Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunflower Basil Pesto

The way I feel about basil is the same way I do about my fruits; you can never have enough. The freshness of the basil is just so intoxicating. It's perfect for pizza, pasta, salad dressing, tomato basil bread, and of course pesto. I make pesto every year and freeze into ice cube shapes. Just add the cheese when you have defrosted whatever amount you want to use.  There is a recipe that I follow and it calls for pine nuts. These expensive little nuts that can run from $36-$45 per pound.  I only buy them once a year and every year I cringe at the price.  This year I decided to try something new. Sunflower seeds.  I buy them in 50lb quantities for my bread and salads.  So it's not like I don't have any on hand.
PS- I know you can make it also with walnuts... but I despise walnuts.

~4 cups of packed fresh Basil
2/3 cup Sunflower seeds
6 cloves of garlic
~1/3 - 2/3 cup of Olive Oil
1 cup of Parm or you favorite hard cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse your basil leaves and place them in your food processor.
Add in the sunflower seeds and pulse till everything is nicely chopped (not pureed).
Add in your garlic and pulse a few more times.
Scrape down the sides of the food processor.
Turn on the food processor and add in the olive oil while it's running.
Scrape down the sides once more and add your salt and pepper.
I started with 1/2 tsp of salt and few cranks of the pepper mill.
Puree till you have the consistency you desire.
If you are eating it now or keeping it in the fridge, stir in your cheese.
If you are freezing it then don't add the cheese just yet. Place inside ice cube trays or container of your choice. If you do the ice cubes trays then you pop them out after a few hours and place inside a freezer bag.
They are easy to defrost and keep all winter long.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Frozen Banana Bites

This is the perfect snacking summer time treat. It almost taste like a banana split. A little bit healthy, a little bit chocolatey.  Who could go wrong?

Your favorite Chocolate
Sliced almonds or your favorite nut


Find a plate or tray that will fit nicely into your freezer without tipping. Slice bananas into chunks on a piece of parchment paper on tray/plate.  Melt chocolate in either double boiler on stove or in microwave. I opted for the microwave but had to add in a bit of milk to help the chocolate melt. Spoon or dip banana chunks into chocolate. Press almonds/nuts on top of banana bites. Freeze till hardened and transfer to a freezer bag or container. These are sooo good. I think you could get really creative with the toppings too.


Pizza Combos

Last night was a pizza night and I think it may have been our best yet. The garden is producing broccoli, basil, eggplant, and onions. What better way to enjoy a pizza than with your own garden fresh toppings?  Also I made my standard pizza dough, but substituted in 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and the dough was perfect-crispy bottom and soft crust.  Here is the link for the pizza dough recipe. 

Pizza #1: White Broccoli/Eggplant
Prep work:
Grill eggplant with olive oil till tender (add salt to taste).
Saute broccoli in cast iron pan with butter till tender (add some salt to taste)
Chop onion and saute them in butter till caramelized
Chop fresh basil and mix into Ricotta cheese.
Chop garlic, lots of it. You can either saute it or put on pizza as is.

Assemble time:
Spread ricotta mixture onto pizza dough. Layer on eggplant, broccoli, garlic, and onions.

Place in oven till the crust is turning a golden color and enjoy!

Pizza #2 Peach Basil Balsamic
Prep work:
~ cup or more of Balsamic Vinegar in a sauce pan on medium heat till thickened. Stir every so often, and don't let it burn.
Shred mozzarella cheese (make sure to get the good stuff)
Grill peach slices with olive oil (about 2 minutes per side grill on high)
Pick Basil

Assemble time:
Drizzle olive oil and evenly coat the dough. Layer the pizza with basil (don't be shy). Next put on heaps of mozzarella (definitely don't skimp or go with the cheap cheese either). Finally add the peaches. Place into the oven till crust is golden brown.  Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce and enjoy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Broccoli Slaw

Summer has arrived and along side it... fresh veggies from the garden.  Nothing beats baskets overflowing with summer squash, snap peas, scapes, sage, oregano, swiss chard, and raspberries.  If you don't have room to grow your own garden, make sure to check out your local farmers market.  Talk to the vendors and find out what their favorite varieties are to grow and how they grow them.  The slugs have won out this year on our broccoli (well, at least till we plant our fall crop of it), but I was able to barter some of my bread for broccoli and chinese cabbage with the vendor next to me at the market. I seriously love bartering food with food or beer for food. Anyway I had 3 large crowns on broccoli to turn into something delicious. I came across this recipe from smitten kitchen and it was incredible!!!

2-3 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
~1/2 cup or more dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

This is not required, but I prefer to blanch my broccoli first.  Boil water on your stove, and add your broccoli for 30 sec- 1 minute. This softens the broccoli just enough for those who don't like it raw and it also brightens the green coloring of it.
Chop up your broccoli heads first and then your stalks into small pieces. Place those into a bowl with your cranberries and chopped onions.
If you have sliced almonds place them in an oven at 350 for about 5-10minutes to toast them. Toasting really brings out the flavor in the almonds. Add the almonds to the broccoli mixture.

Mix up the dressing ingredients, and add to the broccoli mixture. If you didn't use 3 heads of broccoli you might not need all the dressing.

Voila! Refrigerate and enjoy!