Friday, June 25, 2010

Homemade fresh pesto

My family loves pesto. In the past, I've bought the Kirkland brand of pesto from Costco, which was pretty good and decent in price. This summer, I've decided to make my own pesto from the basil from my garden. My husband's co-worker sent me this recipe, which I was hesitant to try at first because it contained heavy cream, but oh my ... it's really good.

I served this on toasted cibatta bread with grilled chicken, mozzarella, paremesan and fresh lettuce. Later in the week, I made some quinoa and used the leftover pesto as a sauce. It was fantastic!

Fresh Pesto

4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 to 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (add more if your pesto is too dry)
1 hot pepper (optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Put everything in a food processor and mix until you have a sauce thickness to your liking. Pour sauce into saucepan and heat until it's warmed through. While the sauce is heating, whip the heavy cream. Add 1 to 4 tablespoons of the cream to the sauce, depending on your taste (I used about 2 tablespoons). The sauce should remain somewhat thick.

Add to your favorite al dente pasta, toasted cibatta bread sandwiches, quinoa. Another great dish with pesto is cooked penne pasta, and lightly steamed veggies like broccoli, asparagus, shallots, carrots ... and whatever other favorite veggies you have on hand. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kale chips

I usually don't post two days in a row, but I had to share this stupidly simple recipe for kale chips. I used the kale that I'm growing in my garden for the first time.

This healthy snack was gobbled up by my kids and me within 15 minutes.

If you can, use organic kale. It's number eight on the Dirty Dozen list for pestacide use.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take one head of kale and remove leaves. Wash and dry thoroughly. In a large bowl, massage kale leaves with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season lightly with sea salt and spread out in one layer on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

The final result is a very light and crispy chip that tastes incredible. Be careful, though, the chips can be messy because of how flaky they are. My kids ate these straight off the cooled baking sheet and asked for more right away. We'll be having fun this summer experiementing with different flavors, like adding nutritional yeast, tahini, soy, chipotle, cajun, etc. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vegan tortilla soup

My husband and I are big fans of tortilla soup. I've tried to make it several times, but it never seemed to taste right. I finally found the winning recipe that my mom emailed me from a book called The 30-Minute Vegan: Over 175 Quick, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes for Everyday Cooking. Even if you're not vegan, there are plenty of flavorful and adaptable recipes that the whole family will love. For example, I add cooked chicken and shredded cheese to my husband's bowl to round his meal out. 

I've made it several times since the first try and it's always been a hit with the whole family. It also freezes well. I make two batches at a time to make sure I have plenty on hand. 

Mexican Tortilla Soup

1 tbs olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped into medium dice
1 Anaheim or Jalapeno Chile, seeded and sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, preferable fire-roasted
1 15oz can black or pinto beans, drained
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 cups water or vegetable stock
2 tbs soy sauce
1/2 medium size avocado cubed
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

In a medium size pot, sauté the olive oil, onion, Anaheim pepper and garlic over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, beans, chili powder, cumin, water and soy sauce. Cover and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the avocado and cilantro. 

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a handful of tortillas and a sprinkling of avocado and cilantro.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fresh tomatoes, basil and asparagus

Since the weather has warmed up, I've curiously found my appetite waning a bit. Curiously because I have a huge appetite and usually have food on my mind during most of my waking moments.

A couple of weeks ago, I had ordered some patio garden containers from VP Farms on 76th Street, and when I went to pick them up, I also bought a couple of heirloom tomatoes and fresh Michigan asparagus. They looked too good to sit on my countertop, so I sliced up the tomato and steamed the asparagus. My patio pots contained, among many other things, three gorgeous basil plants, so I plucked off a few leaves and sliced those up. A drizzle of olive oil, a few turns of freshly cracked pepper and a sprinkle of feta cheese, and I had a very filling and simple - yet light - lunch.

My garden is now complete. I have four pots of lettuce (pictures coming soon), one large tomato pot, one pot of just basil (fresh pesto, anyone??), and a pot of cilantro, parsley and oregano. In the ground I have broccoli, collard greens, melon, beans, kale, cucumbers and snow peas. I have no idea what I'm doing with any of them, so we shall see what happens.