Monthly Archives: September 2012

Pesto: Summer’s Gift

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There are few things that can compare to home made pesto. It evokes the essence of the garden, all of that basil and garlic… but it also has a richness and depth because of very good olive oil, lots of Parmigiano Reggiano and most importantly pine nuts and pistachios! As my basil plants dictate (it takes ARMFULLS of basil), I make a big batch and freeze it. It does keep well in the refrigerator too, at least 6 weeks.  I never use a recipe, but I paid attention this time to the amounts so you too could make some of the best “green sauce” in the world. If you have a smaller amount of basil, you can divide this recipe. Just remember to taste the pesto for balance and seasonings. It should have a little tang to it and also be rich and slightly crunchy. Some people use other nuts, such as walnuts, but I promise nothing can compare with the combination of pine nuts and pistachios. The are expensive, but really worth it in this instance. And a little pesto can go a long way too! 

Ingredients:  

1 1/2 cups pine nuts

1 1/2 cups pistachios

16 cups of basil leaves and flowers if you have them. I sometimes add parsley and arugula to the mix, but the predominate flavor needs to be basil. 

Zest and juice of three large lemons

3 heads (not teeth, full heads) of garlic, skinned and cut into chunks

1 1/2 -2 cups of good olive oil you judge when the consistency is ideal

2 tablespoons smoked sea salt (non smoked is fine too)

3 tablespoons fresh cracked pepper

1 tablespoon raw sugar

1-2 tablespoons crushed red pepper

3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (you can do this in the food processor ahead)

 

You will need a food processor for this. If you do not have one, a blender works, but you will have to do it in smaller batches. I have a very large Cusinart, so I do a big batch at one time. 

Method: 

Get all ingredients in place. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet. Do not crowd them too much. I did two batches for this recipe. 

While the nuts are cooling, fill the processor bowl with basil, slightly packed, but not too tight. You should have some basil left over, this will go in after the first part is ground. 

Add the salt, pepper, red pepper, 1 cup of olive oil, garlic, all of the lemon zest and juice. Pulse till the basil is reduced in volume, add the rest of the basil and more oil. The oil and the lemon juice allow the basil to be ground down into a paste. The lemon juice is used for flavor, but also to keep the pesto bright green. Add all of the nuts and process again, adding olive oil as needed to make the paste. Add the cheese and more olive oil as needed. It should be a thick paste, but one that easily drops from a spoon. Once you have it all ground up, taste, add more seasoning if you need it. 

Freeze in containers the size that you are likely to be using it. I find that about 1 cup servings are good for two people. This is great on pasta, pizza, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, crostini, chicken, steak and even on scrambled eggs.  I also like to dip bread sticks in it. However, my favorite way to eat it is over pasta. 

Refrigerator Pickles: Easy Bread and Butter Cucumbers and Okra

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Easy, delicious and a perfect way to preserve some of the last of this summer’s produce, in this case some cucumbers and okra. Refrigerator pickles are great, crispier and fresher tasting than their canned cousins.  This is a recipe that is both sweet and tart, much like Bread and Butter Pickles. Put them on your burgers, alongside sandwiches and use the okra in Bloody Marys. Add them to a cheese plate or charcuterie platter. It is SO easy and you do not need a whole bushel of produce and lots of equipment to make these, just some clean jars, a knife (or food processor) and the ingredients. Here is the recipe to make 3 quart jars. It only takes about 30 minutes working time to do these. Well worth the effort.

Ingredients:

2 onions, thinly sliced

8 medium cucumbers thinly sliced (I used the food processor to make fast work of slicing)

4 cups okra ( I did the okra in one jar and the cukes in two others, but you could do more cukes if you are okra adverse).

3 cups of water

3 cups of cider vinegar

6 cups sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

2 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons celery seeds

2 tablespoons pickling spice

2 teaspoons grains of paradise

2 teaspoons juniper berries

crushed red pepper to taste

6 cloves of garlic (2 per jar)

6 sticks of cinnamon (2 per jar)

Method: 

Slice cucumbers and okra.

The food processor makes slicing a breeze and maintains consistent size

Place in a jar with 2 sticks of cinnamon and 2 cloves of garlic slightly bruised

Pack the jars tightly

Pack the jars tightly. This can also be done in a plastic container.

Cook all remaining ingredients to a boil and then simmer for four minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables and close jars. Allow to cool completely, then place in refrigerator. The pickles will be ready to eat in 24 hours. You can use a variety of vegetables to make pickles, peppers, carrots, jicama, sugar snap peas, asparagus, okra, even peaches.

Trip to Indonesia with Shrimp Sate and Peanut Sauce

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Several years ago we were aboard a boat off the shore of Bonaire, a Dutch Territory off of the coast of Venezuela. The island has a huge Indonesian influence because the Dutch once held Indonesia as a colony. We were served this tasty sate and the owner of the boat gave me her simple recipe. It is very easy to make. We had some interesting meals in Bonaire, including Iguana Stew, but I did not ask for that recipe. Sate can be made with pork, chicken, beef or seafood. It is basically slices or in this case, whole shrimp that is marinated in a lemon  & sweet soy marinade, then grilled and served with a peanut sauce. The peanut sauce is delicious on rice or other dishes too. I served  the Shrimp Sate with a cucumber salad and fried rice.

Sate with Peanut Sauce

Yield: 6 appetizer Servings or two entree servings

MEAT
1 1/2 lb Pork, chicken tenders or steak cut into ½ inch strips, 1 pound of fresh shrimp  or for vegetarians use extra firm tofu

MARINADE
2 ea Lemons
2 ea Garlic cloves, diced
4 tb Indonesian soy sauce (this is sweet soy sauce, slightly heavier than regular soy sauce).

PEANUT  SAUCE
4 tb Peanut butter
1 tb Lemon juice
1/2 c Honey
1/2 ts Hot red sauce  (Sambal Orelek or “Rooster Sauce”)
1/4 c Half and half or Coconut Milk (unsweetened)

6 leaves of Kafir Lime slivered and chopped.


Cut chicken meat into strips or peel shrimp. Make marinade by combining juice from lemons with garlic, soy sauce and salt. Pierce meats and marinate 2 to 4 hours. Save the marinade to use in the peanut sauce. Weave meats onto skewers and broil or barbecue until meat is done. Do not overcook.

To prepare the peanut sauce, combine peanut butter, lemon juice, honey and hot sauce with reserved marinade, and heat at low temperature until well blended, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add half and half. Return sauce to heat and warm through, stirring constantly.

Serve the skewers on platter and pour sauce into bowl. Meat is dipped in the sauce as you eat.

The Ultimate Maraschino Cherry: Homemade!

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I am tired of ingesting sappy sweet Maraschino Cherries loaded with red dye #40. I want some *real cherries* for my manhattans and Mai Tais! And so, I made Homemade Maraschino Cherries. There are two ways to make them (that I know of) and one of them requires sourcing  Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur .I will be posting about those soon.  If you are not looking for a spiked cherry, why not just make them the old fashioned way? Basically this involves taking fresh cherries at their peak, creating a syrup adding some spices and flavors that will compliment the cherries, then simmering the cherries lightly in the syrup without really cooking them completely. This enables the flavors of the syrup to penetrate the cherries and still retains the texture of a fresh cherry.

Which would you rather have?

Commercial Maraschino Cherries are typically made from light-colored sweet cherries such as the Royal AnnRainier, or Gold varieties. In their modern form, the cherries are first preserved in a brine solution usually containing sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride to bleach the fruit, then soaked in asuspension of food coloring (common red food dye, FD&C Red 40), sugar syrup, and other components. Green maraschino cherries use a mint flavoring.

This recipe is simple and can be completed in the space of an hour. When the cherries have been soaking in the syrup even longer, they will be even tastier. I did not pit the cherries and I left the stems in tact, but you can pit them if you want to. You will need a large jar or container to store the cherries in. They do need to be refrigerated. The alternative of course is to process the cherries, but then they would lose so much of their fresh taste and texture.

These cherries are not just good… they are DAMN GOOD! Try it, really, it is so worth it!

Home Made Maraschino Cherries

2 cups pomegranate juice (use 100 percent juice)
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice (from approximately 3 lemons)
Pinch of salt
3 whole pieces star anise
8 whole cloves
1 pound sweet cherries
1 teaspoon almond extract
In a nonreactive saucepan, add juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt, cloves and star anise. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the cherries and almond extract. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until the cherries have exuded some of their juice and the syrup has taken on a distinctly cherry flavor. Be careful not to overcook. The point is not to actually cook the cherries, but to heat them in the syrup just long enough to bring out their essence.
Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the cherries and the syrup to a bowl a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate. The longer the cherries steep, the more flavorful they will become.
The Ultimate Manhattan:
I had my first Manhattan at the bar of Tavern on the Green (which incidentally went from being the nations second highest grossing restaurant in 2007, to closing due to bankruptcy in 2009) on my inagural  trip to New York in 1997. I ‘ve loved them ever since. I have returned to Manhattan several times since then, both in my heart and in person, I always order Manhattans when I am there.  It’s a sophisticated, strong and simple cocktail, and the ultimate showcase for as many maraschino cherries as you care to pack into your glass. The proportions are 2:1 
Makes 1 drink
3 ounces whiskey, rye or Bourbon
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherries, for garnish
In a double old fashioned glass, add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters, stir. Garnish with maraschino cherries and serve on the rocks. The drink can also be served straight up by using a cocktail shaker and straining into a martini glass.