My neighbor just got a bunch of really nice landscaping done on the side of her house that I can’t see. The other night, she brought me over to show me all the basil and mint and thyme and wonderfulness that she had put in. It’s not all edible, but most of it is.
Anyway, she said, “take all the basil you want!” referring to a holy basil bush that was roughly the size of a kitchen table. I said that I would because I was seeing my mom for brunch the next day and she loves holy basil. Well, apparently, mom has enough of it, too.
This morning, I got a text that neighbor had left some on the back porch. I replied that I looked forward to turning it into pesto.
After 136 years of picking leaves off stems, I ended up filling the 2 qt. Pampered Chef mixing bowl.
I cleaned up a bit and assessed the pesto ingredient needs, pulling the lemon juice, pine nuts, and parm out of the fridge. I decided to use EVOO instead of another fancy oil. I popped three garlic cloves off the head and peeled them.
Since the food processor will be busy making swift work of the basil and pine nuts, it’s best if you use the smaller side of the cheese grater for the parm.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any action shots because I was mostly worried about how I was going to get all of this pesto made without it taking another 136 years.
I scooped two loose handfuls into the Hamilton Beach 8 Cup Food Processor, sprinkled some lemon juice, tossed in a garlic clove, poured in about 1/8th of a cup of pine nuts, and did a swoosh of oil. These steps were repeated three times until I ran out of basil and did one last spin with salt and pepper added.
I haven’t made pesto in a long time, and don’t care at all for the jarred variety (it’s too oily and salty). This turned out, if I may say so, perfect.
Added bonus: it was exactly enough to fill one of my silicone ice cube trays.
Before I cleaned off the cutting boards, I harvested enough basil seeds to plant next year with our bucket tomatoes.
This is based primarily on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Make-Ahead Cookbook, which my mom gifted me for Christmas one year. It’s full of wonderful ideas for preparing dinner, lunch, and dinner and ways to get more meals out of your shopping list. It also gives ideas for freezer meals and slow cooker meals (good ideas for summertime—save the delicious Wisconsin sweet corn and don’t turn on the oven).
This is a fairly simple put-together dish; the only thing that gives it a second eggplant is that you need to blanch the asparagus. The bonus here is that you use the same water to boil the asparagus as the tortellini!
Speaking of, it’s time to start the water boiling. Whoever discovered heat+water=cooked food should be lauded for their curiosity and intuition.
With asparagus, I usually do the bend-til-it-breaks trick, but this time I decided to simply cut enough off the bottom, letting the knife tell me where the woody part starts. I think I didn’t want to be disappointed in how much I paid for it (this veggie is usually priced per pound), and I already have two baggies of ends in the freezer waiting for me to decide to make cream of asparagus soup.
When the water bubbles, pop the greens in and set a timer for two minutes. Grab your trusty stainless steel bowl and put in some ice cubes; then, I usually keep the bowl in the freezer until the last second.
When the timer says so (in my case, it’s Alexa beepity-beeping at me), pull the bowl, fill mostly with cold water, and start slotted-spooning the asparagus into it to stop the cooking process. Let the pot on the stove come back to a boil.
Now it’s dressing time. I’ve mentioned before that making your own dressing is cheaper, better, and faster than buying bottled, and there’s no HFCS hiding at the top of the list, or Yellow #5 and Maltodextrin hiding at the bottom.
The dressing contains a delicious amount of minced shallot and garlic.
In a two-cup bowl, I squirt some lemon juice and realize I’ve run out, so I finish off the acidic liquid with some white wine vinegar. Because I’ve opted to use Lighthouse Farms freeze-dried Italian spices (do not buy this from Amazon, it’s too expensive—I’m sure your local Penzey’s store has a suitable alternative), I pour it in to let it rehydrate for a minute, then add the alliums. Whisk in the olive oil and let sit until everything else is assembled.
Slice up enough cherry tomatoes and put the asparagus into a medium bowl and add salt and pepper.
To add a little bit of smooth crunch (I get the opposition, but pine nuts do that), roast a handful of pine nuts.
Since the tortellini is “fresh” (from Costco), it only takes about two minutes to boil (did I mention this dish comes together so quickly it’s almost silly?) so it’s the last thing to cook.
While it’s boiling, grate some parm and try to contain yourself.
Strain the pasta and rinse with cold water so it doesn’t melt the Parmesan. Pour into the bowl, add the dressing and shredded cheese. Stir carefully so as not to break the little pockets of cheesy amazingness.
This is a quick side, a lifesaver on a cold winter day, and we can’t be friends if you don’t have the ingredients available in your pantry (actually, I don’t care for it when folks make that exclamation, so we can still be friends, regardless).
Butter, onion, tomatoes.
That’s it, have a great day!
Grab your 3- or 4-quart Dutch oven (even if you’re only making a small amount, I’ll explain later) and put some butter in there over medium heat.
Slice an onion into very large pieces and sauté for five minutes or until soft.
Dump in one can of diced tomatoes for every two people who will end up with a serving. For each pair of folks, fill up one can with water, veggie, or chicken broth and pour into the vessel (*this is where the three-ingredient-claim kinda falls down, but I would contend that the recipe is great, even if it’s four ingredients).
Bring to a simmer, cover, and set a timer for 30 minutes.
Grab your immersion blender and zip it into a smooth soup. This is where using the smallest Dutch oven isn’t the best idea. Immersion-blending it in a 2-quart will result in splattered shirts and faces.
Serve with a side of grilled cheese or tuna melts.
Sweet corn stands on back highways are the epitome of summertime in Wisconsin. Ears and ears stuffed in a brown paper bag for $6. You’d be silly not to get some, cook, and freeze it for January when the mere thought of wearing shorts gives ya chills.
Woodman’s has three-for-$1 right now, so we’ve been enjoying the treat each Sunday night with chicken on the grill.
Put all three ears (why are they called ‘ears‘ anyway?) in the microwave and set it for six minutes. When it beeps, grab the ears with a hot pad and lay on a cutting board with the business end ready to cut.
More about those strands, or “hairs”: there’s one strand for every kernel on the cob, so that’s a bit of an indication of how many healthy kernels there are, hiding in there.
After you slice the end off, grab the other end (with a hot pad), and slowly squeeze the ear out of the husk.
Pushing the cob out keeps the hairs from sticking around, which makes it so much easier to eat.
Butter and salt (if you’re like the fella), plate. Crunch.
We’d been having migas each weekend day for breakfast for a while, so I thought we could mix it up for the long weekend (also, I had only thought to buy two poblanos instead of three).
I scoured the blueprint of the fridge in my brain to come up with suitable ingredients, wishing there was a button with which to dispense asparagus. Alas, this is not Star Trek, so I landed on a simple tomato-basil mix as the featured stars.
Chop up the tomatoes (these are from Costco) and sprinkle with basil (I threw in some Italian seasoning, too) and salt. Right about now is when I would remember that I should have turned the oven on to 400°.
Place the tomatoes on the crust and crack four eggs into the bowl (don’t bother rinsing it out, it’s all going to end up in the same place) and whisk with a fork or, the fella’s favorite, a French whisk.
Mix the shredded Asiago into the eggs and pour over the tomatoes in the pie pan. Top with a few sliced tomatoes to make it look nice.
Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes. When the timer beeps, grab a wooden toothpick and poke it into the middle of the egg. If it comes out clean(ish), it’s done enough to take out (it will keep cooking a little while it rests). Leave it on the counter for five minutes and then slice and serve!
Mary Berry would have been proud that there was no soggy bottom, but I didn’t press it into the pan evenly enough, so it was thicker in the corners. It will come out and taste just as well without the crust if you want to skip that part. That would qualify this as a one-eggplant recipe, then.
I guess the only thing that makes this “adult” is that it’s not made with cheese powder. And it doesn’t come from a pre-packaged box. And it uses mascarpone. Okay, so many things make this adult, especially the bread crumbs on top. And pats of butter.
The infatuation I have with Gwennie (one of my pet names for Gwenyth Paltrow, the matriarch of GOOP—her “lifestyle” brand) is not the same as that which I have for Gina Homolka. That is to say, it’s describable. I find Gwennie’s jade eggs, “scientific concepts“, $3k dresses, the “conscious uncoupling” from the father of her children, amusing. I find her cookbooks, however, really neat and I own three of them (I also just learned there is a fourth, which has promptly earned a spot on my Amazon wishlist).
This recipe is from My Father’s Daughter and it’s amazing. Do I use that adjective too much? I’m only asking, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.
This recipe starts out like most mac n cheeses, by boiling a pound of pasta two minutes fewer than the instructions suggest for al dente. This is because it gets baked for 15 minutes, so you don’t want the noodles squishy.
It also calls for a whole bunch of shredded Parmesan (please, do yourself a favor and have bricks of parm, asiago, and romano in your fridge—it keeps forever—and stop buying those plastic jars of pre-crumbled parmesan, which is mostly not even cheese anyway), a small container of mascarpone, a little nutmeg, and some milk.
Once the pasta is done, drain and put back into the pot and pour in the cheesy mixture.
Mix it all up so the nooks of the noodles get coated.
In the book, Gwennie suggests some variations on the theme. One of which is to put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan that you’re baking in. We thought this was a grand idea, so we used marinara from Costco.
Pour the noodlecheese into the pan and cover with seasoned breadcrumbs (we used panko the first time and it turned out well, but homemade breadcrumbs the second time were a bigger hit).
I thought it looked a little boring and had some grape tomatoes to use up, so I sliced a few and put ’em on top.
Bake, rest, serve, moan with enjoyment. And go buy the book.