Showing posts with label basil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label basil. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Decadent Dip: peasto-pesto dip

Decadent Dip: peasto-pesto dip

This lovely little dip whips up in a flash with a food processor or blender and is inspired by a recipe from Jamie Oliver's cookbook: The Essential Family Cookbook.

This is a delicious dip for fresh vegetables and whole grain crackers and is even tasty tossed with whole grain pasta!

Peasto-pesto dip
  • 6 ounces greek yogurt (3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • juice of 1/2 lemon  
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place all ingredients into food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy
2. Dig in with crackers, fresh raw veggies, blanched veggies or toss with pasta. This could even be a sandwich spread!

Place ingredients in food processor or blender...

...and puree until smooth! So easy!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

All about pesto - food of the gods

Pesto - food of the gods - what a great way to start the week!

Pesto is so delicious! Born in northern Italy, pesto is traditionally made with fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan. What was once done by hand using a mortar and pestal is now accomplished in moments using a food processor or blender. 

You may have noticed, though, that pine nuts can be pricy! Per pound, pine nuts can be up there with selling your kidney or your first born child. I think that pesto is just as delicious when made with toasted almonds, and a lot more affordable. So, grab a huge bunch of basil from your back yard garden, your herb pot or local farmers market and whip up some pesto to use now and freeze some for later.

Another money saving tip? Ok! If you don't have quite the volume of fresh basil you'd like, you can stretch this recipe using fresh spinach or arugula (aka rocket if you're on the other side of the pond).

To toast your nuts, simply place in a dry skillet over medium-low heat and stir around a bit until they smell good. You're not going to see too much change in color until it is too late and they're scorched. Let your nose tell you when they're done and don't walk away from the stove. 

This recipe is really accomplished by "touch and feel", so exact measurements aren't given. Some folks like pesto more cheesy than others, some like it to be thinned with more olive oil, others skip the garlic. Up to you!

Basil Pesto - a big batch

Toasted nuts (1/4 to 1/2 a cup per big batch)
Fresh basil, augmented with spinach, if needed (Fill up the food processor container)
Parmesan cheese (1/4 to 1/2 a cup per big batch
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil (about a cup)

Toasted almonds
Food processor stuffed with fresh basil
Handful of Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper
Drizzling in olive oil
Fresh basil from the garden: future pesto!

Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on top of fresh pesto to prevent browning
Pesto served on toast with goat cheese, an egg and tomato

Where to use my pesto? The possibilities are truly endless, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Tossed with hot or cold pasta, rice, barley, quinoa or gnocchi
  • tossed with hot or cold zucchini pasta
  • Stirred into scrambled eggs or tofu
  • Drizzled onto a fried egg
  • Thinned with balsamic vinegar to dress salads and roasted vegetables
  • Mashed into potatoes
  • Tossed with freshly popped popcorn
  • Schmeared onto a bagel with cream-cheese
  • As a substitute for mayo/mustard on your favorite sandwiches or subs
  • Drizzled onto hot soup or cold gazpacho
  • Take your grilled cheese up a notch
  • Mixed into tuna, egg or chicken salad
  • Spread on toast with goat cheese
  • Spread onto cream cheese for a quick party dip for crackers, pretzels or crisp breads
  • Marinate your chicken before grilling or baking
  • As a sauce base for your homemade pizza or drizzled on top after baking...or both
  • Tossed with blanched green beans, broccoli or cauliflower
  • On a spoon...

All about storage
In the fridge: pour a thin layer to cover your fresh pesto to prevent excessive browning
In the freezer: scoop pesto into small jars (leaving room for expansion) or spread into an ice-cube tray to freeze smaller portions

Nut allergies?
Try this with toasted soy "nuts" 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We be jammin: Basil Blackberry Jam

We be jammin: Basil Blackberry Jam

Fresh blackberry basil jam on crisp bread with brie. Heaven!
I recently spend a lovely (albeit humid) morning picking fresh blackberries at a local u-pick orchard called Butlers Orchard. It was a fun morning spent chatting with my friend, sampling the berries and eavesdropping on the families in the surrounding rows. I quickly accumulated several pounds of the plump fruit amongst the chatter of children ("I'm a princess") and their parents ("more picking, less talking!"). Picking my own fruit was fun, and significantly less expensive than picking up fruit from the local grocery store ($2.50 vs. $12.03/pound).

 Making jam has become an annual tradition. I used my mom's equipment when I was in Ohio and when I moved to DC, I managed to get the enormous pot home on my bicycle. Yes, I got some weird looks.

Canning aligns with my values of supporting local farmers and preserving food for when the growing season is over. And while jars of jam probably aren't going to save me during the zombie apocalypse, nor are they a dietitian's first choice for healthy eats, it is immensely rewarding to see the jewel colored jars in my cupboard.

Canning has gained loads of popularity. Driven by the economy, interest in where our foods come from, seeking "real" food and in being more self-sufficient. I also like the flexibility to use lower-sugar recipes so that the fruit remains the star of the show.

There are many excellent guides available; the most important thing is to keep your preserved food safe. Follow directions carefully to prevent food spoilage or contamination. One great place to start is Pick Your Own or purchasing your own guide. Feel free to use my recipe, but be sure to follow canning directions for safe processing.

Basil Blackberry Jam
Makes 4 pints

5 1/3 cups crushed blackberries
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons low-sugar pectin (made from apples)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced

  1. Set your Pandora station to Bob Marley.
  2. Very carefully wash jar funnel, jars, new lids (do not reuse lids) and rings in scalding hot water or sanitize using your dishwasher.
  3. Fill canning pot with water and bring to boil; the goal is to have the water just cover the jars once they're placed in the canner. I like to estimate how much water I'll need in the canner and also fill a teapot and bring both to a boil. Once I get the jars in the canner, I can add extra boiling water as needed.  
  4. Pick over fresh fruit to remove any debris and rinse off under running cool water
  5. Place fruit into large liquid measuring cup and crush using a potato masher, spoon or bottom of a water glass
  6. Pour fruit into large sauce pan.
  7. In a small bowl, mix pectin powder with a small amount of your granulated sugar; add this to sauce pan.
  8. Over medium-high heat while stirring frequently, bring fruit to a rapid boil. Try not to be lulled into a fruity daydream by the heavenly smell.
  9. Once fruit has reached a rapid boil that cannot be stirred away, add fresh basil, lemon juice and rest of sugar. Boil for one full minute and remove from heat.
  10. Check for flavor and gel thickness. If your jelly meets your rigorous standards, it is time to quickly fill your jars; using a ladle and the canning funnel, fill your jars to within 1/2 of an inch of the top. Wipe rim with a clean washcloth. Place new clean lid and loosely close with ring.
  11. Using jar lifter (looks like something from Star Wars), place filled jars into boiling water. 
  12. Once all jars are filled and are in canner, start timer. My pint jars needed five minutes, but follow package directions. If you have a partially filled jar, don't can it; jars must be full for safe canning. Pop left overs into the fridge.
  13. Carefully remove jars from water bath canner and place on towel away from drafts; you know your jars have sealed when you hear that magical 'pop' sound. Don't touch, budge or bother your jam for for 24 hours. 
  14. The next day, check the jars for a seal; if the lid doesn't give when you push on it, you have done it! The jars are sealed! Label your jars with the date and contents and store in a cool, dark place.   
Fresh blackberries; beautiful!

Clean jars kept upside down to prevent dust or germs getting in

Crush fruit with potato masher and measure carefully

Mix pectin with small amound of sugar before adding to fruit; this helps prevent clumps
Add pectin to fruit

Fresh sweet and purple basil from my garden

Sitrring in the fresh basil, sugar and lemon juice

The rack helps prevent the jars from cracking by bouncing on the bottom of the pot

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