Large Batch Homemade Pesto

fresh pesto sauce

I planted basil in our garden this summer and was super excited when I discovered that I have enough to make a large batch of pesto, and freeze for the winter! I purchase the bulk pine nuts and Parmigiano Reggiano from Costco, which is so much more affordable than Whole Foods (Paycheck).  It is key to have a great food processor. I have a new “Breville Sous Chef Food Processor” that I received from my mother-in-law, that I absolutely love! Anyway, so here are the ingredients and the instructions.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound basil (9 oz leaves after removing stems)
  • ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ cup fresh Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cup pine nuts

Place the washed basil leaves, and oil in the food processor (using “S-Blade”), till minced, pausing occasionally to scrape in the basil on the sides. Add the cheese, garlic and salt and process until smooth. Add in the pine nuts at the end, you can make it as crunchy or smooth as you like. My son loves it chunky but my daughter likes it super smooth. You are now ready to place the pesto into ½ cup storage containers. Now you can freeze your batches. Thaw as needed, but please do not microwave. When you add to your pasta, please save some of the salted pasta water to thin out the pesto a little so it has a smooth and slightly liquid consistency.

Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

gazpacho

I wanted to make a gazpacho that was thirst quenching, nutritious and refreshing, so I married some juicy heirloom tomatoes, seedless watermelon, with the traditional bell peppers and cucumbers. All of which have a high water content, making it unnecessary to add tomato juice. This recipe was pretty simple even though the list of ingredients seems a bit daunting. As long as you have the right measuring tools it’s quite simple to make. Optional: make a big batch and store in the fridge for up to five days.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of diced heirloom tomatoes + 2 tbsp for garnish
  • 1 ½ cups of diced cucumbers – seeded and peeled + 2 tbsp for garnish
  • 1 ½ cups of diced red pepper – seeded + 2 tbsp for garnish
  • 1 cup of diced onions
  • 2 cups of chopped watermelon – seeded + 2 tbsp diced for garnish
  • 1 cup of croutons
  • 2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp for drizzle on garnish
  • 1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp diced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill the soup for minimum 4 hours but can be stored in the fridge over night. Mix all the reserve garnish (tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, and watermelon) with olive and salt. Place a tbsp onto each serving. Serve with a cool cocktail, perhaps a watermelon margarita or mojito.

Whipped Ricotta Flatbread with Zucchini and Tomatoes

Zan's recipe Flatbread whipped RicottaHere is a fun appetizer I created using some (store bought) pizza dough, ricotta, and some veggies. It’s not too heavy and you can make a little extra whipped ricotta as a dipping sauce.

Ingredients:

For the Whipped Ricotta

  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 2 Tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 8 small cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the Flatbread

  • 1 ball of pizza dough
  • flour for dusting surface and pizza spatula
  • 1/4 Tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sliced zucchini (with cheese slicer)
  • 5 Roma tomatoes (sliced same thickness as zucchini)
  • 8 leaves of basil (sliced into strips)

Directions for Whipped Ricotta:

Place ricotta, rosemary, roasted garlic, salt, and goat cheese crumbles into the blender, blend on low speed, and slowly add in the olive oil until you reach a smooth consistency.

Directions for Flatbread:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees or grill. (I normally cook pizza on a pizza stone.) Roll out the pizza dough on a smooth floured surface, stretching on the edge of a counter then tossing in the air, as my husband normally does, (getting flour all over the place) until the pizza dough is evenly thinned out. You can leave the edges thicker (similar to regular pizza), which can be used for dipping into the sauce. Place 1/2 – 1 cup of whipped ricotta onto the center and spread to within one inch of the edges. Sprinkle with salt. Add the tomatoes and zucchini. Place onto the pizza stone and cook until the edges brown, and the center is cooked – approximately 5-10 minutes. Remove flatbread and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with the basil. Serve the extra whipped ricotta on the side. Slice into 3″ pieces and serve. Enjoy!!! Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Moroccan Chicken and Vegetable Stew (Paleo)

paleo moroccan chicken and vegetable stew

After a traditional Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to make some aromatic, and spicy ethnic food. I pulled out a “somewhat Paleo” recipe book, written by Dr. Mark Hyman called “The 10-Day Detox Diet Cookbook“, based on his book “The Blood Sugar Solution“. It’s basically a healthy cookbook with a lot of Paleo recipes. This dish called out to me with all of the aromatic spices, like turmeric, cumin, and coriander. I made some slight modifications and spiced it up a bit. Warning: It did take a while to prep, approximately 40 minutes as I like to chop the ingredient a bit smaller than Dr. Hyman recommended, but was well worth it. I did not include the recommended eggplant, as my husband “claims” that he is allergic to it. (What REALLY happened: when he was in college, after a dinner of eggplant parmesan, and bit too much to drink, he threw up, and now claims it was the eggplant he was allergic to). Ha! Anyway, you can always add one chopped eggplant to this dish. Oh, and this dish is also called “Tagine”. Also, if you want to go vegan, substitute the chicken for firm tofu and reduce cooking time by 15 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp pureed ginger (I use this one)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground ginger (powder)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (use 1/4 tsp for less heat)
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1″ pieces and trimmed of fat (if going vegan use firm Tofu)
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 10 crimini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch half circles
  • 2 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth is going vegan)
  • 10 grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

In a dutch oven or heavy stock pot (I used a cast iron dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and saute gently until the onions begin to caramelize, 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat to low, and add 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and all of the dried spices. Saute the spices and onions about 2 minutes. Salt the chicken (or tofu) with the remaining salt, and add to the pot. Turn heat up to medium, and saute for 3 minutes, until all of the chicken (or tofu) is well coated with spices. Add the cauliflower and mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes. Then Add the bell peppers and zucchini, and saute until they soften about 5 minutes. Add the chicken (or vegetable) stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer the stew gently, stirring occasionally, until all of the vegetables are tender and the liquid is thickened and reduce approximately 15-20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in olives. Plate and serve with cilantro garnish. Serves 4

paleo moroccan chicken stew

Balsamic Glazed Pork and Peaches

Pork and Peaches

I’m always trying to find new and different flavors to combine with pork chops, other than the traditional apple. So, I reached for my ever trustworthy and inspirational book, “The Flavor Bible“. It had all of these ingredients listed in the “affinities” section. And I actually did get the thumbs up from my hyper-critical-foodie-son to add it to my blog. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Pork loin chops
  • 3 organic peaches or 1 bag frozen peaches (thawed), chopped into 1/2″ chunks
  • 12 fresh sage leaves, fried
  • 12 leaves, small slices
  • 2 tbsp of butter (if Paleo and avoiding dairy, use olive oil)
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Drizzle of balsamic reduction (recipe here)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In an iron skillet, on high heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter. Salt pork chops. Add the pork chops and cook 5 minutes on each side until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees. Remove pork chops and let rest. Add in 1 tbsp butter, balsamic vinegar and reduce down, cooking about a minute. Add in the chopped peaches, and sliced sage, stir around to cover and cook until semi-soft, approximately 3 minutes. Remove peaches and place on top of pork chops. Drizzle balsamic reduction over peaches and pork. Add salt and pepper to the dish and place 3 fried sage leaves. Serves 4.

Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Garlic and Bacon

Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are such a great winter treat, as long as they have a little sweetness, and are super easy to prepare. I love them a little crunchy which a touch of garlic. And as we all know, EVERYTHING is better with Bacon!!!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I like to cook the chopped bacon in a small saucepan until crispy, drain them on a paper towel, then reserve the bacon grease. Toss the Brussel sprouts with the bacon grease, olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and garlic. Put the mixture onto the baking dish and spread out evenly. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Add the bacon, toss, and bake for another 2 minutes. Your Brussel sprouts should be tender and should have some crispy leaves.

Classic Italian Risotto

Classic Italian Risotto

Okay, since I’m mostly Swedish, I cannot claim to have a perfect Italian Risotto, but my psuedo-Italian husband can! He definitely “thinks” he’s Italian, especially since he spent a number of year in Italy. Being green-eyed and blond-haired, the Italians always questioned his origin… it’s actually Michigan! Nevertheless, after many years, I can honestly say he has mastered the classic Italian risotto. And according to my children, I am incapable of making his perfected recipe. I actually don’t mind handing over the kitchen to him once in a while, so HE can “slave over the hot stove”.

The key to an honest Risotto, is definitely the broth, (my recipe can be found here). You also need to make sure you use Arborio rice. It is an Italian short-grain rice, named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, which is situated in the main growing region. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy if cooked just right. The key is cooking then stirring, cooking then stirring, a labor of love for sure.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 cups of dry white wine
  • 5 cups of homemade broth
  • pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 cups of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Warm the broth in a pot on low heat, making sure it does not boil. In a large sauce pan on medium heat, add oil, butter then onions and sauté for several minutes until they become translucent. Add in the Aborio rice and stir to coat.  Now here comes the hard part, you are going to add in the liquid 1 cup at a time and stir to cook. Start with the wine, as you want this to cook down over time, then alternate with the broth. You’re going to keep adding in the liquid one cup at a time for at least 20 minutes, maybe more. The point is to add the liquid in small doses, and stir it as it absorbs. When the rice starts to get a little puffy you want add in the strands of saffron. Stir for a couple of minutes, and then start tasting it. You want the rice to be firm, but not hard in the center. Once you get the right consistency, get your warm plates and ladle ready, add in the parmesan cheese and stir. You might need to add a little salt at the end, but remember the parmesan cheese is quite salty. Now you ladle one large scoop onto each warm plate, and jiggle it around so flatten it out. Remember this is really rich, so please don’t make the portions too big. Think Italian size… not American portion. Sprinkle a little parmesan on top… Mangiare subito!

Pan-Seared Chicken Breast with Caper Lemon Sauce

chicken-capers-lemon

I’m always trying to find other ways to make chicken, as we are making a conscious effort to try and eat less red meat. I have some dairy items in this recipe but they can be replaced if you are trying to stay away from it. This recipe is pretty easy and quick and goes great with roasted potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (filleted and pounded) Organic preferred
  • 2 eggs
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp of lemon
  • 1 cup flour (organic preferred)
  • 2 tbsp butter (divided)

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter (divided)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup capers
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup cream (optional – can use a paste of four and water to thicken sauce)

Directions:

If you have whole chicken breasts, you can first remove the tenderloin first, then filet the breast. Pound out all of the pieces so they are thin, approximately ¼”. If all your pieces are the same thickness they will cook evenly and at the same time. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs, with lemon and 1 tsp of salt. Place the chicken into egg mixture. You can do this proceed before cooking, for a little extra time in the marinade. I marinated them for ½ hour.

For the sauce you will melt the butter and oil in a saucepan, add in the chopped shallots and cook on medium high heat, but be sure not to burn them. Then add in the capers and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the capers and onions from the pan, leaving the liquids (butter/oil) in the pan. Now you can dredge the chicken breasts. I dredge them as I cook them so they don’t sit in the flour. Add 1 tbsp of butter and place the chicken pieces, spaced so they do not touch. Cook the chicken until crispy on both sides (approx. 2 minutes a side). Repeat, adding butter and additional chicken pieces. Once all pieces are cooked you place them on a platter, or warming plate. Next you will add the caper/onion mixture back into the pan, scraping up any residue on the pan. Add in the mustard and lemon stirring frequently, then the chicken broth. Cook down the mixture for 3-5 minutes. Add in the cream and stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. If you prefer to avoid the cream you can add a mixture of 1 tbsp of flour in a cup with some warm water, until you have a flour paste. You can slowly whisk this into the sauce to thicken it. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. (Additional sauce can be placed into a gravy boat).

Serves 4

Cobia (Black Kingfish) with Sweet Potato Puree

cobia-sweet-potato-puree

Here is another Cobia recipe I created using Open Blue’s sustainable fish. The family loved it!

What is Cobia? Cobia is a mild flavored white fish, and a great sustainable substitute for salmon or sea bass. It has also been called black kingfish. There is more info on this fish on my previous post (click here).  If you want to buy Cobia you can find it at this website: http://www.chefsfreshfish.com/Cobia-Fillet-p/e725a.htm

Ingredients for Sweet Potatoe Puree

  • 2 large sweet potatoes peeled
  • 1 cup of chicken broth (I recommend organic bone broth for a little extra protein)
  • ¼ tsp of grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup créme fraîche
  • ½ tsp of salt

Ingredients for tomato “bruschetta”

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil (EVOO)
  • ½ cup of shallots (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 plum tomatoes (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • ½ lemon zest (finely grated)
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 basil leaves (thinly sliced)

Ingredients for Cobia fish

  • 4 (4-6 oz) pieces of Cobia filets (Open Blue’s)
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp of organic butter

Directions for Sweet Potato Puree:

Cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Steam for 10-15 minutes until soft. Place into food processor and puree, slowly adding in the chicken broth. Add in the nutmeg and salt. Puree until smooth. Add in the creme fraîche and puree briefly until you have reached a smooth creamy consistency.

Directions for Tomato bruschetta:

In a small sauce pan on low heat, add in the oil, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, and lemon zest. Salt to taste. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes on low heat, until tomatoes have softened and garlic and onions are clear.

Directions for Cobia Fish Fillets:

Pat the Cobia Fillets dry, squeeze lemon and add the salt and pepper. Can be done 30 minutes prior to cooking. In an iron skillet on medium-high heat, melt butter and sear the fish filets on both sides, making sure it is cooked all the way through and opaque.

Plating:

Place several spoonfuls of the sweet potato puree on each plate. Add the fish to the center and drizzle with the tomato bruschetta. Top with basil for decoration.

This also goes great with a side of kale salad.

Enjoy!

Serves 4

cobia-sweet-potato-puree-cu cobia-sweet-potato-puree-rice

Lamb with Pea Puree and Roasted Potatoes

Lamb with Pea Puree and Roasted Potatoes

With recommended pairings from my favorite book, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg, I combined Lamb with rosemary & garlic; Potatoes with rosemary, garlic, sour cream and chives, and added in “pea puree”, combined with cooked onions, garlic, chives and creme fraîche.

For the lamb:

  • 3 lamb tenderloins
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp on chopped fresh rosemary
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Place all of the ingredients in a plastic bag and add the lamb and move around to make sure the lamb is covered evenly with marinade. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. To cook the lamb place 2 tbsp of butter in iron skillet on high heat. Add salt and pepper to the lamb, and place lamb in skillet, sear all sides and cook until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees (for medium rare). Remove from skillet and allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes. Internal temperature should be around 140-145 degrees.

For the potatoes:

  • ⅓ cup of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of rosemary
  • 3 cups of new potatoes cut in half
  • salt
  • ½ cup sour creme
  • 1 tsp chopped chives

Set oven to bake at 400 degrees. Mix olive oil, rosemary and garlic in large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and toss so potatoes are covered with oil mixture. Add potatoes to cookie sheet or large oven proof pan. Sprinkle salt on potatoes. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked. If you want to crisp them a bit, turn oven to broil and broil them for a few minutes until browned.

For the Pea Puree:

  • 1 bag of frozen sweet peas
  • ½ yellow onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • ⅓ cup créme fraîche
  • salt

Cook the peas in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook stirring 3 -5 minutes until softened. Add in strained peas and cook for another minute. Transfer all ingredients including the chives to a food processor with an S blade. (my favorite is the Brevile Sous Chef) and puree until smooth. Place into a bowl, and slowly fold in the crime fraîche. Add salt to taste.

Plating:

Place a nice smear of the pea puree onto the center of the plate. Add the roasted potatoes on top of the puree on one side, and the lamb on the other side. Sprinkle lamb with parsley, add a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives to the potatoes. And voilà! Dinner is served!