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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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.

Spinach fettucine with seafood cream sauce

So, some of you might know that I’m an English teacher in Santiago, Chile and today was just the longest day everrr.  I finished a class at 2:30 and sat around until 5:30 for another class for administrators and guess what…  No one showed up. COOL.  So not only did I waste three hours of my life playing bubble spinner and following people on Twitter, I had to get home right in the middle of rush hour.  Rush hour in Chile on the metro is not so fun.

So I decided to alleviate some of my pain by making a stop at the gay BFF’s pad and we were talking and then one of them says “I’m gonna make pasta!”  And I was like “Great, I love pasta!”  And I got totally stoked for pasta.  And then he didn’t make it.

Which brings me to now, after a quick trip to the local grocery store, making this delicious pasta dish here in my own home and not sharing with anyone.

What I bought at the grocery store:

1 package of spinach fettucine

16 oz of choritos (okay, after some Googling it appears that these mollusks mostly only live in South America so I suggest you replace them with clams, or shrimp or if you don’t like seafood you can even use chopped mushrooms and if you don’t like any of those things I suggest you stop reading this recipe and order a pizza or something)

3 cloves of garlic, minced (I’ve said before that I like garlic more than I like most people.  If you don’t feel the same feel free to use less.)

2 tbs EVOO

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp powdered onion

Pinch of nutmeg

2 tbs flour

2 tbs chopped chives (in Spanish they’re called “cebollin”, which is a cool word)

Hokay.  Here we go.

That pink liquid is my strawberry juice

Add the garlic, oil and choritos (or shrimp, or clams, or what-have-you) to a heavy saucepan and turn the heat up to med-high.  Let it simmer a bit, maybe five minutes, stirring frequently.  Next, add the cream and allow it to heat up for about five more minutes, still stirring frequently.  Add the parmesan, powdered onion and nutmeg.  Next add flour and make sure you stir with vigor!  The flour will clump easily and it’s not a bad idea to sift the flour before.  The flour helps the sauce to thicken.  Now add the chives.  Turn the heat down low and cover the sauce, stirring every minute or so to keep it from burning.

Now boil a large pot of water and add just a dab of oil to the water.  Throw in the pasta and cook it.  If the water is boiling it should only need about seven minutes.  After seven minutes drain the pasta and run it once under cool water to keep it from sticking.  You may then mix in the sauce or serve the pasta individually and top it with the sauce.  This recipe easily feeds four.

Hey, you did it!  Good for you!  NOW EAT IT!