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It’s that time of year again when our garden produces more basil than we know what to do with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also got one of these from my parents for my birthday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter PESTO. versatile, freezeable, and an easy way to break in a new food processor!

Here are two easy recipes:

Classic Basil Pesto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In blender or food processor, pulse basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper. Gradually add oil to form a smooth, thick consistency. Stir in cheese at the end and give the mixer another spin or two to achieve desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper (or oil, or cheese) to taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pea Pesto

I have to admit, I made this recipe after reading that it was one of the dishes Giada de Laurentiis was serving to William and Kate (sorry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) during their recent trip to California. It was really easy and a good alternative to traditional basil pesto (especially as a base layer for paninis!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

In a food processor or blender, pulse together the peas, garlic, parmesan cheese and salt. With the machine running, slowly add in the olive oil until it is well combined, which takes about one to two minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread on thick slices of baguette or ciabatta and top with sliced tomatoes.

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Here is a quick and easy appetizer just in time for the holidays! This is an elegant twist on the standard cheese and cracker fare usually found on coffee tables this time of year. With just a few ingredients you can easily make this upgrade.  All you need are onions, brie, puff pastry, butter and an egg. Let’s start with the onions….
 
Here is what you’ll need to succeed:


 
Yes, those are my swim goggles. I highly recommend wearing a pair while attempting to thinly slice four large onions…

 
I didn’t shed a single tear! 

Next, add all of those onions to a pan and start to caramelize. Caramelized onions are amazing on anything really, including leftover turkey sandwiches,  so while you’re going to the trouble, I recommend making some extra!

 
While working on the onions, take the puff pastry out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter. Also, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Next, place a piece of parchment paper on the counter and roll out one sheet of puff pastry. Place three big scoops of onions in the middle. Place the wheel of brie on top of the onions (leave the rind on- I promise you won’t taste it). Quickly whisk an egg in a small bowl and then lightly brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash.

Next, start folding the pastry up over the cheese, pressing the seams together to seal. Then flip the pastry round, seam side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg wash. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Yum!
 


Here is the complete recipe for two baked brie puffs:

Baked Brie and Onion Puff

adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large Vidalia or Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 (5-inch) rounds brie cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and saute until just brown, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook stirring often, until dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Roll each sheet of pastry to a 12-inch square on a marble surface or parchment paper to prevent sticking. Divide the caramelized onions in the center of each pastry. Put a brie round on top of the onions and brush edges of both pastry squares with beaten egg. Fold pastry up and over cheese to completely enclose the cheese in the pastry. Press the seams together to completely seal. Arrange each pastry round, seam side down, on a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each pastry round with beaten egg. Bake until golden brown. 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before indulging. Enjoy!

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Mixed Mushroom Soup

Trick or Treat! 

To kick off the start of Fall (a.k.a. soup season!) I made this amazing and hearty mushroom soup this past Halloween weekend.  I will treat you to the recipe at the end. But first, in the spirit of Halloween, a few tricks and treats from this past weekend: 

Friday night we went to an event at the National Zoo.

…where we enjoyed treats provided by Magic Hat Brewing Co.

 

… and Tony tried to trick some of the residents of the gorilla house.

 

On Saturday, I was reminded what a treat it is to live in D.C. where the National Mall is only a short metro, cab, bus, car ride away. Apparently everyone in D.C. had the same idea, so after considerable effort getting there, we reached the Mall to attend this:  

The Mall was packed with people dressed up in costumes and carrying all types of signs. 

It was so crowded, we couldn’t see or hear anything. The trick was to remember to record the event before we left the house and then watch it later from the warm comfort of our couch! 

Sunday was Halloween and while some of us wanted to go out and get some treats with the other kids….    

We told him he wasn’t going to trick anyone with that tail sticking out!

So we stayed in and enjoyed this delicious treat instead:  

Mixed Mushroom Soup

adapted from Whole Living

Serves 4 (about 7 cups)

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (white button, cremini, oyster, and shiitake), rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (we didn’t have any, so I omitted)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained (I used two cans)
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine (optional) (I omitted)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Soak porcini in 1 cup warm water until softened, about 20 minutes. Lift porcini from liquid and coarsely chop; strain liquid through a colander or cheesecloth-lined sieve and reserve.

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add leeks; season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, porcini, and chopped mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 7 minutes or until mushrooms just begin to brown. Add fennel seeds, bay leaves, tomato paste, and tomatoes, and cook for 3 minutes. Add marsala (if using), porcini liquid, and broth. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Discard bay leaves before serving. Serve with a grating of pecorino or parmesan cheese.  We had this with grilled swiss cheese sandwiches on rye bread. Perfect combo!

Taking a picture of a steaming bowl of soup is quite tricky!

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We recently joined a CSA (“community supported agriculture”) called Harvest Delivered!

 

Our friend Andrea is a member and she recommended it to us. We looked into a bunch of CSAs and liked the flexibility offered by this one.  We pay by the week, there is no annual fee, and we can stop delivery any week (if we’re out of town or for any reason). This was important to us because our main hesitation was that we wouldn’t use all of the produce delivered and it would go to waste (and be a waste of $$$). We signed up for a 1-2 person delivery and so far the amount has been just right for the two of us. Oh, and they also deliver right to your door! So we don’t have to go to any out of the way pick-up point once a week. This was also a huge plus for us! So this will be a fun challenge to find new and fun ways to use the fruit and veggies each week! (see new category on the right)

Our first week’s loot included some beautiful and colorful Swiss Chard! So I decided the most efficient (and tasty) way to use the produce was to make a frittata! It was a great summer weeknight meal and also provided lunch for the both us a few days after. That’s my kind of dish!

Swiss Chard Frittata

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 4 leaves Swiss Chard, chopped (stems removed and chopped separately into ½ inch pieces)
  • 4 small potatoes, diced  
  • 2 green onions, chopped (white and very light green parts only)
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ – ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Splash of milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water and bring to a boil; cook approx. 8 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and cool. Set aside. In the meantime, whisk eggs, a splash of milk, salt, pepper and the parm cheese in a bowl. Heat oil in an ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Add Swiss chard stalks, yellow onion and green onion, and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add Swiss chard leaves and cook until wilted and tender, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Add potatoes. Pour egg mixture over vegetables evenly. Place pan in the oven and bake until the eggs have set, about 15 minutes. Serve on top of a bed of mixed greens for a light dinner and/or lunch.

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We recently took a trip to St. Lucia and had the most amazing time! St. Lucia is a gorgeous island in the West Indies that is surrounded by rainforest and has a very strong Creole culture.

Of course, food played a very important role on our trip and we happily discover many new and local St. Lucian things!

 Here are some highlights:

Mango trees were everywhere! We enjoyed fresh mango, along with many other local fruits at breakfast each morning. One of our favorite discoveries was passion fruit:

Banana trees covered the island. I learned that St. Lucia exports its bananas to the U.K., whereas the U.S. gets all of its bananas from South America.  St. Lucian bananas are actually smaller and slightly sweeter than “American” bananas. I had an American banana in my bag (shhh… don’t tell customs!) and we did a taste test between the two. I actually like the St. Lucian banana better!

We also had about 10 different types of fish while we were there (yes, we counted!).

King fish with shrimp and real pieces of sugar cane.

Barracuda! It was delicious- and so were all of the wonderful Creole sauces and spices they served with everything.

Salt fish- a favorite during happy hour at the beach bar!

We went to a local “fish fry” one night in a small fishing village. The streets were lined with booths where people sold grilled fish and other local dishes.

Red snapper and mahi mahi.

Grilled mackerel (Tony was brave enough to try- his description=”fish french fry”!…)

Grilled bread fruit- a fruit that tasted more like a potato that I loved and had many times during our stay!

The local fisherman casting their nets off our beach at the resort.

Fresh “catch of the day”- barracuda! (he was taking it up to our resort’s restaurant to see if they wanted to buy it!). The fishermen would also go diving with snorkels and spearfish off our beach! Tony followed them around like a puppy dog. Here’s a catch of red snapper and Carribean lobster:

One of the things we were looking forward to having in St. Lucia was Carribean lobster, which we remember from our trip to Aruba years ago. Unfortunately we found out it was not lobster season while were there so we didn’t get to have any. There is apparently a $5,000 fine per lobster caught during the off-season. Quite a risk these fisherman were taking!

So…. upon our return home we decided to treat ourselves to a lobster dinner! It was actually Maine lobster (which we both agree is better than Carribean lobster anyway).  It helped ease the vacation blues as we looked back through our pictures and wished we were still there!

Soooo delicious with drawn butter and corn and the cob!

Reason #2,554 why I love my husband:

Tony: “So I think… oh, sorry you’re enjoying your last bite aren’t you?”

Jeannette: nods her head while chewing and smiling with her eyes closed.

Tony: “Ok, I’ll wait until you’re done.”   

He understands the importance of savoring the last bite!  🙂

It was an amazing vacation!

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