Almond-Basil Pesto


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Pesto makes a delicious pasta sauce, sandwich spread, or dip.

With so much basil growing in my garden this year, it was about time to make a batch.  Unfortunately a huge plate full of basil blends down to very little pesto, so make sure you have a LOT before getting started.

Ingredients:

  • LOTS of fresh basil (I used sweet basil as well as Thai basil)

    IMG 3137 300x225   Almond Basil Pesto

    Fresh picked sweet and Thai basil

  • 1/4- 1/2 C Slivered almonds (Because pine nuts are expensive and these were on sale! You can also use walnuts)
  • Olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Cheese (optional–I only had a tiny bit): Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese or similar

Combine basil, nuts, garlic, and cheese in the food processor.  Add just enough olive oil so that the ingredients blend well.   Add salt and pepper to taste.

I was unpleasantly surprised at how much olive oil is required to make a creamy pesto… but I did read a tip about using chicken broth or some other stock to achieve a similar consistency without as much oil.

IMG 3138 300x262   Almond Basil Pesto

almonds, basil, garlic in the food processor

Enjoy! This came out delicious!

IMG 3143 300x225   Almond Basil Pesto

Fresh basil pesto

 

August 13, 2011
Food, Recipe

 
 

Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers


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In my garden, the tomatoes just started coming in like crazy! 
I don’t eat tomatoes on everything, so I needed to come up with a way to use the ripe ones so they wouldn’t go to waste.

IMG 2733 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

cherry tomatoes

IMG 2734 300x133   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

More garden tomatoes

It just so happened that this weekend at the Catonsville Farmer’s Market, my favorite vendor, the White Rose Farm folks, had a huge bag of mixed peppers (purple bell, cowhorn, jalapeno, mild/spicy varieties, etc) at a ridiculously good price.  I’m growing jalapenos, chilli peppers, and bell peppers, but I don’t have that many of any of those yet.
They also had tomatillos for sale, which I got to taste for the first time thanks to the friendly man at the farm stand.  They are really good raw! Crunchy and buttery!

This was also the first time I’ve purchased garlic from the farmer’s market.  At $1 a bunch, it’s not the most economical, but wow was it good! Crisp, so fresh, flavorful, and much more potent.  I only used 2 cloves where I might normally use 4 or more!

With all this in tow, and a bunch of cilantro, I set to work.

IMG 2857 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Blended peppers, cilantro and garlic , frozen for future use

Many of the peppers wouldn’t have lasted a full week in the fridge before going off, so I decided to food process all of them at once.   It’s a pain in the moment, but I am so excited for all the leftover pepper/garlic/cilantro mixture I have frozen and waiting for my next culinary usage of them.  At the very least, I can keep this frozen until I get my next batch of ripe tomatoes for more salsa :).

Here’s the general recipe for a delicious, fresh, garden salsa made from tomatillo, peppers, and tomatoes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 part tomatillos
  • 1 part diced tomatoes
  • 1 part mixed peppers (bell, cowhorn, jalapeno, mild/spicy varieties, etc..)
  • garlic (2 cloves of farmer’s market garlic goes a long way!)

    IMG 2854 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

    Mixed peppers, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, and Garlic

  • leek (1/4 cup chopped or to taste, or onion if you prefer, but leek is milder, and I didn’t use much)
  • cilantro (handful–to taste!)
IMG 2860 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Cilantro

Directions:

Add garlic, leek, cilantro, peppers and tomatillos to the food processor and blend into very small pieces (but not entirely pureed).

IMG 2853 283x300   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

peppers in the food processor

IMG 2856 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Food processing ingredients

Dice tomatoes and combine in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  Adjust amount of jalapenos and hot peppers for spiciness.

YUM!

IMG 2865 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Fresh Garden Salsa with Tomatillos, Tomatoes, and mixed Peppers


After devouring our first batch with chips, we added more on top of some homemade shrimp burritos! YUM!!
This salsa had just the right amount of spiciness (adjust pepper ratio to taste)!

IMG 2871 300x225   Fresh Garden Salsa: Tomatillo, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Garden Salsa on a shrimp burrito

August 6, 2011
Food, Recipe

 
 

Healthy Seafood ‘Alfredo’ with Vegetable Noodles


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I’m not a huge fan of pasta or alfredo sauce
, but I know more than a few people who are.

To me, pasta is filler–lots of carbs with very little nutritional value. I end up uncomfortably full after most pasta dishes, and wishing there were more substance to the meal. Alfredo sauce is painfully unhealthy, with so much cheese, cream, and butter, I wonder why I’m not just eating a whole pan of brownies.

IMG 2201 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Healthy seafood alfredo with vegetable noodles

This dish suits those who love OR hate pasta and Alfredo sauce. There are multiple takes on how to make it, but the basic concept is the same. It’s delicious AND healthy, and I personally rank this seafood ‘pasta’ dinner in my top five meals

ever made.

Pasta:
The ‘pasta’ in this dish is made up of squash and zucchini.

2-4 squash or zucchini (or some of each, preferably large)
Large Carrots (optional–adds color and tastes good, but is a bit tougher than squash and zucchini)

Peel the squash/zucchini/carrots with a peeler, and if the skin is tough you can discard the outer layer, but this isn’t totally necessary. Use a peeler to create wide, long, ‘noodles’ from the vegetables. These noodles will only need to be sauteed for a couple minutes at the end of the cooking process. Set aside.

IMG 2186 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Peeling zucchini and squash to make noodles

IMG 2193 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

squash, zucchini, and carrot noodles

Sauce:

In this case, the sauce was made from cauliflower and white beans, boiled and pureed and combined with a chicken or vegetable broth, and a little almond milk (or milk of your choice).

See recipe for the healthy white sauce alternative.

IMG 2177 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

white beans for sauce

To turn this pasta and sauce recipe into a seafood/vegetable dish, here’s what I did:

IMG 2185 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Zucchini, Asparagus, Mushrooms

Other Ingredients:

Basil
Zucchini
Asparagus
Mushrooms
Garlic
Leek

Combine all the above ingredients (chopped) in a frying pan and saute until tender in a little oil or butter, with garlic, leek, basil, salt and pepper for seasoning.

IMG 2196 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Sauteed veggies: zucchini, basil, asparagus, mushrooms

Seafood:

1 tilapia filet, crumbled (did this on its own..)
Scallops
1/2 C White wine
Butter
Garlic
Leek
Basil

In a separate pan, sear scallops in butter with garlic and leek.  Add tilapia.  Add white wine, salt, pepper, and basil, and cook for another 5 or so minutes.

IMG 2200 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Scallops and tilapia in white wine, garlic, leek, and basil

Combine:

Add vegetable ‘noodles’ to the veggies (mushrooms/asparagus/whatever you made) in the fry pan and cook for 2-4 minutes to heat through.

IMG 2199 300x231   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Vegetable noodles in the pan

Serve noodles and veggies in a bowl, topped with seafood and white wine, and as much ‘alfredo’ sauce as desired.  Garnish with fresh basil.  DELICIOUS!

IMG 2203 300x225   Healthy Seafood Alfredo with Vegetable Noodles

Healthy seafood alfredo with vegetable noodles!

July 7, 2011
Food, Recipe

 
 

Calamari with Cilantro-Lime Sauce


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Calamari served with Broccoli white bean soup 225x300   Calamari with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Calamari served with Broccoli white bean soup

 

Previously I made a beer-battered calamari, which, while delicious, was a pain to fry and the batter was nearly overpowering the seafood in flavor.

This calamari ‘recipe’ (it’s so simple, is it a recipe?) is much lighter, and reminiscent of the fried calamari I frequently ordered in Greece– large tender pieces of squid with a light batter, covered in lemon–no sauce necessary.

I didn’t have lemon, so I opted to make a cilantro-lime dipping sauce for this dish.

Calamari (serves 2):

  • 4 squid (I only made 2 and I could have easily eaten double, but if you are having this as an appetizer or side dish, 1 per person is enough)
  • 1 C flour
  • Club soda (for marinating)
  • Seasoning: salt/pepper/paprika or cayenne pepper (basil/oregano if you desire)
  • Grapeseed or other frying oil

Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime

Calamari Directions:

Slice the squid into fat rings, or whatever size you prefer.  I like to taste the squid, personally.
Submerge the calamari rings in a bowl of club soda for about ten minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and spices.
Drain and gently squeeze some moisture from the calamari.  I did this one by one to let the other rings soak a bit longer.

dredging calamari in flour 300x225   Calamari with Cilantro Lime Sauce

dredging calamari in flour

Dredge calamari in flour / spice mixture.  Set aside.

Calamari before frying 300x225   Calamari with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Calamari before frying

Heat grapeseed oil on the stove in a deep pan for frying.  I don’t really have appropriate pans for this so I used a deep wok with a nonstick finish.
Once oil is hot, add each ring and cook a minute or two on each side, until light golden, depending on how fat the rings are.  Don’t overcook or it will be chewy.  If you overcrowd the pan, the cooking temperature will go down and the squid will stick together.

Calamari frying 300x225   Calamari with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Calamari frying

Place fried squid on paper towels to soak up excess oil.

 

 

Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce:
Combine mayo, lime juice, and cilantro.  Stir until blended.
I’d really like to try this with yogurt instead of mayo.  I hate mayo..  This sauce was yummy, but why not make it healthier!?

Cilantro lime sauce 300x225   Calamari with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Cilantro lime sauce

We enjoyed the calamari served along with some leftover broccoli white-bean soup.  Delicious, and filling!

calamari and soup dinner 300x225   Calamari with Cilantro Lime Sauce

calamari and soup dinner

June 15, 2011
Food, Recipe

 
 

Ginger-Basil Simple Syrup


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My love of ginger causes me to experiment with it not only in food, but also in drinks and cocktails.
Tonight I decided to attempt a ginger simple syrup.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup thinly sliced or diced fresh ginger
handful of fresh basil
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar

ginger basil simple syrup 300x225   Ginger Basil Simple Syrup

ginger basil simple syrup

Usually simple syrup is 1 part water to 1 part sugar.  I toned it down in sweetness in order to get more ginger/basil flavoring in the syrup.  This way you can add more syrup without over-sweetening your beverage.

  • Heat the water over the stove in a small sauce pan.
  • Add ginger and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add basil and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
  • Add the sugar and stir constantly.
  • You may leave the ingredients on the heat for as long as you like while the flavors soak in, so long as the sugar doesn’t burn, so add that last.
  • Remove from heat.

I put mine in a mason jar once cooled and refrigerated it.

Add a few teaspoons or tablespoons to cocktails or even food.  This may be good in or on waffles or as a sweet glaze or salad dressing.

strawberry ginger basil mint cocktail 225x300   Ginger Basil Simple Syrup

strawberry ginger basil mint cocktail

I added it to muddled strawberry, mint, and vodka (or gin) with club soda.  Yum!

June 14, 2011
Drink, Recipe