Simply Sensational Fresh Pesto

I am becoming totally obsessed with gardening.  It’s a really fun hobby and produces fresh, organic produce for you to eat.  What more could you want?  And herbs are one of the easiest things to grow.  Basil is especially easy.  It’s happy just sitting in a sunny window and being watered every couple of days.  We bought this basil plant from the farmer’s market and kept it inside because snails totally dig on basil.  It’s like donuts for snails.  They go nuts.  (Get it…donuts make you go nuts.)  Anywho, even inside and out of the direct sun our basil plant quickly outgrew it’s little spot and my mom was asking me to please get rid of some of it.  So, I thought, what is a great dish that uses tons of basil?  Well, pesto, of course!

This recipe only needs 5 ingredients.  Here they are:

Pine nuts

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh basil leaves

Parmesano Reggiano cheese

Coarse salt

Now, I didn’t add any measurements because you can kind of adjust them based on how you like your pesto.  You can also thrown in a garlic clove if you want some garlicky stuff.  Start with about a quarter cup of olive oil and about the same amount of pine nuts.  Then throw in a good handful of basil leaves.  I used a bunch, because I like my pesto really green and basily.

See.

Crumble up a few slices of cheese in there too before you blend.  Don’t add the salt right away, because the cheese is pretty salty and you might find that the salt in the cheese is all you need.  I used a hand blender because I like it a little chunkier, but you can use a regular blender or food processor if you want a smoother product.  Feel free to blend and taste, adding a bit more of what you think the mixture needs.  To thicken it, add more pine nuts.  To thin it, more olive oil.  For more flavor, add more cheese, basil and/or salt.  If you want to go totally wild you can toast your pine nuts by heating them with just a smidge of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat for a couple minutes, stirring frequently and making sure they don’t burn.

That’s it!  This pesto is great as a dip, a spread, or the old fashioned way: right on pasta.  You can make as much as you want at once and freeze it, but it’s so quick and simple I’d recommend preparing it fresh.  Buen provecho!  I’ll leave you with a sexy little shot of some cheese.

Is it hot in here?

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Soba Noodles and Spinach Sautee

Seriously, I sincerely suggest someone sample these sensational savory soba noodles and spinach sautee.  Alliteration!

Soba noodles are really good and as far as past go, they’re good for you.  See, soba noodles are make with buckwheat, instead of just regular white flour, which makes them healthy carbs.  They are kind of testy, though, and need to be cooked with care.  First, I’ll explain the soba noodle cooking process, then the rest of the recipe.

First, boil a large pot of water.  Like, as large as you have.  And pretty full of water.  Once the water has reached a rolling boil, then sprinkle 8 oz. of soba noodles into the water and reduce heat so the water is at about a simmer.  From there, they only need 7 or 8 minutes in the water.  If the pot starts to boil over, add a cup of cold water to it.  After 7 or 8 minutes, drain the noodles and then rinse them thoroughly with cold water.  Set aside.

Now for the sauce and spinach!

Sauce:

2tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 shallot, finely chopped (I’ve used some red onion when I forgot to buy the shallot, which is always.)

Combine the ingredients and let it sit, refrigerated.

Spinach:

6 cups baby spinach

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp EVOO

Pour the olive oil and sesame oil into a large sauce pan at medium heat.  Add garlic and sautee until fragrant.  Add spinach and cover for 5 to 6 minutes, depending on how wilted you want the spinach to be.

Finally, stir the spinach and sauce into the noodles, and you’re done!

Disclaimer:  the noodles in the picture aren’t soba noodles.  Soba noodles are kind of grey-ish.  So, if you have grey-ish noodles, you’re on the right track.  I made mine with regular noodles this time because that’s the kind of noodles that were purchased.  Less healthy but still yummy.

With the soba noodles this dish makes 4 servings at 7 Weight Watchers points each.

Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic

So, roasting garlic is super easy, but if you don’t know how to do it, here’s a quick tutorial.

Seriously, it’s so easy.

Like, your cat could do it.

Or something with thumbs

Onward!

First you need a whole bulb of garlic.  Not a clove, a bulb.

this is a bulb.

Then you chop the top off (not the part with the roots, the other part) and peel away the excess skin on the outside.

like this.

Now preheat your oven 400 degrees.  Next get a sheet of tin foil and wrap your prepped garlic up nice and tight in the tin foil.  You don’t need several layers, one to two is good.  Now if you want to make multiple roasted garlic bulbs you can neatly put them into a muffin tin or you can put them on a cookie sheet or whatever.  They leak garlic ooze sometimes so it’s best not to just have them freestanding in the oven.  Leave them in for 45 minutes to an hour and you’re good to go!  Easy and delicious.  Just like me.  Or..well, you know.

tasty.

Mushroom, Broccoli and Lemon Cream Sauce

So, I totally haven’t posted since Christmas and I know you have all been wringing your hands saying “Ohmigosh, what is Mel doing, she is the light of my life, I can’t go on, etc.”  And I’m like, it’s okay guys, I’m back.  Basically I got back from Chile just a couple weeks ago and so since then my life has been racked with holiday parties and job hunting.  One of those things is really fun.  Guess which one.

So, for one of my New Year’s Resolutions (apart from updating my Facebook status less and watching Top Chef more) I decided that I’m going to drastically reduce my refined sugar intake.  As in, try not to eat it at all.  This is pretty challenging if you don’t like to cook because almost every premade, prepackaged food has like 40g of pure homogenated death juice or whatever that stuff is called.  BUT, if you like to cook it’s actually pretty easy, especially for people like me who really don’t have much of a sweet tooth.  Seriously, I hardly ever eat my baked goods, I just use them for bribes.

So, my parents still eat sugar (oh, I’m living with my parents) and they don’t really want to alter their diets and lifestyles to suit me, which is fair, and just means I get to cook more.  Tonight I made myself a delicious cream sauce that I plan to ladle over roasted garlic cous-cous (coming soon).  Good, right?  I know.

The recipe:

5 large shitake mushrooms (chopped)

1 head of broccoli (chopped really teeny tiny, seriously, go to town on that broccoli’s head)

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

2 tbsp EVOO

1 tsp chili flakes (can be adjusted based on spice tolerance)

1/2 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp kosher salt

2 lemons (juiced)

8 oz heavy cream

2 tbsp flour

I took these pictures on my new iPhone.  Cool, right?  Oh, you’ve all had iPhones for like three years?  Okay, yeah I mean I was just being ironic…

Anyway.

Using a heavy saucepan, sautee the mushrooms, broccoli and garlic in the olive oil for about two minutes on medium heat.  Add chili flakes, white pepper, nutmeg, kosher salt and lemon juice.  Sautee for about five more minutes.  Then add cream and stir for about a minute.  Add flour and stir vigorously and immediately so the flour doesn’t clump.  Continuing stirring over heat for about seven more minutes.  Then you’re done!  Serve over something with a cool name, like cous-cous or…panna cotta.  No, don’t do that.  Cous-cous is good.  Or just normal pasta.  You’ll figure it out.

get it.

Perfectly roasted potatoes

One of my favorite side dishes to make is roasted potatoes.  It is great for barbecues, dinners or even breakfasts.  They’re delicious and really easy to make.  In other words, I’m mostly posting this dish because I was too lazy to make something more complex this weekend.  But no, really, they’re tasty.

Ingredients:

4 large potatoes (you can use any kind of potato, I like to use red skinned potatoes.)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp salt

2 tsp chili flakes

First, cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.  Next, boil a large pot of water.  This is the key to good roasted potatoes.  Add the potatoes to the boiling water and let it reach a boil again.  You need to boil the potatoes for about six minutes.  If you don’t boil the potatoes before you roast them then they will still be hard on the inside even after roasting them for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  After the potatoes have boiled for six minutes drain the water and leave the potatoes in the pot.  Add the oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes and stir to coat all the potatoes.  Put the potatoes into a casserole dish and spread the minced garlic evenly over the potatoes.  Put the dish into the oven.  The potatoes need to cook for 45 minutes to an hour and you need to stir the potatoes every seven minutes or so to make sure they roast evenly.  When you’re done, they’ll look like this:

Hooray!  Happy Sunday!