Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tequila Lime Chicken

I have no idea where this summer went, but alas, it's back to the grind come tomorrow morning.  We decided we wanted to cook something really delicious tonight but something that wouldn't undo in advance the workout schedules we've set up for the following weeks.  We decided upon Tequila-Lime Chicken, a recipe which my family began cooking maybe 7-8 years ago.  And it's fantastic, if I do say so myself.

However many years ago it was, I wasn't really into cooking in any real way.  This was one of the first things that wasn't out of a box that I can remember cooking.  I found a recipe for a 'copycat' of Applebee's (yeah, I liked Applebees back then...) Tequila-Lime Chicken on the internet and figured I'd give it a go.  I spent a long time scouring websites for this recipe today, but with no luck.  There are several 'copycat' recipes out there for Applebees' Tequila-Lime and Fiesta Lime (I think the name just changed) Chicken, but they're all somewhat different.  Although I've tinkered with one or two ingredients, I cannot take any credit for this recipe, though unfortunately I'm not sure who ought to receive said credit.  Anyway, onto the recipe!

Tequila-Lime Marinade (for 2-3 medium-large to large chicken breasts):

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. teriyaki sauce (the really thin stuff, not a thick brush-on marinade)
  • 1.5 oz lime juice (fresh or the stuff from the squeezable plastic lime)
  • 1 oz tequila 
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic 
  • 1/2 TBSP liquid smoke
  • 3/4 tsp salt ]
  • Scant 1/2 tsp ground ginger
Mix all ingredients together, shake well to combine, and pour into shallow glass baking dish.  Marinade the chicken breasts in this mixture, turning occasionally.  We marinaded them overnight, although some people argue that in this amount of time the acidic lime juice can toughen the meat.  We shall see.

When the chicken breasts have thoroughly marinaded, all you do is throw them on a hot grill and grill 'em up.  We're only halfway there though.  There's a really delicious (and spicy) Mexi-ranch sauce that goes great with this, and it should be made up a day or two ahead, so that the flavors can blend.  The following recipe will make more than you'll need for 2-3 breasts, but it keeps well, and goes great on turkey sandwiches and a variety of other things!

Mexi-ranch dip:

  • 3/4 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 c. light mayo
  • 1 TBSP white vinegar
  • 1 TBSP dried onion flakes 
  • 1 TBSP dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp cayenne (this gives it a decent kick, back off to 1/2 or 1/4 tsp if you don't like heat)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper 

Top each chicken breast with a bit of sauce, and sprinkle some shredded Colby-Jack or Mexican-style cheese over the top.  A few pieces of diced tomato or cilantro are nice garnishes as well.  For a bit of extra texture, serve this over crunchy tortilla strips, like the multi-colored ones you can buy at the store.  We opted to go for some HyVee baked all-grain crisps with sea-salt because they're what we had.  Once everything is on the plate (including the side-dish, below) throw this under the broiler for a minute or two, just until the cheese melts.

This chicken has so much flavor that you don't want to serve it with anything really crazy.  Keep it simple, and go with something like classic Spanish rice.  The recipe we used is adapted from here.

Spanish Rice (two servings):

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 red or white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 c. medium-grain white rice
  • 1.5 c. chicken stock
  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Lightly brown the rice in the oil in a small skillet.  When rice is beginning to brown, add onions and garlic and sauté until fairly soft.  Meanwhile, add other ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Add the rice, stir well, cover, and set the heat to low.  Cook 20-25 minutes.

The Verdict: Except for being slightly overcooked from uneven heating on the grill (I'm still getting the hang of charcoal grilling) this was really tasty! Everything was pretty much as I remember it, which is a good thing.  And how to top off the meal?  A cold Negra Modelo with a lime wedge (which I'd normally consider sacriledge) like they serve at La Fiesta back in Morton, IL!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Some Really Old (and Really Delicious) Ice Cream

Funny thing about freezers (especialy chest freezers) is that things can get buried deep down in the bottom, never to be seen again.  Well, almost never again.  When we got a second freezer, we found out that we had one pint left of Haagen Dazs Sticky Toffee Pudding Ice Cream.  For a lot of you, this may sound like the weirdest ice cream flavor you've ever heard of, but for those of us who love the classic British dessert, it's perfectly logical to turn it into a frozen treat! 
This flavor was the winner of 'Scoop!', a Food Network special that ran back in 2006 (that's right, five years ago!).  The whole idea of the show was for a bunch of people to compete with weird and whacky flavors for new ice creams and the winning recipe would become a limited release flavor from Haagen Dazs.  Jess and I were both pulling for the sticky toffee pudding, and we couldn't believe it; it won!  When the ice cream finally came out (2006 or 2007, I can't remember) we bought a bunch and, apparently, we'd saved one for a lot longer than we'd thought.  Oh well, we popped it open tonight and it was delicious!  There was just a tiny change in the consistency from fresh, but for an ice cream that's 4-5 years old, it's quite remarkable. 

The ice cream, while listed as simply 'vanilla' tasted remarkably like fresh vanilla custard (often served alongside the original dessert in England).  The cake was rich and sugary, with really nice dark caramel and dark fruit (think dried raisins or figs) flavors.  This is quite sweet, and every bit as decadent as the original.  There's a reason we still had this in our freezer (other than our forgetfulness).  Both of us agreed that this was probably the single best ice cream flavor we'd ever had.  Hopefully, a homemade take on this is somewhere down the line...


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Traditional English Cream Tea... what we decided we'd have for dinner tonight!  It's something we'd been wanting to try our hands at ever since we had it over in England at Betty's in York.  The traditional English Cream Tea consists of tea and scones, generally served with clotted cream and/or fruit preserves.  It sounds more like just a light snack, but with the dense buttery scones and the added richness of the clotted cream, it's typically plenty for a light afternoon meal.  We had to begin with tea, of course.   

This is my favorite bland, and is actually what convinced me (back in 2005 when I first went to England) that tea could actually be delicious.  At Betty's they serve it with cream (we used 2% milk) and both white sugar and lumps of delicious dark brown sugar (which sadly we didn't have). 

Having never made scones, I wanted a simple, straightforward recipe that was fairly foolproof, yet authentic.  I found the following recipe on the BBC website

  • 8 oz self-rising flour (we were out, so I had to substitute using this recipe).
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 1 oz. sultanas (raisins)
  • 1 oz. caster (superfine) sugar (if you don't have it, just whir table sugar in coffee grinder for a few sec)
  • 5 fl. oz. 2% milk
First set your oven to 425 F.  Combine the flour, salt, and butter, rubbing together between your fingers until well blended.  Add the sultanas, sugar, and milk, and blend until you've formed a loose dough.  Turn this out onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly.  Roll to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut out rounds (if you don't have a round cookie cutter, you can do like we did and use a wine glass).  Reform the dough and continue to form scones until you've used the remaining dough.  Brush the tops of the scones with milk, and bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes or until the scones are lightly browned on top. 

After they've baked, arrange on a plate and serve with clotted cream and whatever jam or jelly you prefer.  We served the scones with a side of the sugared strawberries my mom cans every year from my dad's garden back in IL and they were delicious! 

While you can just use butter instead of clotted cream, it's not traditional and, stickler though I admittely am for these things, it really truly is worth the cost (one 6oz. jar ran something like $7-8 I believe) to track down authentic clotted cream if you can find it.  We found ours at one of the local HyVee stores: the only place that seems to sell it anywhere in the vacinity of Columbia.

In the end, everything turned out quite nicely.  The scones were lightly browned on the outside, with a wonderful toasted buttery crunch.  The texture was pretty spot on too, although not quite as poundcake-dense as the ones we had at Betty's were.  The clotted cream was remarkably (really surprisingly, actually) good, especially for being a bottled product and being shipped all the way over here.  The best way I can describe the taste is richer and slightly earthier than butter, almost halfway between butter and a really mild, fresh cheese.  The interior of the scones wasn't quite as rich as I would have liked; I'm toying with adding a touch more sugar or butter to the recipe next time we make it to see if this improves things at all.  But then again, maybe I shouldn't compare my cooking to Betty's, as they've gained the reputation they have for a very good reason.

Pizza-Style Stuffed Zucchini

I definitely adore zucchini.  I think I could seriously eat it every day when it's in season because there are just so many delicious things that you can do with it! I've made spicy zucchini quesadillas, Greek sytle zucchini pita pockets, open-faced zucchini sandwiches, zucchini bread,...the list goes on and on!  This week, however, I'm re-making a delicious recipe that I've tried once before: pizza-style stuffed zucchini. (And I made a double batch for my lunches this week)

Pizza-Style Stuffed Zucchini
(adapted from Green Lite Bites)

  • 1 medium-large zucchini
  • 4 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1/2 pkg. reduced fat feta
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp Emeril's Essence
  • Penzy's Pizza Seasoning (topping--amount to your liking!)

Preheat the over to 425°F.

Hollow out your zucchini to make your "zucchini boats." I just use a regular spoon to do this, but you could also use a melon baller or something like that.

Chop the scooped out zucchini into small pieces and then combine with the feta, tomato paste, and spices.

Divide the mixture into your waiting zucchini boats and sprinkle with the pizza seasoning.

Cook the zucchini for 25 minutes or until they achieve your desired softness! Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce

Yay for weekend cooking!  This was my weekend to choose something fun to make, and instead of opting for a more "traditional" meal or something of the sort (i.e. baking), I chose canning! :-)  I've been eyeing my Ball canning and preserving cookbook for awhile now and I wanted to make something fun.  So, I decided it was time to try making barbecue sauce! However, since "regular" barbecue sauce is something everyone pretty much already loves and mine would, of course, never live up, I decided to try something new and different: peach barbecue sauce!

Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce
(from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

  • 6 cups chopped peaches 
  • 1 cup finely chopped, seeded red bell pepper  
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion 
  •  1 1/4 cup honey 
  •  3/4 cup cider vinegar 
  •  1 TBSP Worchestershire sauce 
  •  3 TBSP finely chopped garlic 
  •  2 tsp ground mustard 
  •  2 tsp red pepper flakes 
  •  2 tsp salt

The recipe is pretty easy, seeing as you combine all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan and cook until it is the consistency of a thin commercial barbecue sauce.  Dan and I opted to puree all of the ingredients first in hopes of getting the best consistency possible. Here's what it looked like when we started cooking:

We let this cook for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Well, actually we let it cook for a bit longer than that because I totally forgot to start my water bath and it takes forever to start boiling. Anyway, it thickened up pretty well.  I think it's still a little bit runnier than most commercial barbecue sauces, but no real complaints about that.  We put it into 7-8 oz. jars and processed in a water bath for 35 minutes.  While cooling, they all sealed fairly quickly--quite the accomplishment for me since usually I have 1 or 2 that don't seal! 

We popped one jar open for dinner with grilled chicken, baked beans and fried zucchini so that we could taste it.  It was delicious! The peach flavor isn't really strong, but it does add a certain sweetness to the sauce.  The red pepper flakes definitely give it a spicy kick as well!  The thing that surprised us the most was that it has a distinct "barbecue flavor" despite being such a non-traditional barbecue sauce (i.e. no tomatoes, lol).  Three or four lucky people will probably get a jar of this for Christmas. ;-)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hummus! (and some serving ideas)

At some point, turkey sandwiches (in all their various incarnations) become a bit dull for lunch.  We typically switch sandwiches out for Lean Cuisine meals every couple of weeks, but this gets expensive pretty quickly, and a lot of times you never really feel full after those pre-packaged diet meals.  With fresh veggies (peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc) in season, we thought we'd do veggie sandwiches for a week or so, but you can't have a proper veggie sandwich without a great hummus.  Below is our favorite (and now standard) recipe.  Thanks to Josh N. for the basic recipe; we've since tweaked it, made some additions and a few changes, and have decided that this recipe is just about perfect for us.  For four servings...

  • 1 (16oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 TBSP crushed garlic
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice (the stuff from the plastic lemons is just fine)
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 TBSP tahini
  • 1/2 tsp. za'atar spice mix (available at Middle Eastern/Mediterranean markets, or here)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a food processor to desired consistency.  We prefer it pureed, but even so, this recipe makes a somewhat 'drier' hummus than some prefer.  You can experiment to find the consistency you like best.  The flavors are good fresh, but after a day in the refrigerator, the flavors meld and gain a lot of depth.  Unfortunately, hummus is one of those things that just doesn't look anywhere nearly as good as it tastes. 

This is, for us, one of the quintessential comfort foods (and it's healthy!)  You can do a lot with it, but here are a few of our favorites. 

  • Slap it on some light wheat bread with a slice of pepper-jack cheese
  • Serve on a plate with warm pita bread for dipping (sliced baguette, brushed lightly with olive oil and lightly toasted is also excellent)
  • Or, serve it on light wheat bread as a sandwich with some (or all!) of the veggies below.

Impromptu Date Night (Apple Bourbon Pork Wellington)

Lately, my wife and I have been trying to take a little bit more time to enjoy the simple things in life in order to combat the high levels of stress that come with work, grad school, a faltering economy, etc.  For me, this has meant trying to get back into the kitchen a bit.  I'd really forgotten how much I love to cook and what a great stress reliever it is.  So last night I thought I'd make something special for Jess for when she got home from work.  On a whim, I decided to take my first stab at Wellington.  Not wanting to spend the money on a really pricey cut of beef, however, I decided to start with this.

Beef Wellington is typically made from a high-quality cut of beef, covered in pate (often foie gras) and duxelles (a mushroom, butter, and herb mixture), wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  Like I said, I didn't really want to spend a ton of money on a pricey cut of beef, especially since Jess doesn't have the same love for red meat as I do.  Furthermore, we don't eat foie gras for ethical reasons, and Jess hates mushrooms.  Ok, so we're going to have to get creative here.

The pork loin I bought last week was flavored with an 'apple bourbon' spice mixture, so I started by thinking what flavors might complement that mixture.  To replace the typical pate and duxelles topping for the meat, I came up with the following:

  • A handful of walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP dark brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP whiskey (cheapest thing you have, don't go for the top-shelf stuff here)
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
  • A spritz of lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. raisins
Begin by toasting the chopped walnuts very slightly in a pan over low heat.  Add the diced apples and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the raisins) and cook over medium-low for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples begin to soften.  Remove from the heat to a food processor and chop very finely (almost to a paste consistency).  Transfer to a small container, add the raisins, and mix together.  Cover tightly, and refrigerate until ready to use. 

The instructions on the pork loin said to cook for 25-30 minutes, and then check the temperature with a meat thermometer.  My original plan was to cook the loin for 15-20 minutes, cool it for 5 min or so, just so I could handle it, wrap it in phyllo dough, and cook it the 30 or so minutes needed for the pastry to be done.  Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that I'd thrown our old meat thermometer away because it didn't work.  Whoops.  I'd never cooked meat in pastry before and, as I was fighting other factors (power which kept coming and gone thanks to a nasty line of storms moving through the area), I thought I'd play this one extra safe. I ended up cooking the pork loin for about 25 minutes (about 95% of the way done) and then removing it from the oven to let it rest for a few minutes.  Phyllo dough usually comes in a box with two individually-wrapped portions.  I used one half of one of these portions, prepared as per the instructions.  Phyllo is kind of intimidating to work with at first, but once you realize it's not an exact science and just do it, it's not so bad.

Once the phyllo was prepared, I spread some of the apple/walnut mixture out across the dough...

And then added the pork loin...

After wrapping up the loin, I baked this for about 30 minutes at whatever the package said (I believe it was 350).  I was really nervous with how this was going to turn out, but in the end it looked pretty nice!

We served this with fresh asparagus spears with hollandaise and it was really tasty.  The sweetness of the apple/walnut topping worked nicely with the buttery richness of the phyllo and the savory spice of the pork. The only thing I would have change is next time I would make sure I had a reliable meat thermometer on hand.  The pork was slightly over-done (no surprise considering I cooked it almost all of the way before the additional 30 minutes baking inside the pastry) but I wanted to play it safe since I didn't have a thermometer.  All in all though, especially from cooking on a whim, this turned out pretty nicely! 


Friday, August 5, 2011

Hefeweizen Cupcakes??

I just came across this link on a Schafly Facebook post.  I'm not at all sure we'll have time to give this a shot this weekend, but I'll tell you what; I'm intrigued.  We're definitely going to have to try this out sooner rather than later...

Restaurant Review: Taj Mahal

     So Jessi and I decided that after a really long week we needed to get out a bit today and grab a bite for lunch.  We were crarving Asian food of some sort, and as we'd just been to Bangkok Gardens (look for a review in the future) we figured we'd give Taj Mahal (one of the two Indian restaurants in town) a try, as we hadn't been there in forever.  In the past, we've had generally very positive experiences at Taj, although some of our friends have told us horror stories about the place (usually revolving around rude servers and a difficult-to-deal-with management).  That being said, we'd almost always been very pleased with the food, and (except them opening 15 minutes late one day and having to wait another 10 minutes for food to hit the buffet) have not really had any problems with the place.  Today, unfortunately, when we finally decided to review it, the food was sub-par.  Including tax, two lunch buffets is $17-something, which isn't too bad; with a $2 tip (all you need at a buffet), you're out the door for less than $20, for as much food as you'd care to eat.  The selection on the buffet today was pretty good: chicken curry, chicken tikka masala, saag, a potato and lima bean curry, a veggie korma, and a few other assorted curries.  There was bhatura, naan, and one other type of bread.  The dessert end of the buffet was nicely stocked with rice pudding, gulab jamun, and a few other things.  All in all, it looked like things were giong to be pretty nice. 
     Unfortunately, the food itself was not quite up to Taj's normal standards.  The naan that was out (we were the first ones there) was floppy-soft and not crispy at all; my thought was that it had possibly been reheated, something you just can't do with naan.  A tray that passed us on the way out to the buffet later looked better.  The saag was pretty good, even without the paneer, which is usually how I prefer the dish.  The chicken tikka masala, which is usually excellent at Taj was mediocre today.  The bhatura was nice.  The rice pudding was great, as per usual, but the gulab jamun (usually something we can't get enough of) was a bit doughy and the sauce wasn't quite as light/tasty as it usually is.  Jessi didn't think the tikka masala was bad, just a bit different than usual, but she said the lima bean and potato curry was 'just ok'. 
    All in all, it was a bit of a disappointment, especially considering how good it's been in the past.  It certainly wasn't bad enough that we would say we won't try it again, but we might give India's House (the other Indian joint in town) another try to compare the two.  Before, we never went there because Taj was so good.  Only time will tell I guess, and even the best places can have an ocasional off-day now and again. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Anniversary!!! (Flourless Chocolate Cake and Speedway Stout)

Since it has been so crazy around here as of late, the plan was to celebrate our anniversary on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, rather than try to come up with something Monday night.  But Jess was helping with Bible School Monday night, and that gave me the perfect cover to work in the kitchen for awhile and try to come up with something to surprise her.  I've been married (well, and dating, for that matter) long enough to know that chocolate is one of the certain ways to a woman's heart.  In the case of my particular lady, coffee's right up there too (more on that later).

We'd sampled flourless chocolate cake before, in fact, just a couple nights before at Sycamore, and were really impressed by the intensity of the flavors and the richness of the cake itself.  It really is the cake for the '12-step-program' chocoholics among us; I'm looking at you, darlin.  Anyway, years ago, I picked up a magazine entitled "The Best of Fine Cooking: Chocolate" at some store or other, and it's given us some of the best chocolate recipes we've made to date.  I took their original recipe for flourless chocolate cake and halved it; the half-recipe is what's printed below.

   -6oz bittersweet baker's chocolate, coarsely chopped
   -3oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces (more for greasing the pan) 
   -2.5 large eggs (just crack the 3rd egg into a separate bowl, scramble it, and use half)
   -1/2 c. sugar
   -3/4 tsp. vanilla
   -1/8 tsp. salt
   -1/8 cup cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy, more for the pan

You start with butter and chocolate...It's tasty, not healthy...
Heat the oven to 300.  Grease a 6" round cakepan with butter and line the bottom with wax paper.  Dust the sides of the pan with cocoa, so that it sticks to the butter, and dump out the extra.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in a medium bowl and let cool a bit.  Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and 2 TBSP of water with in a mixer (with the whisk attachment).  Beat on medium-high until the mixture is foamy, pale, and about doubled in volume (2-3 min).  Drop the mixer to low, and slowly pour in the chocolate mixture.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until well blended.  Drop speed, add the cocoa powder, and mix on medium/medium low until just blended.  Make sure you've scraped down the sides of your bowl once or twice to make sure everything's mixed properly.  Bake betwen 30-40 minutes (toothpick should come out looking wet with small gooey clumps).  Make sure it's done, but try not to overbake it. 

Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes; if your surface is uneven, gently press down with your hands (covered with a paper towel or small plate) to even out the surface while it is still warm.  Remove cake from pan, and refrigerate overnight. 

The recipe in the magazine had a rich chocolate frosting for this cake, but we felt that was just a bit over the top.  Dust this bad boy with some powdered sugar and you're good to go.  We served this with Alesmith Speedway Stout which turned out to be an absolutely perfect pairing.  We'd been saving this for awhile (I got it through a trade from a guy in Ohio, I think) and I thought it might go well with the cake.  It had a lovely chocolate-covered-espresso bean flavor with just a hint of booziness which cut through the richness of the cake perfectly.  All in all, a great night! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Basil Pesto (For the Freezer)

If you knew me or my family growing up, you know that my dad is something of a gardening prodigy. Or a lunatic.  I'm not sure which (though I'd lean towards the former).  We were the people that had something like a half-acre in our back-yard converted to gardening space, and whatever he tried to grow seemed to turn out way better than anything that was available in the supermarket, even when it was in season.  Yup, we were the people that had signs like 'Fresh Cukes' or 'Giant Pumpkins' tacked up along Main Street, which brought a wealth of customers (some more welcome than others) by the house to buy fresh produce.

Fast forward 15 years.  Now, as my family grows older, I realize that I'd really like to take up some of the old family traditions so that I can pass them on to our children one day.  So Jess and I tried gardening last year.  We found out a few things.  First, don't buy pepper plants once they've already set their roots down in the pots; they won't be worth crap the rest of the year.  Second, butternut squash will take over the entire small garden plot...and your yard...and they have eyes on the neighbors yard as well.  This year, we bricked up our small garden, and made it look nice.  We went simple this year: basil, cilantro, and hot peppers (attempt #2).  Unfortunately, both Jess and I are so crazy busy, we haven't had time to take care of the garden like we should (I forgot how much time my dad had to put into his garden to get things to come out just right). Let's just say that we're now cultivating coriander instead of cilantro, and we made the same mistake with the peppers that we did last year.  Ugh.

The one thing that did well was the basil.  A little too well, in fact.  We've got basil taking over our garden.  So what to do with it?

We decided we wanted to make pesto, but we wanted to be able to save it.  My wife, being awesome like she is, found a number of recipes online, and figured out a way to freeze our fresh pesto so (1) we could use a lot more of the basil without getting sick of pesto and (2) have pesto for the long run.  After working on this for awhile, and throwing together some recipes from difference sources, we came up with the following:

  • 3 c. fresh basil leaves, rinse and dried
  • 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (use the best you have, but don't break the bank)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (pine nuts are way expensive, and we love walnuts)
  • 3-4 tsp. crushed garlic 
As we said, we're making this for the freezer.  You begin with placing the basil leaves, walnuts (roughly chopped already) and garlic in a small food processor.  Pulse/whir those ingredients together until they're well mixed, scraping down the sides of the food processor as you go.  Then, drizzle in the olive oil slowly, while you continue to blend.  Blend until the mixture is fairly uniform in texture.  Here's the cool part.  Take a measuring spoon and spoon out the pesto into a regular ice-cube tray.  This amount should just about fill (we had two slots left empty) one tray.  Freeze for at least a day, and then place into a freezer-proof bag and date.

You'll notice, I'm sure, that something is missing.  What about the cheese?  The freezer recipes we found said not to add the cheese until you thaw out the pesto for use.  What we plan to try is adding 1 tbsp. of freshly-grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano for each cube.  

What will we use these for?  We figure we can throw them (after thawing) into pasta, or add to cream to make a pesto-cream sauce.  You could use it on bruschetta or as a dipping sauce for bread.  There's all kinds of things you can do with them really.  We haven't tried this in anything yet; we'll let you know how it tastes when we do!
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