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Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

Mint Pesto

Last summer I made, what I later learned, to be a big mistake – I planted mint in our yard, not in any pot or planter, just in the dirt on the side of the yard near my vegetable and herb gardens. I originally planted it because I absolutely LOVE fresh homemade mojitos in the summer time. There is nothing more refreshing. The reason my planting of said mint turned out to be a mistake, was the fact that it has grown out of control and it is taking over that section of the yard. Because I have never grown it in my own yard, I didn’t realize how quickly it grows and how far it can spread. We travel so much, that getting into the yard and weeding my gardens gets increasingly difficult as the summer goes on. I know I should get out there more, but I don’t, so I always try to plant things that need very little upkeep. Well, mint definitely falls into that category. Early in the summer I took a look out in the yard to see the progress of things and I was floored at how the mint was spreading. It was crazy. So I made a lot of mojitos this summer. I also decided I needed to find other things to do with the mint. I mentioned something on Twitter and Kelly from Design Crush made the wonderful suggestion of mint pesto. I had never thought of that. So, earlier this summer I played around and made mint pesto to serve with gluten-free penne. It was sooo good that we ate it all up and I forgot to write-up my recipe or photograph it. Ooops. That just meant I needed to make it again. Darn.

This time around, I again served this over delicious organic gluten-free penne with some gluten-free crispy zucchini rounds on the side. We both were in heaven with this meal. This pesto, much like the original that we all know, is bright and light but chock full of flavors. I like my pestos garlicky, which gives a bit of a spicy kick, you can certainly take it down to one clove if you don’t like a lot of garlic (shame on you). I also love playing around with different nuts in my pestos. Most original basil pesto recipes call for pine nuts, which I really love, but they can be hard to find sometimes and many times are insanely expensive. I have played with both toasted almonds and walnuts in pesto recipes, both of which are absolutely equally delicious, if not more. I think any one of those nuts would be great in this mint pesto. I went ahead and still included some basil in this mint pesto, since I also grow that in my yard and I thought it would round out the flavor of the mint nicely, so it wouldn’t be too overpowering. Also, it should be noted, it is crucial to use a good quality olive oil in your pestos, since the sauce is left raw and is never cooked, the olive oil flavor remains in the forefront of the flavors, so you want it to be a good one.

In addition to all the usual dishes that pesto is great in; pasta, sandwiches, pizza, in soup, over a baked potato etc, – you could definitely use this mint pesto for other non-traditional uses as well, such as a marinade or served over-top grilled lamb or steak, etc, you could just skip the basil and cheese, maybe add some lemon juice and red pepper flakes and make it more of a Chimichurri style condiment. Have fun with it and make sure if you plant mint of any kind in your yard plant it in a pot, unless you are looking to be able to make enough mojitos and pesto to serve a small country.

Gluten-free Penne with Mint Pesto

Mint Pesto
makes approximately 1 cup

2 cups fresh mint
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (walnuts or pine nuts would also be great)
2 medium-large cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 – 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded (plus more for serving)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place mint, basil, almonds, garlic and salt in a food processor; pulse a few times, and process until everything is finely chopped and combined. With the processor running, gradually pour the olive oil in and process until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides to get all the little bits. Add the parmigiano reggiano and pulse again until blended and smooth. Season with additional salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

If you are serving this immediately, keep the sauce at room temperature and pour it over your cooked pasta (I used my usual gluten-free organic brown rice penne) and quickly stir to combine, top it with fresh parmigiano reggiano and serve immediately. I always recommend reserving approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid from your pasta so you can add it in to the final dish, if need be, to thin the sauce if it is too thick.

If you aren’t serving this immediately, it can be stored in a tightly closed container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes:

To toast sliced almonds, cook them over a medium-low heat in a small dry skillet, stirring and tossing constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, this will take less than 5 minutes.

If you’d like to freeze your pesto, leave out the parmigiano reggiano. When you’re ready use the pesto, defrost it first, then stir in the cheese.

Seri frolicking in our mass amounts of mint

Seri hiding out in the mass amount of mint in our yard, earlier this summer

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Grilled Potato and Arugula Salad with Fresh Herbs

There is nothing better than a backyard cookout when the weather finally warms up. This spring has been a bit brutal and chilly so now that we have finally been blessed with some warmer temps and lovely sunshine, I see a lot of grilling out in our near future.

We had to work on Memorial day, but we took a break in the late afternoon so I could finally plant some veggies and herbs in my gardens and Mark could mow the lawn. It was insanely hot on Monday so after working hard outside we decided it would be the perfect day for this summer’s inaugural grilling session. We desperately need to get to the grocery store and farmers market after all of this traveling so I decided to make do with what we had on hand. We pulled out two delicious smoked pork chops, from Sojourner Farm, out of our freezer and I realized I could whip together a quick potato salad. I had a beautiful bunch of arugula that I grabbed from the Farmers Market in Brooklyn last weekend so decided to improvise and create this salad. I make so many variations of this grilled potato salad throughout the summer since it is so easy to toss together and it’s so full of wonderful flavors. You can play around with different herbs, substitute baby spinach or other lettuces for the arugula and even play with different vinaigrettes, like mustard based, etc.

This salad has so many great fresh, summer flavors from the herbs and arugula and the potatoes get a beautiful brown crispiness. I promise after the first time you make a grilled potato salad, you will see all the possibilities and be hooked on it throughout the summer, as we are. Additionally, it is a  naturally gluten-free and vegan side dish.

Grilled Potato and Arugula Salad with Fresh Herbs

Grilled Potato and Arugula Salad with Fresh Herbs
serves 4

4-5 medium organic russet potatoes (approx 1 – 1.5 lbs), skin left on, cleaned and sliced 1/4″ thick on the short side
1 bunch of fresh arugula, roughly chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 large bunch of fresh chives, chopped thinly
1 bunch of fresh oregano, roughly chopped (any other fresh herb you prefer can be used here)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste

Using a mandoline slicer, evenly slice the potatoes into 1/4″ slices. If you do not have a mandoline slicer, you can cut them by hand, just be sure they are all similar thickness so they cook evenly. Place the potato slices in a medium saucepan and cover with water, add a dash of salt. Bring them to a boil over a high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5-8 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking. Once cooled and drained, gently toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (you need just enough to coat all the potatoes, but you don’t want too much or it’ll cause a flare up on the grill), and a dash each of salt and pepper, so they are all evenly coated. You can also add a small amount of the fresh herbs in at this time, if you want to get some extra flavor.

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Add the potatoes to a nonstick grill pan, basket or wok (I have one like this, that I love), and place on the grill over the flames. Since the potatoes will not be in a single layer, you will want to toss them gently and often so some don’t burn while others don’t get browned. It will take approximately 20 minutes to cook all of the potatoes thoroughly and for them to be nicely browned. If any get caught in a hot spot and cook too quickly or begin to burn a bit, I just remove them early. If you don’t want to mess with a grill basket or pan, you can cut the potatoes the long way and cook them directly on your grill in a single layer, this takes only about 5 minutes per side. (Our grill’s grates are a bit too wide and we lose too many this way, so to avoid frustration we go with the pan).

While the potatoes are cooking, in a small bowl add the rice wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, mix well to combine.

Once the potatoes are cooked, place them in a large serving bowl, add the arugula and dressing, gently toss to combine everything. The arugula will begin to wilt a bit with the heat from the potatoes but will keep that nice crunch. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

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Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs

 

Yes, yet another pasta dish. I am a pasta-aholic, I can admit it. I cannot get enough of the stuff and I am always excited to try out new recipes. The possibilities really are endless and it’s rare that I meet a pasta dish that I don’t love. This recipe is no exception. I came across it a while back and couldn’t wait to try it with a few subtle changes. Even with the bacon and cheese, it is still very light and healthy pasta dish. See you can have your bacon and eat it, too!

The subtle crunch and bold flavor from the fennel is so wonderful and the heat from the chilies is what I live for in a spicy dish. The original recipe calls for red jalapeños, though I could only find green, I think the red would have really been nice for a pop of color. It also called for seeding the chilies, but I left them in, when I tasted the peppers while I was cutting they didn’t have too much heat, and I really wanted a good kick. It is rare that I find something to be too spicy. If you want a more subtle spice, certainly leave the seeds from the chilies out and you can always make it spicier at the end, if it needs it, by adding in some red pepper flakes. The recipe also called for adding in crushed fennel seeds untoasted, I felt like toasting the whole seeds first would give a much better flavor by releasing it during toasting, not only did it taste great, the house smell amazing. Additionally, the original recipe called for pancetta instead of bacon. Since we buy all of our pork from Sojourner Farms, a local pasture-raised farm, I decided to use some of the delicious bacon that we purchased from them, instead. I would advise not to substitute dried herbs for the fresh stuff in this dish, it would surely be missed. It is also important to use a low-sodium broth, as you will reduce the broth down and you will also be getting some salt from the bacon (or pancetta), you can always add more salt to taste, before serving. I am a big fan of using the pasta water to thicken and bring back liquid to a pasta dish, just go slow so you don’t add too much, but don’t leave this step out, it can make or break a dish without sauce, like this one. Obviously, I also changed the original recipe by substituting gluten-free spaghetti, if you aren’t gluten-free you can use whatever your favorite pasta is, a nice whole-wheat spaghetti would be great, I am sure.

If you wanted to make this vegetarian you could easily leave out the bacon and use a vegetable broth instead of chicken, you may just want to add in a bit more fresh herbs to bump up the flavors. It would still be very tasty and hearty.

 

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs
serves 8
Adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine

6 slices of farm fresh local, pasture raised bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large jalapeño chiles, finely chopped – remove seeds if you want less heat
2 large fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, cut into thin wedges with some core attached
1 1/2 cups low-salt organic free-range chicken broth
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
11/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 pound gluten-free organic brown rice spaghetti (or whatever your favorite pasta is, gluten-free or not)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscano cheese, divided

Toast the fennel seeds in a large dry skillet over high heat, until slightly brown and fragrant. Remove the seeds and set aside. Sauté bacon in the same large skillet over medium heat until golden and a bit crispy. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the bacon drippings in skillet. Add garlic and chiles; sauté over medium heat 1 minute. Add the fresh fennel; cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Mix in broth, 2 tablespoons parsley, lemon juice, and the toasted fennel seeds. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until fennel is very tender, 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until tender; drain. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid. Transfer pasta back to the pot or a large serving bowl.
Uncover skillet with fennel mixture and return to high heat. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add fennel to pasta. Stir in 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 cup cheese, and pancetta. Add cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if it’s too dry. Toss pasta; transfer to serving bowl if it was in a pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons parsley over. Serve with cheese.

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Last night after we left the studio, we had planned on throwing together something quick and heading to the grocery store to grab what we needed for the next week. By the time we got home, the sun was still shining and neither of us felt like grocery shopping, so instead I decided we could make do with what we had at home and put the grocery store off one more night. I am glad we did.

We had a bag of baby potatoes and some delicious handmade veggie burgers from the Farmers Market, so I decided we would be able to do something amazing with these plus some frozen organic peas.  Both my oregano and chives came up on their own from last season and they are growing out of control, taking over my herb box, so I have been trying to take advantage and use them in almost everything I make. Since we were firing up the grill for the brown rice and spinach burgers, this sounded like the perfect way to make a side dish with the potatoes. They really turned out great. There was so much flavor from the fresh herbs and the crispy smoke flavor from the grill was perfect. I think we will be making this a lot this summer.

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Grilled Herb Potato Salad
serves 4

30 baby potatoes, halved
coarse kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, halve two of the cloves, mince the third
olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 bunch of fresh oregano, chopped
1 bunch of fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup of pine nuts
freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Start by precooking the potatoes. Add the halved baby potatoes, a tablespoon of course salt, two cloves of garlic (halved) and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1-inch to a medium-sized pot over high heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.

Drain potatoes in a colander and rinse with cold water to cool quickly and stop the potatoes from cooking.

Start your grill, preheat with the cover on for about 10 minutes on high. Lightly spray a grill pan with cooking spray to keep the potatoes from sticking (if you do not have a grill pan, you can also thread the potatoes onto skewers).

Meanwhile in a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the diced shallot, minced garlic, the chopped fresh herbs, plus 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix the mixture to combine the ingredients and then remove half of the mixture to a small bowl, set aside. Add the potatoes to the large mixing bowl, and toss to coat the potatoes with the oil and herb mixture.

Pour the potatoes into the grill pan and set onto your hot grill, we got a bit of smoke because of the little bit of oil dripping, but it gave the potatoes a great smokey flavor. Give the potatoes a stir every few minutes to make sure they aren’t sticking. Once you are sure they aren’t sticking, you can stir them last which will allow them to get crispier. Cook them over a high heat for approximately 15-20 minutes until they are fully cooked and starting to brown and crisp up a bit. (This time will depend on how hot your grill is, we couldn’t get our grill super hot so it took a bit longer, it may only take about 10-15 minutes on a very hot grill). Remove the grill pan from the heat, and add the potatoes back to your large mixing bowl, add the remainder of the oil and herb mixture, the pine nuts, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine. Enjoy.

(This can also easily be made by roasting or broiling the potatoes in shallow baking pan in your oven. The potatoes can also be boiled 1 day ahead and kept in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before boiling)

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