw the bag and cut a corner off the bottom. I can then squeeze the pesto out into whatever I’m preparing. Everything comes out and my hands stay clean. A little pesto goes a long way so the amount in each bag is just about right. It’s just the right amount to toss in a sauce or soup, add to scrambled eggs, or grilled vegetables. And there isn’t a law that says you can’t use more than one bag in a recipe. Best of all it’s a little taste of summer in your freezer.

What’s next on the harvest agenda? There’s at least one more batch of pesto, and the Oregano, Rosemary, and Thyme are still going strong. As for the tomato plant, who knows. As long as it is producing fruit, I’ll keep finding ways to use it. Does anyone have a recipe for Tomato Cranberry Sauce?