Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food For Thought

This week's "Food For Thought" is focused on yet another beautiful bounty from our garden ... basil! And this has nothing to do with "Faulty Towers" ... although I can't really say, "basil" without hearing in my head Sybil's shrill voice yelling, "Baaasil" :)

Just beautiful ... and tasty, too!
I have absolutely loved having a few herbs in our garden this summer and I am already plotting what I want to add next year.  Brett even asked this week about what we would need to do to have herbs inside this winter (yes ... we've gotten a little spoiled!).  So ... I am looking into what it would take to bring our herbs indoors.  If any of you have any pointers, I'd love to hear them!

Now there are any of number of ways you can enjoy basil, but this week we have enjoyed pesto.  I want to show you how easy it is to make your very own pesto and then I'll share with you several recipes we made using this delicious concoction! :)

First you will want to rinse and dry about 2 cups of fresh basil.  (As a side note, I have used fresh spinach when I didn't have basil and it was equally delicious ... and a tad bit greener, if that's possible!)  Place the basil in your food processor and add 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 1/2 cup walnuts (traditionally this is made with pine nuts, but walnuts work great) and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.  It would be ideal to use fresh parmesan, but the cheese from the green can works fine, too. :)  Put the lid on the food processor and give it a whirl until everything is chopped finely and well mixed.  Next, using the small opening in the lid, slowly pour about 1/3 cup olive oil into the processor as it is mixing.  

It really is that green!
You should have a soft paste when you are done.  It may seem a bit stiff, but it will soften and melt when it is added to your warm dishes.  You can use this immediately or cover it with a bit of plastic wrap and store it in your fridge for later.  It might darken a bit if you save it, but it is still just as yummy!

Now for the many mouthwatering ways to enjoy pesto ...

The traditional way would be atop a steaming pile of spaghetti.  It is wonderful in its simplicity.  Cook your pasta according to the box's directions and drain well.  Fill a bowl with pasta (we used fettucine) and top it with a spoonful of pesto and then mix well to coat the noodles.  You will want to use the pesto sparingly as it is very flavorful and a little bit goes a looooong way! 

Now I would be completely remiss if I didn't share my most memorable pesto story.  Yes ... I actually have a story about pesto :).  For my senior prom, I double dated with my best friend from school.  The four of us actually dined at my mom's bakery in Ridgway and my sweet sissy was our waitress.  My mom had made a three course meal for us:  a salad course, pasta with garlic bread and dessert.  Yum!  Just one problem ... A few minutes into my meal, I excused myself to the ladies room.  Before rejoining my party I took a peek at myself in the mirror and to my absolute horror I found that I had green teeth!  Aaaahhh!  All those delicious bits of home-made pesto had attached themselves to my braces leaving me with a leafy grin.  I was horrified!  I rinsed my mouth out in the bathroom and then refused to eat anymore of my dinner.  My poor mom, upon seeing that I hadn't eaten any of my pasta, feared that something was wrong with the food.  We had a good laugh about that later ... and it still makes me chuckle :).

The next recipe, Pesto Mashed Potatoes, tasted great ... but didn't look terribly appetizing.  So, instead of potentially grossing you out with a photo, I'll just give you the directions and you can see it for yourself :).   I found this recipe in a magazine, but I couldn't tell you which one.  It was one of those things where I thought, "That would be yummy.  I'll have to remember that one." ... and then proceeded to recycle the magazine.  So ... here is the rough version.  I rinsed and peeled five yellow potatoes and then cut them into large cubes.  I added them to a pot with a generous pinch of salt and covered them with water.  I put the pot on the stove and brought it to a boil and then let it boil over ... but I don't recommend that part!  You want to cook the potatoes for about 8-10 minutes until the cubes are tender.  Then I drained the potatoes in a colander and put them back in the pot.  Using a potato masher I mashed them until they were still lumpy, but mainly smooth.  I then added about 1/2 cup of milk and stirred them until they were well mixed and of an even consistency.  Then I added about 3 tablespoons of pesto and continued mixing until they turned a nice shade of green.  The parmesan cheese melted a bit and gave the potatoes a cheesy taste.  A very tasty alternative for sprucing up your mashed potatoes!

Finally, we made some finger-licking-good panini sandwiches last night ... and everyone cleared their plates!  That always makes Mommy happy! :)  This meal was inspired by the FoodNetwork Magazine for October 2010.  In this month's issue they included a mini-book with 50 different panini sandwiches ... they all looked great!  The kids asked what "Panini" meant.  I don't really know, but my definition would be "smooshed, steamy, scrumptious Italian sandwiches".

Here are the ingredients:

Dinner rolls, sliced in half (I found some sun-dried tomato hoagies that worked great)
Avocado, sliced
Tomato, sliced
Chicken, cooked and sliced (I brushed the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt & pepper before grilling)
Mozzerella cheese, shredded

Now to build the panini.  As you can see in the picture, I spread pesto on one side of the roll and a little bit of mayo on the other side.  Then I layered all the sandwich makings on the bread.  Next I carefully put the bread together and pressed it down, tucking back in any parts that tried to sneak out.

No don't worry if you don't have a panini press.  All you really need is a griddle.  I have a griddle that has raised grill marks that I used to grill the chicken and then I used it again for the sandwich cooking.  Heat the griddle to medium-high and brush with a smidgen of butter.

When your griddle is hot, slowly maneuver your panini to the pan (I could fit two hoagies side by side).  Now to make it a true panini, you need to have the "press" factor ... otherwise it's just a grilled cheese.  So ... are you ready for the Kellum Panini Press ... it's not yet patented, but maybe I'll do that next week :)

Sometimes you have to be resourceful! :)

All you really need is a hot griddle, a heavy pan and a kettle of water :)  Squish and heat!

When the sandwiches are heated on that one side, turn them over and "press" again.  When the first two sandwiches were finished, I put them on a cookie sheet, covered them and slid them into the oven on low to keep them warm while I did the other two paninis.

It truly was a delicious dinner ... and all those fresh ingredients made it even better!

Quizno's got nuthin' on us!

We have a little bit of the pesto left over ... I think we will use it on pizza tonight.  With some chicken, olives and tomatoes ... I'm salivating already!  What will you use your pesto for?  Let me know!


I just really have to tack this on .... and it has nothing to do with food :)  You will remember this week's post regarding the tent in the family room.  Well ... the girls have been in an extravagant building mood.  Put that together with the fact that the kids had no school on Friday and you get this:

To the untrained eye, this would appear to be a mess. :)  But to the experienced Mom (and with a whole lot of explanation from Norah and Ashley) I see a stable for Marty the zebra complete with a feeding trough (Lincoln Logs) and a bridle.  The brown pillow in the front is for the guard dog, Gimli.  At one point he was actually snuggled up in a blue bandana.  The pink pillows under the table ... errr ... in the stable ... is where the cowgirl/zoo veterinarian lives, sleeps, reads and practices her cursive. :)  

Here are the creative cowgirls ... all dressed up and ready to ... uh ... to do whatever tutu-ed cowgirls do:

1 comment:

  1. YeeHaw!!!! Great post on the pesto... everything looks yummy! my children love pesto on pasta and raviolis! slurp!!!


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