Spring

One Method, Endless Pesto Possibilities

The key to learning to cook, and learning to cook well, is a willingness to experiment. If you must have exact recipes and exact ingredients then you will never feel completely comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking is learning a method and experimenting and tasting and tasting until you learn what works well together and what doesn’t.

Take pesto, for example. Sure, you can follow a recipe that shows you how to make a basic basil pesto. Or you can master the method behind making pesto. Once you understand the method, then the possibilities and ingredients are endless.

And so below are the things I have found make excellent pestos:

  1. Herbs, particularly basil. Basil is, of course, the key ingredient in a traditional pesto, and I have found it is by far the best herb to use, but why not throw in other herbs as well? Parsley works well. Even non-Italian herbs, such as cilantro, can give pesto a different twist.
  2. Greens. Not traditional, but such a good way to use greens! Spinach, arugula, and kale are my favorite. Each adds a unique taste and gives you a different pesto. Experiment with using different combinations.
  3. Garlic. Really, can you have pesto without garlic? I usually use at least 1-3 cloves, depending on how garlicky I want it to be.
  4. Nuts. Pine nuts are traditional, but, in my opinion, they are not worth the money. Experiment with other nuts. I personally love almonds and pistachios in pestos.
  5. Cheese. Though not necessary, I personally love adding cheese. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Romano, are best. Also good: feta. Just don’t add too much. A handful will do. You should have far more greens and herbs than cheese.
  6. An acid. Lemon juice is traditional. About 1/2 a lemon will do the trick. Also try: Lime juice. Vinegar.
  7. Olive oil. Just enough to make it smooth.
  8. Salt and pepper. Want it spicy? Add red pepper flakes.

A bulk of the pesto should be herbs and greens. Put everything, except the olive oil, in the food processor and pulse it several times. Add the olive oil while pulsing and process until smooth. Taste and adjust and write down what works well together.

Though my favorite way to serve pesto is on pasta (no surprise, right?), you can also put it on sandwiches or meat or use it as a dressing.

 

Pictured below is a combination of arugula, spinach, basil, slithered almonds, garlic, Ramon cheese, feta cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

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So what’s your favorite way to make pesto?

 

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“Creamed” Spinach

So this really isn’t creamed. At least not in the traditional sense. But you should be used to that by now. When it comes to food, I’m usually not traditional.

I’m not going to say that this is the healthiest way to eat spinach, but it’s a lot healthier than the original creamed spinach recipe, and it tastes really good. Even my boyfriend loved it, and he’s not a big veggie guy.

Start by heating olive oil in a sauté pan. Then add:

about 5-6 cups of chopped fresh spinach

It cooks down quickly, so that’s really not as much as it sounds. Season with salt and pepper. Also add:

2 chopped green onions

Let that cook down. Then add:

2-3 ladles of homemade vegetable broth

I say 2-3 because it depends on how thick you want the spinach to be, but I’ll get to that later. Let that come to a soft boil. Turn the heat down to low and add:

2 big, heaping tablespoons of mascarpone cheese

Don’t be shy about that cheese. And when I say two big, heaping tablespoons it means two things: a) I didn’t really measure and b) I used a tablespoon you would eat with, not one you should measure with. Anyway, stir it until it melts down into the broth and looks creamy. Now whisk in:

about 2 tablespoons of arrowroot flour

And this is where you need to stop following my recipe and just judge it with your own eyes. Does it look too thick? Add more broth. Too thin? Add more flour. How thick should it be? That’s up to you. This is how mine looked when it was done:

spinach

Now, what to do with this amazing, delicious, slightly sinful spinach concoction? Well, a few ideas:

Put it on a taco
Fold some beans into it, roll it into a tortilla and make it into an enchilada
Thin it out with pasta water (and cut back on the flour) and add it to pasta
Or simply eat it. It’s amazing.

So, who said spinach had to be boring?

 

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Broccoli, Kohlrabi, and Kale Salad

This is spring/early summer in a bowl. It’s crunchy, it’s creamy, it’s kind of like a slaw but also kind of like a salad. And it’s all farmers’ market veggies.

And as you may know from my past posts, when it comes to salads, I don’t measure. How much of each vegetable is up to you. Here’s what I used:

Broccoli, chopped
Kohlrabi, peeled and diced
Micro Kale
Nappa Cabbage, chopped
Red Onion, finely chopped

salad2

And as for the dressing, this is the approximate measurements:

1 cub of Greek yogurt
1-2 teaspoons mayo (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced or garlic powder
parprika
celery seed
salt and pepper

Mix the dressing in the bowl first and then toss with the veggies. If you want it to be vegan, just make an olive oil and vinegar dressing instead of the yogurt dressing.

salad

 

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Leek and Potato Soup

The key to any soup is simplicity. Just a few ingredients and homemade broth can make an amazing bowl of comfort. This soup is a perfect example.

Potato soup has always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Leeks are more of a winter/fall vegetable, but I found some late spring ones at the market, so why not use them?

**Please note that this particular recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup, just enough for about 2 servings. Double it if you are cooking for more than two people.

leek soup

The recipe:

Start by heating olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Then add:
2-3 leeks, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced
A splash of vegetable broth
Salt

Let cook for about 15 minutes, until onions are nice and tender. Then add:
4-5 small gold potatoes or 2 large white potatoes, quartered.
(I love the texture of the gold potatoes. They make the soup silky, but use whatever you have.)

Let cook for a minute or two, then add:
4 cups of homemade vegetable broth

Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add:
a few sprigs of fresh dill (optional, but you should do it. It’s wonderful!)
a splash or two of cream or half and half (also optional)

Puree the soup and serve with chives, fresh ground pepper and croutons or crusty bread on top.

leek soup2

**Another note: My soup has a slight orange tinge this time because I used a homemade broth that had tomato in it. Depending on the type of broth you use, it may appear white-ish, so don’t panic if your soup doesn’t look like mine!

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Strawberry Pie

My grandmother used to make the most wonderful pies. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to learn, she was too old to make pies anymore. It is one of my new goals to master the art of making various pies.

This pie is a combination of a few recipes. The filling is based off of the berry recipe found in my 1984 edition of Joy of Cooking. I like to avoid using a lot of white sugar whenever possible, so I replaced some of the sugar with maple syrup and made other adjustments accordingly. The filling was excellent but the crust/topping (which is a combination of two other recipes) needs some improvement. I usually prefer a nice crumb/oat crust rather than the more traditional crust, but I have yet to find a perfect recipe. I will share this crust/topping here, just to complete the recipe, but be advised that it’s not perfect.

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For the filling:

Prepare 4 cups of fresh berries. Cut the berries in half if they are large.

Combine:
1/3 cup of cane sugar
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup of flour
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 1/2 teaspoons of quick-cooking tapioca (or 3 teaspoons if berries are juicy)

Sprinkle the ingredients over the berries and gently stir. Let stand for 15 minutes.

For the Crust:

Combine:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup 0ats
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt

Combine:
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tablespoon of water

Stir wet ingreidents into dry ingredients and then press the dough into the pie pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

For the Topping:

Combine:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 brown sugar
a dash of cinnamon
3 tablespoons of butter, cubed.

Once the crust is done, pour the strawberries into the crust and sprinkle the topping on top. Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for another 30-35 minutes.

pie

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An Ode to Ohio Strawberries

This past week, I picked my own strawberries. It was my first time and loved it. Here’s a photo ode to the gorgeous Ohio strawberries.

All strawberries picked at Doran’s Farm.

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