Sunday, September 29, 2013

Basil Pesto

There are many various recipes for pesto but the version here, the first one I learned, is still my favorite, especially when I'm in the midst of a garden harvest of fresh basil as I am now. A very simple and delicious take on it, all I need is a bowl of hot pasta and some good bread to enjoy it. And it freezes very well for quite a while. 

4 cups fresh basil leaves, stemmed and cleaned
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup raw pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Reggiano-Parmigiano 
1/2 cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Add the basil to a food processor with the pine nuts, garlic cloves, cheese and a couple of tablespoons of the oil. Turn on the processor and, while it's running, slowly pour in the remaining oil and process until a smooth paste. Open the bowl to scrape down the sides then add a couple more pulses to finish.
Splash the lemon juice on the pesto to keep the color then store in the frig until ready to use. This also freezes well for a few weeks.

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Last week we had a special guest over who loves chicken. Combining that with the amazing tomato harvest we're getting this month, it looked like chicken cacciatore was the way to go. In order to fill it up a bit I added a couple of different types of sausage, Sicilian and Sardinian, along with Italian eggplant into the mix. Maybe a bit over the top but delicious nonetheless.

Eggplants chopped

Flouring the eggplant to keep whole in the sauté

Parboiling the sausages before slicing them

Chicken cut into parts

sliced sausages ready for the sauté

Searing the chicken parts

2 medium Italian eggplants
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 sausages - 3 Sicilian, 3 Sardinian
1 free-range organic air-chilled chicken, cut into 10 parts
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 bell peppers - 1 red, 1 green - chopped
4 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
pepperoncini (red pepper flakes)

Slice the eggplants into large pieces - 2" x 1". Lightly flour the pieces and set aside.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, when hot add the oil.  Lightly sauté the eggplants then remove to drain on paper towels. Add the chicken parts into the hot oil and sear on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In a separate skillet, add enough water to partially cover the sausages and bring to a simmer. Add the sausages to parboil until they change color, about 5 minutes. This will make it easier to slice for the sauté. Remove from the skillet and slice into 1-inch pieces.  Add the sliced sausages to the hot Dutch oven that still has its oil and cook until well-colored. Remove the sausage to drain on a paper towel.
Add the crushed garlic to the Dutch oven and cook in the remaining oil for a minute, then add the sliced onion. Once the onion is translucent, add the chopped peppers and also cook until translucent.
Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a lively simmer, seasoning with the oregano and bay leaves. Add the chicken parts and the sausages slices and bury in the sauce, then add the eggplants slices on top.
Allow everything to cook partially covered for about 45 minutes, seasoning with the salt and pepperoncini to taste. If preparing ahead, turn off the heat and cover until about 15 minutes before serving. At that point reheat the sauce then serve when ready.


Saturday, September 7, 2013


So many tomatoes, so little time to get them in recipes. Today we're making gazpacho using a recipe from The Spanish Table Cookbook by Steve Winston. Simple and delicious, but for this recipe, fresh tomatoes ripened on the vine are required. Gazpacho allows for plenty of variation but the key ingredients are the bread and the oil. I've followed the recipe as printed in the book and recreate it here with photos but there's plenty of resources online and elsewhere that will have their own versions.

I used whole wheat sandwich bread.

Adding the green bell to the blender.

I just about filled this pitcher with the soup.

3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 red onion, chopped coarsely
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped coarsely
1 green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped coarsely
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out, chopped coarsely
5 ripe medium-large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup Amontillado sherry vinegar 
1/4 extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups stale bread, cut up and covered with cold water

In a blender, add the garlic, puree, then add each of the next ingredients one at a time to puree, adding a touch of cold water if needed during the process. (add the chopped onion, puree, add the red bell, puree, etc.) As the blender fills up, dump most of the contents into a bowl or a pitcher, then continue. When all of the ingredients have been processed, combine them all then chill for a couple of hours before serving.