Tomato Mushroom Risotto

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Risotto is one of those dishes that I love to make because I never make it the same way. It’s what I love to do as a cook – improvise!

Typically I use butter, aromatics, wine, broth, and finish with cream and/or cheese.

But the add-in options are practically endless. I’ve used chopped tomatoes, grated zucchini, pesto, canned pumpkin, and carrot juice. It all works. I’ve even made risotto with Thai flavors. Who says risotto must only have Italian flavors? Well, some people might, but I’m 63% Italian, so I stand my ground.

There are two reasons that this risotto is unique. One reason is that I’m using tomato powder.

I posted a while back on a book called The Spice Companion, and in it I learned how to make a powder simply from oven-dried tomatoes.


The other special ingredient is mushroom powder, which is a seasoned mixture of ground dried mushrooms. I found the recipe on Tandy Sinclair’s blog called Lavender and Lime.

I didn’t follow her recipe exactly, shown below, only because Tandy included rosemary and thyme and I wanted the mushroom powder more generic in flavor.

My version had garlic pepper, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper plus salt in a variety of wild dried mushrooms that I ground using a dry blender jar.

So here’s how I made this risotto.

Tomato Mushroom Risotto

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/4 cup Arborio rice
Big splash of Riesling or Pinot Gris or Graves
Chicken broth, mildly flavored, approx. 2 1/2 cups
1 heaping tablespoon tomato powder
1 tablespoon mushroom powder
Salt, to taste
Grated Parmesan, optional

Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté slowly; don’t allow much browning.

Add the rice and stir well for a minute. All of the grains should be coated with butter.

Add some wine and stir in well.

Then begin adding the broth, a little at a time and stir well after each addition. Stirring is an important part to the resulting creaminess of the risotto.

As you’re continuing to add broth and stir the rice, find that special position on the stove where the liquid isn’t cooking off too fast, but the fire isn’t so low that cooking stops.

When the rice has absorbed just about all of the liquid it can, add the tomato and mushroom powders and stir well.



Continue adding broth, water, or even some cream, until the rice is fully cooked. Taste for salt.

I personally love white pepper in risottos, but I didn’t want it to overpower the tomato and mushroom flavors.

To serve, I added a bit of grated Parmesan. Feta cheese would be good as well.

Plus I sprinkled on a few parsley leaves just for color.

The tomato and mushroom flavors in this risotto really sing. Grilled steak or chicken could be added, or maybe some braised short ribs. But I will always have tomato powder and mushroom powder in my seasoning arsenal.

Butternut Bacon Pancakes

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A while back my husband was talking about how good my savory pancakes are, which was nice to hear. I most often make them with zucchini, especially when my garden is really producing.

The way I make savory pancakes is with a small amount of liquid, and very little flour. So mine are a not pancake with a little bit of veggies. Quite the opposite.

Then my husband suggested I make pancakes with butternut squash, and that’s when I realized I never had used any kind of winter squash in savory pancakes. I decided to include bacon, shallots, walnuts, and parsley for a perfect autumnal pancake.


Butternut Squash and Bacon Pancakes

6 ounces bacon, diced
2 eggs
2 ounces cream
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 – 2 pound butternut squash
3 small shallots, diced
1 1/2 ounces chopped walnuts
Chopped parsley
Approximately 2/3 cup flour

Using a large skillet, cook the bacon dice just until done; you don’t want it super crispy. Scoop out of the bacon grease using a slotted spoon, and place on paper towels to drain. Keep the skillet with the bacon grease on the stove.


In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; set aside.

Peel the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Using a grater, grate the squash. Place the squash in the bowl with the eggs.

Add the shallots, chopped walnuts, and parsley to the bowl and stir, then add the bacon and gently incorporate.

Add the flour by gently sprinkling it over the squash mixture and incorporating it to make the batter.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Have a plate, a spatula and a large spoon ready next to the batter bowl. Place about 2 teaspoons of the melted bacon grease and 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch of pancakes.

Place two or three even spoonfuls of the batter into the skillet and smooth them as best as possible.


Cook for a couple of minutes, then gently flip over, and turn the heat to medium. You want browning on the outside, but you also need the inside to cook.

Flip the pancakes over one more time and allow the squash to cook for at least another 2 minutes, 6-7 minutes total.

Place the pancakes on the plate, heat the skillet hotter, add more bacon grease and butter, and finish the remaining batter.

If you don’t want to use bacon grease and butter, use a olive oil or grape seed oil.

Serve the pancakes hot or warm. They’re great alongside grilled chicken or turkey, but also lighter with just a green salad!


If you’re munching on them as is, try them with some sour cream! Fabulous!

Candied Lemon Peel

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When I was young, my mother often made candied citrus fruit – usually grapefruit and orange. I didn’t quite have the palate for these at first, and couldn’t grasp the concept that is was okay to eat the peels! But as I got older I became more fond of them.

Recently I realized that I’ve never made any kind of candied citrus, so I thought I’d make a small batch. I typically see these during the holidays; they make such pretty gifts, especially partially dipped in dark chocolate.

But instead I thought I’d make candied lemon peel for a fun summer treat, perhaps chopping them up to add to home-made granola. And just to say I’ve made them!

Here’s what I did, based on this recipe from Epicurious.

Candied Lemon Peel
Printable recipe below

3 large lemons
4 cups white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Place rack on rimmed baking sheet.

Cut ends of each lemon. Score each one lengthwise in quarters, butting just through peel, and not the flesh. Carefully pull off each peel quarter in 1 piece.


Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/4” wide strips. Cook peel in saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour peel into a colander. Rinse.

Bring 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Add drained lemon peel to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lemon peel is very soft and looks translucent, about 40 minutes.

Using fork, transfer lemon peel, 2 or 3 strips at a time, to prepared rack. Separate strips and arrange on rack. Let peel drain 15 minutes.

Sprinkle peel generously with sugar.

Turn strips over and sprinkle second side generously with sugar. I used white sugar, above left, and raw sugar, above right. Let dry uncovered overnight.

Candied lemon peel can be made up to 1 week ahead.

Keep refrigerated.


Attention! Do not throw away that wonderful lemon-infused simple syrup! Store it to use in cocktails! No filter, it’s really that pretty!

And, use the peeled lemons in a lemon dressing. I added olive oil, parsley, garlic, and salt to the blended lemons based on my whole lemon dressing recipe.

Turns out there was little difference between the white granulated sugar and the raw sugar. I’d personally just stick with white.
 

 

Pipián Rojo

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The story behind my discovery of Pipián Rojo is an interesting one, because my husband told me about it. His massage therapist is of Mexican descent, and obviously they were discussing food during his massage. That in itself is interesting. I mean, I’d do that, but I didn’t think my husband would! In any case, she told him about this sauce, Pipián Rojo, and he asked me to find a recipe for it.

Before going to my Mexican cookbooks, I looked online and found a recipe by Mely Martinez, whose blog, Mexico in My Kitchen, I already follow. It sounded exactly how my husband described it, with peanuts, pepitas, sesame seeds, chile peppers, all combined in a red sauce.

Here’s a photo from Mely’s blog post on Pipián Rojo, and one that shows her lovely face!


Turns out this sauce belongs to the family of sauces called mole, (pronounced mo-lay), which means sauce. Here’s an explanation from Wikipedia: Mole (/ˈmoʊleɪ/, /ˈmoʊli/ Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmole]; from Nahuatl mōlli, “sauce”) is a traditional sauce originally used in Mexican cuisine, as well as for dishes based on these sauces. Outside Mexico, it often refers specifically to mole poblano. In contemporary Mexico, the term is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar, including black, red/colorado, yellow, green, almendrado, de olla, huaxmole, guacamole and pipián. Generally, a mole sauce contains a fruit, chili pepper, nut and such spices as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and chocolate.

Mely writes that this classic sauce originates from her home town of Tampico, Tamaulipas, and although she’s been blogging for years, she only posted on Pipián Rojo in 2016. It just didn’t seem so “fancy” to her I’m guessing!

Well I’m glad she did, because it was fantastic. The first time I made it I cooked chicken in the sauce. Next time it might be beef, or pork, or shrimp…

Pipián Rojo Sauce
by Mely Martinez
printable recipe below

2 Ancho peppers
2 guajillo peppers
1 chipotle pepper
1/4 cup peanuts
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1″ stick cinnamon
2 cloves
2 allspice berries
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small tomato
1/3 medium white onion
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

Have a pot with 2 cups of water standing by the stove.

Begin by toasting the peppers in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Notice I was so excited to start making this that I forgot to de-stem the peppers! So I did it after they cooled down. Then place in the water.


Then toast the nuts and seeds. The peanuts will take about 90 seconds, the pumpkin seeds toast fairly quickly; get them out as soon as they brown and start wanting to jump.


The sesame seeds take a few seconds. I actually used my seed toaster for them because I’ve experienced them popping out of a hot skillet all over the kitchen!


Place all of the toasted nuts and seeds in the water.
Next, slightly toast the cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, and allspice berries. Also place them in the water.

Finally, roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic, turning occasionally to obtain even roasting. Place these in the water as well.


Place the pot on the stove and cook over a medium-high heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes, then set aside to let the ingredients soften.


Place the sauce ingredients in a blender and process just enough to blend the ingredients. Then pour into a skillet.


When the sauce is hot, add pieces of meat, pork or chicken, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


If the sauce seems to thick, thin with water or broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the meat with the sauce with rice and warm corn tortillas.

The only mistake I made with this recipe was not to make a quadruple recipe. This sauce is so good I could drink it.

 

 

On the Side

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On the Side is a cookbook I had no business purchasing. It’s all about side dishes, and I’m already the biggest proponent of side dishes. My favorite part of Thanksgiving are the sides. I have some turkey, but I love the sweet-tart cabbage, the garlicky sweet potato mash, and the crispy roasted Brussels sprouts.

So you don’t have to convince me that sides are important, but I bought it because I agree with the author, London-based Ed Smith.

From the author: “This book is for anyone who already realizes that the best bits of a Sunday roast are the trimmings. And for everyone else too – because you’ll see the light soon.”

Mr. Smith originally worked as a corporate lawyer, while also keeping a blog, called Rocket and Squash, to which I now subscribe. Eventually he became a chef, and worked in the food industry.

During this time he’s also been an observer, a student of food – “I’ve watched trends arrive, and some of them crash and burn; I’ve seen a million and one ways with chicken, hundreds of crumbles and nearly as many chocolate fondants. And yet, in all this time, barely a handful of side dishes. Which is madness.”


The dish I chose to make from the book is Chinese cabbage with black vinegar, which is called Chinkiang vinegar. It was an opportunity to try it, as well as Sichuan chile flakes, called Gochujaru.

Chinese Cabbage with Black Vinegar

1 Chinese cabbage
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
2 teaspoons golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon lightly crushed Sichuan peppercorns

Prepare all the ingredients first, as the cooking process is quick. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then each of those halves in two again. Cut out the core from the base of each quarter, then roughly chop the lengths into 5 or 6 pieces widthways.

Mix the soy sauce, vinegar and caster sugar together in a bowl and set aside. I can see why sugar is an ingredient. Black vinegar has a delightfully deep earthy flavor.

I divided the cabbage into two bowls – one with pieces from the root end, the other bowl with the thinner pieces.

Place a large wok over a very high heat, add the oil and allow it to heat almost until it smokes.

Drop the ginger onto the hot oil and let this soften for 30 seconds before adding the chili flakes and peppercorns, then pretty much immediately start to add the pieces of cabbage cut from the root end.

Stir fry for 30 seconds, before adding the softer top part of the cabbage. Cook for 45 seconds more, stirring occasionally, before pushing the cabbage to one side and pouring the soy sauce mixture in.

Quickly move the cabbage around for 20-30 seconds, then remove from the heat so that the cabbage takes on the flavors of vinegar and soy but retains its bite.

Serve immediately.


I served the cabbage alongside noodles topped with sesame seeds.

This cabbage is fabulous. The only different thing I would do is to use a grinder on the peppercorns.

The cabbage would be a great side to meatballs, tofu, shrimp, or beef. The next day I cooked a filet of salmon and it was a wonderful meal!

 

Kimchi and Kimchi Pancakes

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I’ve had kimchi twice in my life, and neither time did it strike a chord, so to speak. I mean, it’s stinky. However, the smell is also addicting. It’s multi-layered, with fish and fiery spice, garlic and ginger.

Kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage that is considered a staple of Korean cuisine, is basically used like a condiment. I’ve learned that Korean families always have a vat of it going in their homes.

I’ve also learned that there are a multitude of recipes for kimchi, but I’m going with a quick kimchi recipe on TheKitchn.com, written by Emily Han.

From TheKitchn.com, Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria. In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.

So I wanted to see if my I liked kimchi more, but mostly I wanted to use the fermentation crock that my daughters had gifted me again; I recently used it for Escabeche.

If you want to understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.

Kimchi

2 pound head Napa cabbage
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons seafood flavor (I used 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste)
1-5 tablespoons gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes
8 ounces Daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
4 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2” wide strips.


Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add water to cover the cabbage.

Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar. Let stand for 1 – 2 hours.

Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15 – 20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru; this author recommended about 3 1/2 tablespoons.

Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.

Mix thoroughly, working the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. Disposable gloves are highly recommended for this step.

Pack the kimchi into a jar, (I used the fermentation crock), pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1 inch of headspace if you’re using a jar. Seal the jar/crock with a lid.

Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 – 5 days. You may see bubbles inside. If using a jar, brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch overflow.

Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to eep them submerged under the brine. This also releases gases produced during fermentation.

Taste a little at this point. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. It’s best after another week or two in the refrigerator, but can be eaten right away.

I couldn’t wait to make the following recipe using my kimchi.

Kimchi Pancakes
From Bon Appetit

1 large egg
1 tablespoon kimchi brine from jar
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white flour
1 1/2 cups kimchi
4 scallions
4 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
3 tablespoons rice vinegar

Crack 1 egg into a medium bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. kimchi brine, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, and ¼ cup water and whisk to combine.

Whisk in all of the flour.

Coarsely chop 1½ cups kimchi, add to bowl, and stir to combine. Thinly slice 4 scallions on a diagonal. Add half to batter; reserve remaining scallions for serving.


Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Drop ¼-cupfulls of batter onto opposite sides of skillet (pancakes should be about 4″ in diameter, so you’ll probably only be able to cook 2 at a time).

Cook pancakes until golden brown on first side, 2–3 minutes, then flip and cook until browned on second side, 2–3 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat process in batches with remaining batter and oil; you should have 8 pancakes.

Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar and remaining 3 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl.

Transfer pancakes to a platter. Top with reserved scallions and serve with dipping sauce alongside.

I honestly couldn’t stop eating these pancakes. Look at the beautiful kimchi in the batter.

They were fabulous as is as well as dunked in the sauce.


Next time I will double the pancake ingredients so there are more in which to indulge.

They’re best crispy right out of the skillet, bet you can also re-crisp them in a hot pan before serving the leftover pancakes.

Anchovy Syrup

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Some of my Instagram friends may remember when I discovered anchovy syrup on Amazon one day and posted a photo of it. I’d never heard of it before, and there was lively discussion about how it compared to Asian fish sauce. However, it’s an Italian product.

I was so intrigued bought a little bottle of it, even with mixed reviews. It’s a 3-ounce bottle for $35.00, but you don’t use much.

It’s recommended for pasta, pizza, soups, in dressings, or sauces. Because I use anchovies quite often, I though this product could be quite handy as a pantry staple.

From Chef Shop: Colatura di Alici is the modern day descendant of an ancient and greatly prized Roman condiment called garum.

The method of making Colatura di Alici is the same now as it was then: by slowly curing Mediterranean anchovies with salt and extracting the liquid that drains from them. This part of the process takes 9-12 months to complete, a process that is as closely regulated as the DOC-controlled production of balsamic vinegar or champagne. The liquid is then aged in oak barrels for 3-4 years. It is then filtered and placed into jars.

Cetara, a small fishing village south of Naples, regards their Colatura di Alici as an heirloom food. It is an example of a foodstuff holding out against the modern age, and Slow Food Italy embraces it as an important regional specialty.

The IACA (whose Italian name translates as “Friends of the Anchovy”) is one of a few authorized producers of this heritage ingredient. It has only recently appeared in the United States, where chefs have enthusiastically taken it to their kitchens.

What especially intriguing about anchovy syrup is that although it’s made from anchovies, there’s no fishy-in-your-face quality to it, unlike fish sauce. In fact, it has a delightful aroma – truly. Anchovy syrup would be hard to identify it in a smell test.

To test the anchovy syrup, I decided to make a simple pasta with sautéed greens, topped with shrimp. Here’s what I did.

Pasta with Greens and Shrimp

4 ounces pasta, such as angel hair
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
5 ounces mixed greens, coarsely chopped
3/4 pound raw shrimp, cleaned, shelled

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta and sautéed greens. Add the shallot and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stir for a few seconds.


Add the greens and stir them into the aromatic oil, making sure all of the leaves are coated. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and allow the greens to wilt. Then add the cooked pasta to the greens and gently stir to combine.

Add some anchovy syrup. I was going to get a pouring shot, but I can’t do anything with my left hand, and I can only use my camera with my right hand. (Where is my assistant?) So after I set down the syrup and camera I then put a little drizzle into the pasta and greens, and again stirred; set this aside.

Place the last tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and cook the shrimp, only about one minute per side, depending on how big they are. Transfer them to a plate, and finish cooking all the shrimp. Sprinkle the shrimp with a little salt and some cayenne pepper flakes.

To serve, place the pasta and greens mixture on plates, and top with the shrimp.

Well, I could barely taste the anchovy syrup, so I had to add more!

Wow, this stuff is amazing.

And I have to say that this recipe turned out great.

Oddly enough, I tasted the anchovy syrup, twice actually, and it’s basically salt. The flavor doesn’t match the aroma!

Summer Corn Dip

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I’m not a huge fan of Emeril Lagasse. It’s not that I don’t respect his accomplishments, which are vast. In fact, he’s one of the longest lasting tv chefs in the U.S. We just never clicked. I didn’t get the “night show” element of live music on his cooking show, and the “BAM” was way overdone. Just my opinion.

So I wasn’t completely thrilled when I received an Emeril cookbook as a gift. But when I opened the book, Prime Time Emeril, to a random page, it was to the recipe for Hot Corn Dip.

Not being from the Midwest, I haven’t always been a huge corn fan like some people. I mean, it’s really good with butter and salt – on the cob, of course. But corn dip???

corn22

Well I made it, and it’s now one of my few repeat recipes I make in the summer. For this one recipe alone, I will always keep Prime Time Emeril, published in 2001.

So here is my version of Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for corn dip, from his cookbook. It’s especially fun to make when corn on the cob is 10 for $1.00! However keep in mind that to make it simpler, canned corn can also be used.

Hot and Cheesy Corn Dip

4 corn on the cobs
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces grated white cheddar or Monterey jack
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Remove the corn from the corn cobs using a knife, slicing vertically on four “sides” of the cob. Then break up the pieces of corn into individual kernels.

Cook the corn in boiling water for about 10 minutes; test it to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Drain the corn in a colander, and set aside to cool.

Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat. Chop the onion, red bell pepper and green onions. Add the vegetables and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.

Then add the corn, the cream cheese and cubed or grated cheese, and allow the cheeses to completely melt into the vegetables.

Add the salt and cayenne, or sprinkle the cayenne on top of the dip when serving.

Serve the dip warm with good corn chips. I like the “scoopable” variety!

I’ve also used mayonnaise in this dip along with cream cheese. It just adds a depth of flavor.

Now to change things up. You can make a Southwestern version of this corn dip by adding chopped green chile peppers and cilantro, plus a little ground cumin.


I’ve included made this dip with crumbled chorizo. Yum. Italian sausage also works.

For a pescatarian option, add crab, some Old Bay, and top with chopped avocado!

Basil Pesto

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Basil pesto is such a huge deal in my house. Mostly because my husband could eat it on ice cream, practically.

To me, pesto is an extremely versatile ingredient. This flavorful, emerald-colored paste can be added to soups, breads, meat, seafood, salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and so many other dishes.

The only thing is, you have to make it. You can buy prepared pesto, but it’s expensive; home made is better.

All you need are a few basil plants, some dirt, a little water, and lots of sun. I’ve been growing basil for over 35 years in Texas and Oklahoma, and I don’t end up with basil plants – I have basil bushes. And the weather in these states can be brutal. So trust me – there’s no green thumb requirement for growing basil.

Today I’m making a batch of traditional basil pesto based on how it’s made in the Ligurian region of Italy where basil grows in abundance, called pesto alla Genovese.

I’ve always heard that the best Italian pesto is made only from baby basil leaves, but I use the larger leaves as well, as long as they’re not “leathery.” And I just buy domestic basil plants locally.

The only other thing I do when I make a batch of pesto is not add cheese. Omitting cheese saves space in my freezer; it probably cuts the pesto volume by 50%. Then when I use pesto and want cheese, I freshly grate it.

Also, with having non-cheesy pesto, it is basically another ingredient than the cheesy version. For example, the non-cheesy pesto can go in soups, in a vinaigrette, or a marinade, where cheese isn’t a necessary component.

Here’s my recipe for a batch of pesto, when you have an abundance of fresh basil. There’s no exact recipe, and you’re welcome to alter it to your own tastes.

After I pick the basil branches in the morning, I set them outside to let the creepy-crawlers escape. I don’t know if it really works, but it makes me feel better.

Basil Pesto (Cheeseless)
Makes about 72 ounces

4 ounces of pine nuts, I toast mine
Approximately 10 ounces of good olive oil
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
Basil leaves – from a giant armful of branches

Place the pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic in a large blender jar. Blend until smooth. This is an important step so the rest of the pesto-making process is only about adding leaves.

Then begin adding leaves, making sure they are soft, and void of damage, bugs, or webs.

There’s a point when you can barely blend in the last leaves, as in the photo above. If you must, add a tablespoon of oil, and play with your blender to get the pesto nice and smooth. Then you will end up with this.

Spatula the pesto into sterilized jars. The pesto can be refrigerated but I freeze until needed, and thaw one jar at a time.

Now to the pesto pasta. Choose a 1-pound package of pasta, and cook it to the package directions.

Drain the pasta, then place it back the still-hot pot. Add some pesto, I used about 1 cup of what I’d just made, but we like it strong. Add about the same amount of grated cheese, or to your liking. Then gently stir.

Serve the pasta while it’s nice and warm and the cheese has melted. You can also add some evaporated milk, goat milk, or cream to the pesto for a creamier pasta dish.

If you’ve never made pesto, this one would be a good recipe with which to start.

Pesto oxidates easily, but just on the surface area. Stir it up and the pesto will still be emerald green.

To prevent this in the jar, pour a little olive oil on top of the pesto.

Once you get the hang of pesto, it’s fun and easy to switch out the herbs, and use different nuts and even seeds, to create unique pestos.

Here are some other ways I’ve made and used pesto.

Escabeche

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My thoughtful daughters gifted me a do-it-yourself fermentation kit for Christmas, 2017. Escabeche immediately came to mind.

I’ve only made escabeche one time, many years ago. The reason I only made these crunchy, zesty vegetables once is that the vinegar smelled up the house for days, which was very upsetting to my husband. I thought perhaps using the fermentation crock will “stink” up the house less.

The recipe I used was from Diana Kennedy’s ground-breaking book on Mexican cuisine, the bible, in a way – The Art of Mexican Cooking, published in 1989.

Escabeche is the Spanish word for “pickle”. Legumbres en escabeche describes a combination of pickled vegetables. It originates from Veracruz, and is a favorite for serving with Mexican dishes.

Chiles Jalapeños en Escabeche
Pickled Jalapeños
Makes about 8 cups

1 pound jalapeños, rinsed
1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed and scraped
3 tablespoons sea salt
1/3 cup water
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
10 peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seed
4 whole cloves
16 California bay leaves
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 pound white bulbous onions, boiling onions, or regular white onions
3 cups mild vinegar
1 cup strong vinegar
10 garlic cloves, peeled
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Remove the stems from the fresh chiles and cut each into 4 lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and put into a large bowl. I don’t have to scrape out seeds because I cut around the seeds.

Slice the carrots diagonally about 1/8” thick and add to the chiles. I used a mandoline for even slices. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Set aside to macerate for about 1 hour.

Put the water into a blender jar and add the chopped garlic, peppercorns, cumin seed, cloves, 10 of the bay leaves, the thyme leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon of the oregano. Blend as thoroughly as possible.

Heat the oil in a large, fairly deep pan. Add the blended spices and onions and fry until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are translucent, not brown – about 10 minutes.

Strain the chiles and carrots, reserving the juice, and add to the pan. Fry over fairly high heat, stirring and turning the vegetables over for 10 minutes.


Add the chile and carrot juice, vinegars, whole garlic cloves, 6 thyme sprigs, remaining 6 bay leaves and remaining teaspoon oregano, and the sugar.

I wish you could smell this! The depth of odor is remarkable.

Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 8 minutes. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl and set aside to cool before storing in the refrigerator.

But instead, just to take these pickled vegetables a step further, I used the fermentation crock for 24 hours, after the vegetables cooled down. I could have chosen 3 days, but I didn’t want the vegetables to lose crunchiness, which is very important.

The weight, placed over the vegetables and shown in the above right photo, is used to hold down the vegetables and keep them submerged in the pickling liquid.

The first time I used these aromatic pickled vegetables was with chicken and corn enchiladas made with an ancho white sauce.

Note: To better understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.

And if you’re interested in this kit, it was purchased at Uncommon Goods. The packaging is very sweet, and there are directions and recipes.