Tag Archives: Pesto

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
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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?

 

 

What Is It About Basil? (part 2)

DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve talked about basil at length before, but I love this herb enough to do it one more time. As the summer moves on, the basil gets bigger and more fragrant. The flowers haven’t quite started yet, but the leaves are getting more fragrant and just stepping in the yard reveals a hint of the smell (if your mind is feeling right). We are still using it in a variety of recipes, but the time for Pesto making is drawing near.

I will be the first to admit that Pesto is an acquired taste. For me, I love the smell, texture, and taste of pesto. My digestive system, however, has issues….it gives me heartburn. I was faced with the quandary of how to enjoy Pesto, but not have to pay the price afterwards. I experimented with a few ideas and finally came up with what, for me, is the perfect solution: Roasted Garlic Pesto.

My interpretation of the classic Genovese recipe uses the usual gallery of ingredients, I just treat them a little differently.

First there’s the garlic. Most recipes call for several cloves of raw garlic which will send my digestive juices to a very ugly place. I opt to take a whole head (yes, a whole head) whack off the top, drizzle it  with olive oil, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the oven (350 degrees)until it gives off a sweet garlic aroma which can take 30 – 40 minutes.

While that’s happening, I like to toast the pine nuts. This is usually about 3 ounces of raw nuts. I toast them on top of the stove until they are lightly golden and smell, well, like pine trees( yes, they  are aptly named).

Basil and parsley in about a 4 to 1 ratio are combined in the processor with the garlic and pine nuts. They are processed until they are of a medium texture.  I drizzle in the olive oil until a  chunky paste forms.

No Pesto is complete without cheese. I use Pecorino Romano. This is a pungent sheep’s milk cheese, that has a slightly creamier texture than Parmesan. It is the cheese that I grew up with.  We would buy it by the half wheel and grind it in our Mouli Grater.te4867a If you haven’t tried this cheese, I would encourage you to give it a shot.  Another plus, it’s about half the price Parmagiano Reggiano.

So, I use about 3/4 of a cup of the grated cheese. This is added to the paste in the processor. Everything is blended until the paste is slightly chunky  (more olive oil can be added at this point if it seems like it’s dry) with a creamy look.

It is now ready to use in your favoite recipe or it can also be frozen in 1/4 to 1/3 cup portions for future uses that will keep for up to 6 months in freezer tolerant packaging.

Pasta and Pesto go together like Laurel and Hardy. It is wonderful on Fetuccinni or Liguine (mixed with a little heavy cream or even some red sauce). It can top fish or chicken, even a grilled steak would be happy to have it as its crowning glory.

One of my favorite ways to use it is in a Pesto Pasta Salad.Pesto Pasta Salad  I use Farfalle or Cavatapi pasta because it has lots of nooks and cranies to hold the Pesto. I toss the cooked pasta lightly with olive oil, then add the pesto a little at a time until the pasta is nicely coated. This can be served at room temperature or it can be chilled. The chilling lets the flavors get to know each other, but may require a little milk or olive oil to moisten it before serving.

So, Pesto –  the recipe isn’t an exact one, but that allows for indivdual interpretation. I hope you will find your own perfect Pesto recipe. Let me know what it is.