Tag Archives: summer

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.