A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Friday, August 24, 2007

Summer Pesto Sauce

1 bunch fresh basil leaves, stems removed (about 2.5oz)
4 medium cloves garlic peeled
½ cup pine nuts toasted
½ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese grated
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup olive oil

Place the basil leaves in a mini food processor and pulse two or 3 times to chop the basil- add in remaining ingredients and pulse several times until thick and still a little chunky in texture. I often freeze this and use it throughout the winter months.

Sharing food with friends-

After posting the bit about How to make Gnocchi, I realized that I hadn’t yet shared with you with my Classic Pesto recipe. One of the most wonderful things about the end of summer is turning homegrown basil into pesto. I freeze the pesto in ice cube trays then place all of the cubes in one large bag. I reach into that bag all winter long to add a breath of new life and summer flavors to chicken dishes and pots of soup. Believe it or not it is a huge timesaver to have this luscious pre made garlic basil sauce already made and stored.

In the spirit of sharing recipes, my friend Karen, who is an avid cook, is working on main course dish for the blog. I can’t wait to try it myself. I have already pre-ordered the ingredients on peapod.com and I must say the recipe is inexpensive, simple and very straightforward. I’m sure that you will enjoy it. Look for it in a September blog post...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Classic Gnocchi

2 pounds baking potatoes
1 egg beaten
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat slightly, let the potatoes simmer for about 45-50 minutes or until a fork can easily be inserted into the potato with little e resistance. - Drain potatoes and set aside to cool. Once cool peel the potatoes then pass them through a potato ricer (into a large mixing bowl) using the metal blade with the smallest holes. – Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg, kosher, salt and olive oil. Make a well in the center of the potatoes (I like to keep them in the mixing bowl while I do this but I’m sure traditionally it was done right on a work surface) with a fork mix in the egg mixture then add a cup of flour at a time, switching from the fork to using your hands to kneed the dough. Scatter some of the flour on a work surface. Divide the dough into 3 balls. Roll out each ball into a long log 3/4” in diameter (using more flour as needed). Cut the logs into little Gnocchi about 34”wide. You may stop here, but traditionally the Gnocchi are then rolled on the back tines of a fork.

If rolling on a fork- place a fork upside down on a cutting board place the Gnocchi at the top and use your finger to gently roll the Gnocchi down the fork. This is done because it creates a way for the Gnocchi to hold the sauce. Its very easy once you get the hang of it.

At this point you may cook the Gnocchi or place each Gnocchi, NOT touching each other on a well floured baking sheet or plate and place them in the freezer to harden- once frozen they may be transferred to a plastic bag

To Cook: Place the Gnocchi in salted (about 1 tablespoon), boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a skillet and continue to cook for a minute with the sauce (I am using pesto but tomato sauce is fine, sometimes people just like butter and cheese)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heirloom Tomato Salad

1 - 8oz chunk of Feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 ½ pounds of mixed Heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Basil to garnish
1 Batch Basil Dressing

Place a grill pan on high heat. Brush the feta with olive oil then grill for less than 1 minute per side. Remove from heat with tongs.- sprinkle on a little fresh pepper. Set the feta on a platter and surround the cheese with fresh Heirloom tomato slices. Garnish with fresh basil and basil dressing.

Basil Dressing

1 cup loosely packed basil (about 30 large leaves)
3 cloves of garlic
6 tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until combined- (about 6 or 7 times)- Pour over tomatoes.

The end of August

Well, we are nearing the end of august. The weather is noticeably cooler and breezy this morning. I welcome the change in season but realize there is a lot to be done before the end of the month. Winter items need to be brought from storage and laundered. Checking must be done to see if items still fit, which is always a tough task when you have little friends. Also, I start to think about planting bulbs. In my garden space I always look forward to the arrival of spring bulbs popping up out of the ground after a long winter.

In keeping with my attempt to simplify cooking this month, I would like to post a photo of my potato ricer. It’s a great tool for making mashed potatoes as well as Gnocchi. Yesterday, I actually did make gnocchi. It is by far one of the simpler pastas type items to make. All you really need to do is rice the potatoes, mix in the ingredients and form the gnocchi. I am serving them with pesto sauce. By the way, it is a great time to make and freeze pesto for the winter months.

A week ago, someone was asking me about olive oil. Olive oil has become a kitchen basic and so I thought I would post some of my findings about buying and tasting olive oil.(look for the post All about Olive Oil)

Finally, my Heirloom tomatoes have ripened and I will be posting a recipe for Heirloom tomato salad. If you do not have Heirlooms, simply substitute the best tomatoes you can find.

All about Olive Oil

There are many questions with regards to olive oil. What is extra virgin? What should you cook with? Hopefully this will answer some questions.

In Europe Extra Virgin oil is extracted in cold conditions – The lack of heat helps to maintain the spicy and fruity smells and tastes of the olives, as well as a lower amount of acid in the final product

Regular olive oil- There is heat used in this process of extraction and sometimes olive oil is a blend of extra virgin and olive oil so you will get some fruity tastes with the longer shelf life of a regular olive oil

Is it a fruit? – Yes. It is a fruit grown on trees

What about color? Well, in taste testing oils color should matter little- test for taste instead. The color can depend on the variety of olives harvested as well as the time of harvest. Olives harvested early and green will produce a darker, greener olive oil. Black olives harvested later may give a lighter golden color. There may be some nuances in flavor; the early harvest greener olive oils can be a bit fruitier in flavor.

Storing oil- Olive oil should be stored in cool dark places and will typically last about 15 months.
Is all olive oil Italian? - No, Olive oil comes from a lot of Mediterranean areas, Italy, Greece, Spain, France.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leek and Shallot broth

2 pounds leeks (weigh before trimming) – cut of the tough green tops off of the leeks about 3-4”. Slice the leeks in quarters lengthwise then slice off the brown root. – You will need about 3 large leeks. Soak the leeks in water to remove any hidden dirt.

Once soaked, thinly slice the leeks
1 pound of shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh pepper
1/3 cup sherry
1 Quart chicken stock
1 Quart water

Place the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot (I an using a 7 quart). Turn heat to Medium High. Once oil is warm add in the leeks, shallots, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the sherry, turn heat to high and reduce liquid for 1 minute. Add in the chicken stock and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Amaretti Stuffed Peaches

2 ripe peaches cut in half and pits scooped out
12 Amaretti cookies
2 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 Teaspoon Marsala wine

Preheat oven to 400

Place the peaches in an ovenproof dish skin side down, cavity side up. Place the cookies into a plastic baggie and pound lightly with a meat pounder until cookies are just broken up but the chunks of cookies are still large, not fine like powder. Place the cookies into a mixing bowl and add in the water, heavy cream, sugar, Vanilla, and Marsala. Stir to combine.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Slim Down Week

The past week was all about relaxing. Isn’t that what summer is for? I made my way over to my parent’s house, and spent several days there. In Massachusetts this is peach season. Its finally here, the peach festival. There is a delightful small town feel as you wander the fairgrounds eating corn dogs and funnel cakes. The local Boy Scouts set up shop in the center of the fairground with fun outdoor challenges. Some locals (no one I know) are big fans of colonial re-enactments. If you like, a woman in colonial dress will show you how to cook the food of colonial times. Yes, in case you are wondering, there is also a peach queen. All this makes me think of cooking of course. Not of colonial cooking, but of my home cooking and what in the world should I do with the local peaches? I have a peach dessert recipe to share with you. It is simple, sweet and very easy.

Unfortunately, the past week and a half has been all about excess. A period of time when I have eaten and drank far too much for my own good. We were out to dinner often, and at the end of every meal, my dad who loves wine, would bestow upon us a bottle of California Zinfandel or a Chianti Reserve or Spanish Rijoa. Sometimes it was an old Bordeaux from before I was born (very old). One never knows what he will serve and he often makes us guess. So I must now, force myself into a few days of slimming. I plan to make leek soup for a few meals.

I checked my garden and my heirloom tomatos are starting to ripen. Since I can eat no more food, I am now liking the original tomato salad concept a bit more.

A friend of mine just called. She said she had been on the blog. She called to ask where she could find some special cooking ingredients. “D” we will call her, has been making a lot of healthy food lately. She mentioned a recipie that made me think of greek yoghurt dip. I love it. Maybe I should make that as well. “D” and few other people have all given me blog comments via phone or e-mail. I am sorry to say, when I originally set up the blog I clicked a button so only registered usurers could post a comment. I have re set it – I think-so now anyone who wants to post a cooking note about something they have tried, want to try, or an ingredient they need to find, can all post comments. Sorry about that. Chat away…

Yes, I know things all sound very healthy this week. Do not fear. Tonight I am having Alaskan king crab and baby spinach salad, to start a kir royal and then a nice bottle of a French white wine. Nice start to my slim down week!

Monday, August 6, 2007

A challenge for the week

I wandered around my small garden yesterday and was quite happy. My heirloom tomatoes are starting to look nice and the chili plants are flourishing. I’m thinking about what to make once they ripen. Heirloom tomato salad, heirloom tomato salsa, I’m not sure what to try but I have some time to think about it.

Heirloom tomatoes are beautiful in color. Some are variegated green, some deep ruby, almost purple, some yellow, orange and red tones. I hate to cook them to long because the bright colors of the fresh tomatoes are so beautiful. One summer a few years ago, I made the mistake of trying to keep them for winter by turning them into a sauce and freezing them. The sauce wasn’t bad in taste, but the beautiful rainbow of color was gone. Mine are not ready yet though; I have a few more weeks to decide their fate. If you don’t grow tomatoes, you will still find Heirlooms in many general supermarkets around this time of the year. I couldn’t believe how many places carried them last year. Heirloom tomatoes seem to have become mainstream produce.

Zucchini flowers are not as common. Having learned this the hard way, I will have to remember to plant a few zucchini plants next year. I want to make stuffed zucchini flowers, but cannot find the flowers for sale, even in the most upscale markets. Shame on me. I was lazy and should have planted some with my tomatoes. My regret of summer, no ricotta stuffed, deep-fried zucchini flowers.

This week I read an interesting article in Gourmet magazine. O.K. I admit the article was from the February issue of 2007 and I’m just getting to read it now. I’ve been busy, give me a break.- The article, Pot of Gold, was about a beautiful Le Cruset Dutch oven and how it inspired author Jane Smiley to make a variety of meals from one pot of Soupe a l’oignon, done the Julia Child way. I own a few Le Cruset items and they are expensive, but an absolute joy to cook with. What amazed me was the way the author took one initial dish, and inspired by her beautiful cookware, transformed the leftovers from the first recipe to make a variety of meals for the week. Brilliant idea. I’ll have to try it myself.

Reading up on wine has also become a recent obsession. I love to drink wine but rattling off names and vintages has never been for me. Rather, my new interest is in finding and stocking up on $20 and under wines. Yes, I know, it’s a bit weird that someone who is willing to spend lot of money on French cookware is infatuated with less expensive wines. What can I say, sometimes it fun to find a good bargain.

My challenge for the week for you is this, can you find a Julia Child recipe and cook it? Can you find a nice wine under $20 to go with the dish?

Let me know how it goes…

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Typically the vegetables are sautéed put together and served. I chose to roast them all together. The garlic add tremendous flavor.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ large zucchini cut into 1/8” thin slices
1 medium sized eggplant sliced into 1/8” thin slices
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/8” thin slices
2 ripe tomatoes cut to 1/8” thin slices
Juice of half a lemon
6 or so torn fresh basil leaves
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh pepper

½ cup Breadcrumbs (I am using Panko, Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup grated cheese such as Parmesan, Gruyere or Romano

All vegetables above can be sliced to 1/8” or thinner using a chef’s knife or Mandolin

Heat oven to 425

Brush the bottom of a casserole dish (about 9X13 or Medium-large oval dish) with olive oil. Layer the vegetables around the dish as best as you can, alternating vegetables to give a uniform look. I like to start layering from the outside and work in, but do as you like. Do not fret about being so precise- this is a rustic peasant dish after all…

Tuck the cloves of garlic and the basil into the layers of veg. Drizzle the stock over the casserole. Season the top with salt and pepper. Cover the top of the dish with a layer of parchment paper then a layer of tin foil.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and parchment, and roast another 30 minutes- in a bowl combine the breadcrumbs and cheese then sprinkle over the top of the vegetables. Roast another 10 minutes or so until cheese has melted.

Cooking in August

This is the first week of August. Of course its about one hundred degrees out and I decided that now would be a good time to post some dessert sauces for a ice cream party. I made raspberry sauce, strawberry sauce and caramel sauce. All was going smashingly well until it was time to photograph the sauces on the ice cream. Humm. I guess I didn’t think that one through. Have you ever tried to photograph ice cream when it almost 100 degrees out? Fortunately for all involved, the photo aspect of this went quickly, leaving many a mushy but delicious Sunday to be eaten. I would have liked to provide a recipe for Ice cream as well; I do have an ice cream machine. The problem is then is not a spot of room left in my freezer and the bulky base of the machine needs to be frozen before it will work. Sorry, you’ll have to buy the ice cream for now.

August is also a great time to try some new vegetables out on your family. Zucchini are plentiful as well as eggplant and tomato. I have made ratatouille many times before (one of my collage roommates was a vegetarian). I love it, but it wasn’t until a recent movie came out that I thought perhaps children might give it a go.

Spaghetti squash is another one of my favorites. Children love to see how it goes from being a “yucky” veggie to looking like pasta. The hardest part is cutting it open, so just be a little careful. I roast it than serve it with tomato sauce.

In chatting with a friend the other day she mentioned that this blog looked beautiful but she still was unable to make some of the recipes because they involve fresh garlic rather than garlic powder, “what am I supposed to do with the fresh garlic?”. Ahh, I guess I kind of figured that most people knew what to do with garlic. Then, I couldn’t help but laugh a little, as I thought back on one of my youthful cooking lessons. A meal I was making required 10 cloves of garlic. I bought 10 bulbs. In August I hope to make cooking more user friendly, even if it means reviewing some basics.