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Archive for the ‘pesto’ Category

The Summer in Toronto is one of the lustiest, I think, in the world.  Those steamy, heat-hazy, lazy-crazy, long-limbed days that wrap their humid, whispering tendrils around your bare throat and exposed shoulders do something inexplicable to this city and the people in it.  The girls, the boys, the dogs, the ducks: no one escapes the sensuality of it, we are all susceptible to Summer’s hot, sticky embrace.  But before we completely lose our heads to this love affair there is, as in any meaningful, dirty little tryst, the courtship; the tease, the tempt, the flirt and the fluster.  A few gorgeous, sunny days sauntering by our Wintery table at the end of April have us shaking out our hair in false hope of an early Summer, only to be firmly reminded that we are the flirtee, not the flirter, by a cold shoulder for half of May as we look longingly at our Summer wardrobes and the pretty, colourful mannequins in store windows.

And then, slowly, almost painfully, just when you think she’ll never notice you, that she has eyes only for the muscular, deep tan muscles of Texas, she.  Stops.  And turns that beautiful, golden head and looks you straight in the eye.  The Glory that radiates from Summer’s eyes envelopes us all, does it not?  But now that she’s seen you, now that you finally have her attention, how can you, such a humble little creature, keep that gorgeous gaze locked firmly with your own.  How to impress such a fickle lover, you ask?  Why, with a barbecue, of course.  If you cook up the coals just right, who knows, she may just stay for dessert.

Just don’t expect it.

I made these eggplants for a dinner party the first time, baked for about 40 minutes at 350˚F and had a bunch left over when we decided to open up the Weber .  Wrapped in foil, they were just so good and the left overs were somehow even better the next day when I removed the skins, spread the pulp and topping on toast and grilled with some gruyere in the oven for a couple of minutes.

* this recipe makes enough for about 5 or 6 baby eggplants.  Adjust accordingly.

Eggplant with Sundried Tomato and Shitake topping

Baby eggplants, halved
salt

⅓ cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
½ red onion, roughly chopped
sprig fresh thyme
small sprig rosemary
1 clove garlic
50g (big handful) shitake mushrooms
¼ tsp dried Italian herb mix

salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (about 60ml/¼ cup)

– cut the eggplants in half and salt generously.  Leave for an hour or so at room temperature.  Rinse and pat dry.

– place all ingredients (except eggplant) in a processor and blitz until finely chopped (or chop it all by hand). Season and add enough olive oil to for a thick, chunky paste close to but drier than a pesto.  Allow it to sit for 45 mins to develop.

– place eggplant halve skin side down on enough foil to fully wrap them ein.  Top with tomato mushroom mix and barbeque for about 30 minutes on the rack.

– serve with a generous amount of sunshine and chilled beverages.

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Broccoli and Pepita Pesto w truffle oil & applecider vinegar

For a little dinner, which the dapper Mr P and I had with some fun friends last night, we decided to explore our decadent side a little with both a dessert course and a cheese plate. Is that a gasp I hear in the corner? Both dessert and Cheese? That’s crazy, I hear you yell. Crazy, yes. Delicious, definitely. But in order to survive such decadent and lavish behaviour, one must make sacrifices in the total volume of food presented. Therefore, an executive decision was made by the cook and her sous not to make an appetiser. Is that another gasp I hear behind me? No Appetiser? At a sit down dinner, a Winter dinner?! How barbarous! Ha. And you thought you knew me better.

I did, however, think it rather uncouth to allow any guest our home to wallow in the joys of pre-dinner wine and conversation without just a little something to stay the hunger for a while. Enter the Amuse Bouche. Remember this little gem? Well, with a little twist of the Truffle-oil wrist and a sniff of apple cider vinegar added to the mix something that was already pretty darn good turned into something simply gorgeous.

On an aside; that bottle of truffle oil given to me by the vivacious Mr W has been one of the best food gifts ever given. I’ve had a certain reluctance to ever buy one of those little, fancy bottles of truffle oil you see in speciality food shops on the basis that if I was going to ever eat a truffled anything, it was going to be a truffle omelet in the South of France in November one day. Some food experiences, in my humble opinion, should be saved for the Real Thing. Macaroons? I’m waiting for my next visit to Paris. Jamon de Bellota? The next time I find myself in the south east of Spain, I’m in. But until then, I’m quite happy to read about it, build up my expectations and tuck into some Prosciutto. So, I’d never even thought to buy a bottle of truffle oil here in Toronto but when dear Mr w cooked up an absolutely mouth watering penne with afore mentioned truffle oil, the aroma, the taste, the entire experience had me begging for more. The trick, it seems, as in so many things in life, not what you know but who. Knowing someone who makes there very own truffle oil from fresh truffles and sells it not in those dinky, if cute, little bottles for the price of your first born’s university fees but in a decent sized amount for an unpretentious amount is all it takes to convert me to the truffle side. Thank you, Mr W, you’re a gem.

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Broccoli pepita pesto

The Christmas bake is upon us, here. My kitchen is covered in a fine and persistent film of various flours and sugars and nuts and fruits and the ever wafting air of things being baked greets the marvelous Mr P every time he comes in to see what’s what. It’s perfect weather for it too, snowy and chilly and Winter-wonderland gorgeous out there, and toasty, spicy and afternoon-napish in here. There’ve been pots and pots of hot spiced apple cider and mulled wine and steaming mugs of hot tea going around, along with many friends to keep the spirit kicking. As soon as I get a chance, I’ll post all that’s been happening, but in the mean time I thought something a little savoury was in order to cut through all that sugary yum. Here is that rather delish broccoli pesto I made for our first, fire-side dinner last week. It’s equally good on a pasta as it is stirred into leek and potato soup, or grilled with cheese on whole grain toast.

*note: only use the flowery bits of the broccoli as the stems can be a bit bitter. I kept the stems for a soup later in the week.

**note: as with most pesto’s, the ingredients are a guideline only. Add more or less of each according to your taste.

Toasting Pepitas

Broccoli and Pepita Pesto

1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 large head broccoli, florets only
⅔ cup Pepita’s (green pumpkin seeds)

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
⅓ cup good virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

– toast the Pepita’s over a medium to high heat. Remove from heat as soon as they start to brown.

– peel the shallot and garlic and blend, along with the broccoli in a food processor until finely chopped

– fry over a medium heat until broccoli is bright green and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool.

– chop Pepita’s in food processor. When broccoli is cool, add to Pepita’s along with cheese and process until fine. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper.

Broccoli pepita pesto 2

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French Lentils

We haven’t had a housewarming, per se yet. But we decided last week that something was needed to make our house feel like home. And I also needed something to kick start the kitchen a little. A Winter Dinner was quickly put together, some friends asked around and the fire was lit in the hearth. With Winter having arrived a little earlier than I think we were expecting, the meal was warm and comforting, with loads of winter veg and a little bit of chocolatey goodness to help it all along the way. We started off with a Chestnut and Onion Soup, which is a traditional French soup and neither too hearty not too brothy; followed by a main course of Filo baskets filled with Beetroot, Butternut and Onion, topped with a Broccoli and Pepita pesto and accompanied with a variation of the divine Deb’s Curried Lentils and Sweet potatoes and some fresh Cherry Tomatoes. But my favourite bit was, of-course, dessert, as it so very often is. Le Dessert was a miniaturised variation of Nigella’s Nutella cake, topped with a precious marron glacè and swathed in a white chocolate and saffron ganache. Oh, yum. The little cakes were warm from the oven and slightly sticky on the inside. Chocolate heaven. Mmmmm.

An no, I’m afraid I’m not going to give you the recipe’s this time. I have Christmas Stuff to do! My, it’s busy this time of year. Instead, here are some temptingly yummy pictures to water your mouth over a little.

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 3

 

 

 

 

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Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

We’re having our first snow here in Toronto. Big, fat flakes have been falling all day and the temperatures are just right to allow for picture perfect moments: cold enough that the snow doesn’t instantly turn into boot-eating slush but warm enough to allow a certain amount of frolicking in the streets. A cookie baking kind of day, which is exactly where I tend to go once I’ve finished this post. I’m thinking something spicy-autumny, not quite Christmasy. Too early for that kind of talk. We’ve still some Autumn dishes to get through in my house! Even though one must admit to oneself, even if one thinks one can forestall the moment by buying butternuts and plums at the market, that the Winter is not only on it’s way but parking it’s car in the drive and walking up the path to the front door. And once one has admitted the close proximity of Winter, one can quite gladly take the Canada Goose Coat out of it’s box, fluff it up and actually enjoy the snow outside. The fabulous Mr P and I are so equally and utterly in Smit with our Canada Goose coats, that when we see other “Ducks” on the street we share a little glance of smugness and glee.

And speaking of duck…

Duck still seems like a fairly exotic dish to me. Growing up, poultry consisted of Chicken, Chicken and, um, Chicken. That said, duck isn’t any more difficult to deal with than Ye Olde Chicken and since it’s a readily available thing at the butcher these days I tend to keep a portion or two lying around for sudden inspiration. Like this. Mr P got his hands dirty in on this one, though it was almost a case of Two many cooks spoiled the duck. Do we chop the raw duck first and then fry it, or fry it then chop it. How thick should the slices be? Should we remove the fat before cooking it? After cooking it? At all? In the end, after a small glass of wine and some introspection the following happened.

*note: it’s really worth getting a fresh, egg pasta for this. I’m not patient enough to make my own (yet) but I made sure to get the best I could find. Why waste the duck on industrial spaghetti, is my thinking…

Also, I got the olives from “the olive guy” at the market, but you can really use any olives you prefer.

Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

Duck Breast with Rosemary and Green Olives

2 duck breasts, with fat on
Dried Rosemary, about 1 + ½ tsp
Fleur de sel
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Roasted Green Olives, about
⅓ cup
Good, fresh pasta, enough for 2
2 Tbsp good basil pesto
– Rinse the duck breast and pat dry with paper towel

– with fat side lying up, cut through the fat in gashes about 1 inch apart

-season breast with salt and Rosemary, making sure some rosemary is in the cuts

-fry duck breasts in a non stick, heavy bottomed pan for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side until meat is browned and fat is brown and starting to get crispy. Remove from heat and cool until handle-able. Slice the breast into ½ inch thick slices. They should still be quite raw in the middle.

– put the pasta on to cook

– In the duck fat left in the pan, fry the onion and garlic until caramelised. Add duck breast and olives and cook until meat is cooked, about 5 mins.

– Drain pasta and add to the duck, along with the pesto, mixing well before serving. Add some olive oil if you think it needs it (I found the duck fat more than enough lubrication)

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Mini stuffed peppers 1

The weather is starting to turn now and I’m reminded every week at the Framers Market in the park that the days of fresh, local produce are coming to an end. Which was one of the main factors behind my decision to cook a whole meal with this fresh produce last week for friends, and these little, plump globes of fun colours were just too tempting to ignore. Such a lovely, fun thing to start an evening off with, too. A little plate of amuses bouche over the first bottle of wine while everyone exchanges greetings and catches up on tidbits of news. They went down a treat, still hot from the oven, oozing and juicy and super scrumptious. Don’t expect the the unwritten rule of nobody-eat-the-last-one-on-the-plate to be observed with these tasty morsels.

Mini stuffed peppers 2

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mini Peppers

A dozen or so mini peppers
100g ripened, soft goat cheese
½ cup ripe cherry tomatoes
handful basil leaves
½ Tbsp pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

-preheat oven to 350˚F

– cut the tops off the peppers, de-seed, rinse and dry on paper towel. Reserve tops.

– put basil, pine nuts, garlic and oil in a food processor (or mortar and pestle) and process to form a pesto consistency. Add olive oil and mix well.

– halve the tomatoes and pulse in a processor a few times to pulp some of them. Chop up any big pieces that stand out.

-mix cheese, tomatoes, pesto and salt and pepper to taste.

– fill each pepper, replace top and bake 20 mins. Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Mini stuffed peppers 3

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Pesto Spaghetti with fresh tomato

I smelled them before I saw them. In fact, I smelled them from about 10 yards away, and I immediately switched into hunter mode. I had to find them. Which stall was it? A glint in my eye as I spied them: big wound woven baskets stuffed to bursting with fresh, deep green basil plants. So fragrant that there was a visible mill of people around them and I’m lucky I ended up going to the market an hour earlier than I’d originally planned or I’d have missed out. So fragrant were they, in fact, that when the fabulous Mr P arrived home later in the day he immediately remarked on the smell from the front door, which is as far as you can get from the kitchen in our apartment. “Hmm, Basil!” I heard him mumble as he juggled his usual load of computer bags, keys and shoe-removal. And of course, in my state of grocery fever, I’d bought far more than two people could use. Basil doesn’t really like the fridge, so there was really nothing for it but to use it all up, while it was still so fresh and firm and fragrant. Again I had a mini day dream about having my own little kitchen garden.

I’d never made my own Pesto before.basil
I’m not sure why because I know it’s
not a complicated process and the
ingredients are simple and easy to
come by. Somehow I’ve never even
thought about making Pesto, in the
same way that I’ve never thought
about blending my own mustard or
cooking up my own ketchup. I’ve
upgraded my buying from little jars
of mass produced to hand made
Farmers Wife fare at the St Lawrence,
but further than that crossed my mind. Until last night. And I can tell you: you can taste the difference. Not that the Market stuff is not good, but making it and eating it fresh like that was a special treat. Of course, now I have a whole jar of it and will no doubt have to give it away so that it gets used while still fresh. But what’s better than a gift of food?

I used Elise’s recipe, and doubled it according to the amount of basil I had, but there are other recipe’s here, here and here, so find the one that sounds yummiest to you.

Basil is great on it’s own, but my favourite way to eat it is with a big pile of fresh, ripe tomatoes chopped up on top of it.

Basil Pesto

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