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Archive for the ‘pesto’ Tag


healthy, happy cows

Hi. I’ll have 8 oz of the free-range-no-antibiotics-natural-no-artificial-growth-hormone-happy-cow steak. No; not that one, the one behind it and to the right, please. Sound familiar?

It’s sad that the barriers between industrialization and gastronomy have been breached, but it’s the truth. After reading Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilema, I’m scared, or rather disgusted, to buy any other meat. I’ll usually pass on the massaged cattle lavished with all-they-can-drink sake, unless the parents are paying, and simply go for the healthy, happy cow instead. Slightly more expensive than the hormone-injected alternative, but I make it stretch to fit the occasion. If it’s dinner for two, I’ll break open a bottle of wine and enjoy a nice steak perhaps alongside some pureed parsnips or celery root. If it’s for a party, I’ll serve it as an appetizer and share it with my guests.

mise en place

Steak crostini with parsley pesto and goat cheese is an appetizer I came up with while in college. I was invited to a dinner party and was expected to bring something grand – usually what happens when friends find out you like to cook. I had to strike a balance though: too fancy and I would’ve been thought of as showing off; too simple and I would’ve risked disappointment.

season like you mean it

A good quality steak can do wonders if executed properly. Once your meat leaves the butcher, it becomes your responsibility. Season it well, let it sit at room temperature before cooking, don’t over cook it, and allow it to rest before slicing. These four points along with some good judgement can go a long way when preparing meat.

pesto oil to good use

I originally made this dish with regular pesto because that was one of the things I had in my fridge before the party. In retrospect it was passable, but a bit too overpowering for the steak. I tried it again by pulsing parsley into my pesto and it was wonderful. You get a slight herbal note from the basil, but at the same time you’re greeted with a clean, crisp flavor from the parsley.

putting everything together

I used a whole wheat baguette when I made the appetizer last night and thought it was fantastic. This was also not part of the original dish, but I felt that it added an appealing nutty component to the crostini. On a side note, we’ve really come a long way in terms of whole wheat products – they don’t taste like cardboard anymore.

Steak Crostini

The reason why I added two thin slices of steak to each appetizer as opposed to one thicker slice is because it makes the crostini easier to eat. If you’re serving this at a party, you definitely don’t want your guests struggling with a big hunk of meat while they’re mingling and sipping on cocktails.

Steak Crostini

yields approx 18 crostini

Components

  • 1 8 oz steak
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup parsley pesto*
  • roasted peppers, garnish
  • 1 fresh baguette

Putting them all together

  1. Allow steak to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Season with salt & pepper and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side, until medium rare.
  3. Allow meat to rest before slicing.
  4. Slice the baguette on a (~1/4 in slices), brush with some of the basil oil and broil until golden brown.
  5. Once all the components are ready start by smearing a little more pesto on the toasted baguette slices.
  6. Top with a little goat cheese and two thin slices of the steak.
  7. Garnish with diced roasted peppers.

note: To make your own parsley pesto simply replace some of the basil with parsley in your favorite pesto recipe or pulse some parsley into some high quality store bought pesto and call it a day.

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Pesto with my Italian Double & ATOM

ATOM: A Taste of the Mediterranean

If it weren’t for the whole making-a-living part of life, I would spend all my days traveling the world without even giving it a second thought.  Unfortunately, making a living seems to be one of the cruel prerequisites to my globe-trotting dreams; so, until then, I travel when I get the chance and often resort to cooking to fulfill the rest of my curiosity.

This past month I thought of an idea that would be awesome to do with all the fellow food bloggers out there.  Let’s travel around the Mediterranean!  I know!  Why didn’t I think of this before?  My type of travel doesn’t require any sort of luggage or even a passport, just a hearty appetite for Med deliciousness.  We’ll taste it all; from the Portuguese influences present in Spanish cuisine to the earthy undertones unique in North African fare. 

The project has been appropriately titled, A Taste of the Mediterranean.  Each month I will feature a different culinary region from the Mediterranean (French, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, North African and Spanish) along with an appropriate regional recipe.  This is where the traveling comes in.  The challenge will be to blog about your own spin on that particular recipe (or technique) for a chance to win that month’s grand prize.

Stamp from Italy 

Each challenge will also come with a unique stamp that all participants can use to decorate their blogs with!   If you need a smaller version of the stamp for your blog, click here.  Participate each month and collect them all!

Pesto with my Italian Double

What better place is there to start our Mediterranean excursion than in Italy?  The challenge for this month is based on the classic Pesto Genovese!  The sky’s the limit on the type of pesto you choose to make, so long as it follows the basic nut-cheese-garlic-oil combo.  All entries must be submitted (i.e. posted) by June 15th in order to be eligible to win that month’s prize. 

In the mean time, I leave you with a Pesto video I made with my Italian Double, Paolo.  I look forward to reading all the amazing pesto ideas everyone has to share!

Cheers,

Tony

All the rules & regs are posted here.

These are a couple of my favorite pestos: 

It’s no guac, but who cares?

Living in the godforsaken Ithaca tundra, I realized that despite how bad the weather is, there are always things to look forward to. In the spring, for instance, it’s regaining the sensation in my fingertips and the opening day at the farmer’s market. Last Saturday, the latter of the two was realized. The weather is still too cold for my liking; but a 40-degree high is certainly appreciated after such a brutal winter.
Luckily, the rest of America is right on schedule with the commencement of spring and so I was excited to find ripe avocados calling my name at the store last week. After poking all of them to pick the ripest out of the bunch (don’t judge, I know you do it too) I bought 4; I used the first one to shoot the Avocado Milkshake Video, and the rest to experiment on an Avocado Pesto I dreamt up recently. Believe me, just like the milkshake, it’s a lot tastier than it sounds.

mise en place

The ingredients are similar to a regular pesto, but with minor alterations. The bulk of the greenness now comes from the avocado while the basil is merely a supporting actor in the whole production (I didn’t have the heart to exclude it). Then I decided to add lemon juice for zing and milk for a creamy touch.
No, the sauce will not curdle because the natural fats in the avocado help keep everything together (clever, huh?).

the spoon test

After processing everything together you’ll have a super thick sauce. No panicking is necessary as you’re only a couple steps away from pesto heaven at this point. The sauce will later be brought to consistency with pasta water, so just remember to reserve a cup before draining it.

vibrant green color

One of my favorite components of this dish is the vibrant forest-green color that the spinach takes on after sautéing. Of course, I keep it Italian by throwing in some toasted pine nuts. And if you don’t dig spinach, you can substitute arugula for a more peppery flavor that works out just fine (especially if you’re a big fan of arugula, as I am).

Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water and toss the pasta with the sautéed spinach and sauce. You’ll notice that the sauce is still very thick and this is completely normal. Incorporate the pasta water a little at a time until you reach the perfect consistency you’re looking for.

Avocado Pesto Pasta

Avocado Pesto Pasta

(yields approx. 4-6 servings)

Components

  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 1 hass avocado
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 10-12 leaves of basil
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 oz. pine nuts, toasted (approx ½ cup)
  • 6 oz. baby spinach
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. In a large pot, cook pasta to specifications as directed on the package and set aside a cup of the cooking water.
  2. Blend the avocado, milk, basil, Parmigiano, 2 tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and ¼ of the pine nuts until smooth to make the sauce.
  3. Using the remaining olive oil, sauté the spinach and the pine nuts just until the spinach wilts and turns a vibrant green.
  4. Toss the cooked pasta, sauce and sautéed spinach together and add a little of the cooking water at a time until you reach the consistency you like.
  5. Serve with some extra Parmigiano shredded on top

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Pasta alla Zarina

Festive green, nutty and full of fragrance; Pasta alla Zarina is my spin on the classic pesto Genovese. This dish is fresh, modern and was inspired by my fashionista friend, Zarina (and her love of spinach).

Zarina and I met at an internship one summer and were practically joined at the hip. Between our Shakira-tuned car rides to work and our late-night mint chocolate chip sessions, there wasn’t much we didn’t do together. This pasta dish is her absolute favorite (or so she tells me) and the least I could do was name it after her… and blog about it.

The tiny pearls of slightly melted mozzarella cheese cling to the penne and envelop your taste buds with creamy goodness. There is a science to the mozzarella, though: if you add it too soon, you risk the mozzarella melting completely into the sauce (no good). And, if you add the mozzarella straight from the fridge, you’ll just have hard cubes of cheese in your pasta (also, no good). The trick is to cut up the mozzarella first and add it last, after it’s reached room temperature. The rest is up to you!

Pasta alla Zarina

Pasta alla Zarina

Components

  • 1 lb. penne rigate pasta
  • 10 oz. baby spinach
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup + 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tbsp. basil paste*
  • ¼ cup + ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ lb. crimini mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 5 oz. low fat mozzarella cheese

* Basil paste is my new secret weapon in the kitchen since I don’t always have fresh basil laying around. If you have fresh basil, a few leaves should do the trick.

Putting them all together

  1. Dice the mozzarella into ¼ in. cubes and set aside.
  2. In a large sautee pan, toast the walnuts over medium heat and set aside (approx. 5-7 minutes).
  3. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and quarter them into roughly equal sizes. Coat the same sautee pan with 3 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil and sauté mushrooms over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and set the mushrooms aside.
  4. In a blender, blend baby spinach, milk, the rest of the olive oil, Pecorino Romano, basil paste, red pepper flakes and ¼ cup walnuts until smooth. (You might have to stop the blender and help it along a few times with a spoon)
  5. Prepare your favorite pasta (I use penne rigate) and toss with the spinach pesto, mozzarella cheese and the remaining ¼ cup of the toasted walnuts.
  6. Plate alongside some grilled chicken and enjoy!

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