Posts Tagged ‘pesto’

Unrecipe of the Week: Fresh Pasta with Zucchini and Roasted Tomatoes

June 1, 2015

Isn’t it funny how once the weather changes, my palatte changes with it? I suddenly can’t get enough tomatoes, corn, basil and zucchini. My spiralizer becomes my best friend, allowing me to morph a zucchini into noodles with the quick turn of a handle. Two minutes in a pan and I have a tasty base that gets me past my pasta craving most days. Except yesterday.

Home Made Pasta

Home Made Pasta

I made homemade fettuccine in the late afternoon, and tucked it away until dinner time. The dough gave me a run for my money…it was too dry, so I added a little olive oil and water and kneaded it into submission. When I started to put it through the pasta machine (the old fashioned hand crank type is all I use,) I felt like something magical had happened. The dough reacted perfectly, and didn’t require untangling or adding flour to prevent the cut pasta from sticking together. After 2 or 3 minutes in boiling salty water, I had a big bowl of the lightest, most delicate fettuccine I had ever made. It easily held its own against the fresh pastas I have had in fine restaurants here or in Italy. I had to give in and taste it.

Don’t let people trick you into believing that fresh pasta is always superior to the dried varieties. Fresh pasta is more delicate, and takes to simpler, oil based sauces. The dried types do the heavy lifting, and should be used for tomato sauces, especially those with meat, which could overpower many freshly made pastas. I tossed ours in a garlic and basil puree with lots of parmesan cheese and topped it off with my latest obsession, oven roasted cherry tomatoes. They become so sweet they are like eating candy.

This dinner is so simple to make that you can prepare the components and go sit around and relax until dinner time. At least that is what I did.

If you can’t get fresh pasta (many stores carry it in the refrigerator case ) and don’t feel like making your own, it will still be good with the boxed kind. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to shave your zucchinni into ribbons. If you don’t have a food processor, use a blender, or buy a bottle of pesto sauce. The beauty of an unrecipe is keeping it simple and making it your own. Do roast the tomatoes though. Its totally worth the minimal effort.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

For the tomatoes:

Rinse and dry a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes.  Toss them in a little olive oil, sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper, and spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Pop them into a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until they are starting to caramelize, but not burnt or dehydrated. Turn the pan about half way through and give it a shake to ensure more even cooking. You can also sprinkle some dried or fresh herbs, such as basil or oregano on them before roasting.

For the basil oil: 

Place the leaves of one bunch of basil and a clove or two of garlic into the food processor, and process until finely minced. (Traditional pesto has pine nuts in it. If you would like to use nuts, add them now and mince thoroughly.)Drizzle olive oil through the feed tube with the machine running, until it forms a loose paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that lays right on the surface of the food to avoid it turning brown. (* Traditional pesto has the parmesan integrated into the sauce. You can add it now if you prefer. I like the consistency of the basil puree without the cheese for this purpose, but it is your choice. If using jarred pesto, it will already be in there.)

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles aka Zoodles!

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles aka Zoodles!

For the zucchini:
Saute the zucchini noodles in a little olive oil until starting to soften, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the pureed basil oil and mix well. If it is a little thick, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water to thin it down.

Fresh Pasta with Zucchini, Basil Oil, Parmesan Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Fresh Pasta with Zucchini, Basil Oil, Parmesan Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

To assemble:
Cook the pasta according to directions, or about 2-3 minutes if homemade, and drain.

Place the pasta in a bowl. Spoon the zucchini on top, and sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese. Place the oven roasted tomatoes on top, and enjoy!!!

Pasta photo: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Peas Please

July 8, 2013

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It’s pea season, and the farmer’s markets are brimming over with shell peas. Pop the pods open and roll out the tiny green peas nestled inside. Each pod only contains a few, so if you are thinking about peas for a crowd, invite someone else to join in the task.

Lots of pods...

Lots of pods…

There are lots of reasons to eat your peas. They are high in protein, vitamin C, fiber and other healthy micronutrients and antioxidants.

Once extracted, the peas can be eaten raw, boiled for 20-30 seconds just to soften them slightly, or quickly sautéed. They are great as a side dish, with just a little butter and salt, or tossed into a salad. Peas are versatile, and can be used in pastas with a creamy or lemony sauce, or pureed into soups, and spreads. Add them to risotto, or grind them into pesto. There isn’t much these little green wonders won’t work with.

Not so many peas...

Not so many peas…

Feel free to share your favorite pea recipes in the comment section!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Cooking with Garlic Scapes

June 24, 2013

Garlic scapes are the green leafy stalks of the garlic plant that grow above the ground shortly after the first leaves appear. They are long and curly at the ends, and are usually cut off, as they inhibit the growth of the plant, resulting in very small garlic bulbs. Most garlic scapes are tossed into the compost heap, but they are completely edible and delicious. The farmer’s market is full of them right now, but act quickly, as these are only available in the early summer.

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Think of these green stalks relating to garlic cloves, in the way that scallions relate to onions. They possess the same garlicky flavor, albeit a bit milder.
We experimented with some of these unusual stalks, and found them to be quite versatile.
Here are just a few ways to use garlic scapes:

Use them to make pesto:
Instead of using basil (or any other green vegetable you like) and garlic cloves, place chunks of garlic scapes into the food processor, with a large handful of pignoli nuts. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil until the sauce forms a smooth consistency. Add Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta, or spread over grilled fish or chicken.

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Use them in dips and spreads:
Take 1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained) and some garlic scapes (we used about 16”-20” worth, cut into chunks) and put them in the food processor. Add a handful of parsley if you like and process until finely minced. Add the juice of one lemon, and with the machine running drizzle in olive oil until it forms a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita, or grilled vegetables, or as a sandwich spread.
Use them in a traditional vinaigrette, with olive oil, Dijon mustard and either balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice.

Finely chop them and sprinkle them in salads, over pasta or vegetables.

They cook quickly, so if you are using them in a recipe, add them near the end to avoid them browning.

Now that we have gotten you started, surely you will come up with lots of great uses for garlic scapes.  Let us know in the comments what your favorite uses are.

Enjoy!

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Eat Your Vegetables

July 20, 2012

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Union Square Greenmarket.

I tend to go on Saturday mornings, after a particularly grueling cycling class down the street, and pick up whatever strikes my fancy.

While the greenmarket goodies tend to last longer than their supermarket purchased counterparts, fresh produce only lasts so long.

I was thrilled to stumble upon some tips in the New York Times Dining section this week, on how to prolong the freshness of summer’s vegetable bounty.

Here are a few key tricks to preserving the produce of the season:

Greens, like lettuce, are best washed in advance, dried and stored.

Soft herbs such as basil and soft produce such as mushrooms and berries should be washed when used, as the water will speed spoilage. I find that putting basil in a glass of filtered water that comes a few inches up the stems, keeps it fresh for several days. Frequent readers will note that I am also a big proponent of making pesto, and basil oil while it’s still green and “perky”.

Anything that comes in bunches, should be released from it’s binding, as the closer the vegetables are packed, the faster they will rot.

Leafy tops of root vegetables, such as carrots and beets should be trimmed to 1” long to prolong freshness but prevent them from drying out.

Fruits and vegetables should be stored separately, as the ripening fruit emits ethylene, which damages vegetables.

Some produce will continue to ripen on the counter: stone fruits, melons, mangoes, apples, pears, tomatoes and avocados.  Bell peppers, citrus fruits, and berries will only deteriorate.

Bananas ripen quickly, and will speed the ripening of anything they are stored with.

If you can, cut and simply cook vegetables, as they will last longer in the refrigerator that way. Prepare them separately, to allow more flexibility in their use.

Intimidated by the skills needed to slice and dice vegetables? Have no fear.

The specialty market Eataly, just north of Union Square employs a fulltime vegetable butcher who will peel and cut your produce to order.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

Unrecipe of the Week

February 28, 2010

What better thing to do on a cold, winter day, than make homemade soup?
This vegetable soup is so easy to make, that it just isn’t worth buying the preservative and sodium-laden versions at the grocery store.

I cheated, and used some frozen vegetables. At this time of the year, certain things are not readily available, and the frozen varieties still contain the nutrients found in the fresh versions. Experiment with different combinations of vegetables. You really can’t go wrong here!

Homemade Vegetable Soup

Saute  a large, diced onion in a little olive oil, until soft.

Add diced carrots, celery, peas, spinach, corn and tomatoes. (I used canned San Marzano diced tomatoes and added the whole thing, including the juices).

Add 1 or 2 cans of red kidney beans, and / or cannellini beans, rinsed.

Fill the pot with chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simmer the soup for an hour or two, until the flavors begin to meld.

Serve with a dollop of pesto for extra flavor.

Enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images


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