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I made this pesto for my daughter and her vegan friend. My daughter often is not fond of pesto because of the strong basil taste. This recipe incorporates spinach, which makes the flavor much more mild and eliminates the need for a side salad or veggie. I had mine with macerated tomatoes on the side (diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, chopped basil and Italian parsley– combine and let sit for an hour or more).

Pesto
In a food processor, combine (amounts are approximate– adjust for your taste– I added a little extra basil when I made it again for myself):

1 (packed) cup basil leaves, rinsed
2 (packed) cups baby spinach, large stems removed if you’re ambitious, rinsed (don’t worry about residual water)
3 cloves of garlic
1 t sea salt
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, cooled
1/3 cup raw walnuts (adjust nuts to your taste– I like a lot. The walnuts add good protein)
Olive oil until the pesto is combined and soft– approx 1/3-1/2 cup. I like a lot of olive oil– it makes the pesto creamy and soft.
If you like, add a couple 1″ cubes of Reggiano cheese.
Blend until creamy. Combine with cooked pasta– something that hold the pesto well. Serve with macerated tomatoes and red wine (water for the kiddies).

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I’ve never been a pickler or canner, I actually never really appreciated a pickle that wasn’t a really good homemade dill pickle. But recently I’ve been enjoying other random pickled vegetables. I have zero patience for projects where the process takes much planning and where there’s the possibility of contamination or, God forbid, poisoning someone. Still, I really didn’t want to be at the mercy of some pricy restaurant to enjoy pickled vegetables. So, with about 2 minutes of research for basic proportion, and no know-how whatsoever, I thought I would give some quick pickles a try. Here’s what I did, but I would encourage you to experiment. This is in no way a recipe for canning pickles, or producing anything that can be put on a shelf indefinitely. This is a recipe [that’s being generous] for making something resembling pickled vegetables that you make, cool, and consume immediately with friends and some cheese, charcuterie, and wine.

I put about 2 cups of miscellaneous vinegars in a non-reactive pot. It was a mix of cider, red wine, and rice vinegar. I added about a cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup of water. I added about a teaspoon of turmeric [I would recommend more like 2 tablespoons], a teaspoon of salt, a few juniper berries, some green peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a handful of sliced ginger. I brought it to a boil to dissolve the sugar then added 2 bunches of small radishes that had been halved or quartered [depending on size] and half a red onion. I let it boil for about three minutes, scooped it into a tempered glass container with a lid, and threw it into the fridge.

They got good reviews. I’m going to try to reuse the liquid… maybe add more vinegar and sugar and adjust the spices; there definitely could have been more kick. I might even throw in a peeled, hard- boiled egg or two to see what happens. Or perhaps do those separately; do you think it would make the vegetables taste eggy??

Refrigerate them and consume them expeditiously! Now, you’re a quickler…

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How to get my daughter to eat her greens… I’m getting desperate. I don’t like to eat much wheat, so I no longer make pasta very often. She loves it, however [really, who doesn’t], and if i throw the green stuff in there she’ll happily consume it. Well maybe not totally happily, but…

I found some gluten- free pasta. Usually this means corn, which I pretty much never eat since it’s hard on my blood sugar, but I found some in the refrigerator at New Seasons under the brand name “Cucina Fresca” and it’s main ingredient was garbanzo bean flour — a good source of protein. It cooks fast — like in under three minutes, so I started the spinach first.

Actually, I browned a chicken apple sausage for her in a pan first. When I removed it I added a little olive oil and sauteed the spinach. I added the spinach about the same time I added the pasta to the boiling, salted water. When the spinach was done I added grated Reggiano, sea salt, pepper, a grating of nutmeg, and about 2 T of cream. I had started with about 4 cups of spinach, just to give you an idea for the amount of cream that was added. It was just enough to meld with the cheese and give the dish a slightly creamy texture. I drained the pasta and added it to the spinach, then threw it on her plate where once sat the chicken sausage. I threw in a few red chile flakes to mine. Fast and really good.

The pasta was really pretty good. It had that slightly grainy texture that non-wheat pasta has, but not nearly as gross as the brown rice pasta, which I consider a complete waste of time, money, and calories.

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it must be summer… i’m just making salad and condiments.

the other day we had some sausage from Tails and Trotters, a local meat purveyor. among the small selection that we had were some spicy italian sausage, which i love to have with a sweet tomato relish. my grandmother’s recipe uses fresh tomatoes as well as peppers and onions, and takes quite awhile to prepare and can. i just wanted something similar in a small quantity, so i made up a quick, half- hearted substitute that turned out pretty well. considering.

i threw into a pan on the stove: 1 can of fire- roasted diced tomatoes, about 1/2 cup combination of brown and white sugar, pinch of salt, about 1/8 – 1/4 t ground clove, 1/4 – 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/8 t ground nutmeg, about 1/4 t ground ginger, and a bay leaf. i added about 1/2 cup of cider vinegar and a couple T of red wine and let it boil until it had thickened– about 10 – 15 minutes. when i removed it from the heat, i added about 4 T more of cider vinegar [to taste] and served it on the sausage. if i had time and/or was thinking i would have chopped up a small yellow onion and thrown that in…

and fyi this is not a canning recipe; the ball jar just happened to be the closest thing within reach. you have to go to gina’s blog at crowsnsquirrels.com

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i really was craving eggplant parmigiana, but a traditional recipe leaves me feeling really, really full with all that cheese. this was a great alternative; it combines grilled eggplant and tomatoes with other ingredients and is put under the broiler.

i sliced off the ends of one medium/large eggplant and sliced it lengthwise into five pieces. i had one large heirloom tomato that i cut horizontally into four slices [after removing the stem and stem core– about 3/4″ into the tomato]. this recipe makes the perfect amount for two people when accompanied by a salad. if you want a little more, or you like the flavor, add another tomato.

rub each slice with olive oil on both sides and grill the eggplant on medium/high, lid down. after they are brown, flip them and cook the other side. rub the tomatoes with olive oil and sear quickly on a very hot spot on the grill. flip and sear again, then remove. make sure the eggplant is cooked through; turn the heat down if you need to until they are soft. if you like more vegetables you could also grill some onions or zucchini at the same time.

 

after you have flipped the eggplant, turn on the broiler in your oven.

place three of the smaller slices of eggplant on a shallow dish. i added a little olive oil, but you don’t really need to.

chop a couple of hands full of italian flat- leaf parsley with a few cloves of fresh garlic. if you like basil, throw some in there, too. if you don’t like the flavor of fresh garlic, you can sauté after you chop it, then add to the parsley. salt and pepper the eggplant, then layer half of the parsley mixture on top of the eggplant. add the tomato slices on top. add the remaining eggplant, salt and pepper, then the remaining parsley and garlic. if you grilled extra tomatoes or other vegetables, layer them in, adding the parsley on the top. make sure you add any liquid left behind by the eggplant and tomatoes, and drizzle with about 3 T of red wine; it adds a little bit of acid and makes the juices a bit more rich. sprinkle some bread crumbs on top of the parsley, drizzle with a little olive oil, then add grated parmesan [reggiano] cheese. if you want to add some other cheese, you can layer some in the middle and put some on top before adding the parmesan. i would recommend fresh mozzarella, but if you like that stringy effect, use the aged mozzarella. if you add cheese in the middle, make sure the vegetables are hot before you put it under the broiler.

place under broiler until the cheese is brown.

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it’s sunday night, tomorrow is a holiday; memorial day, labor day, bastille day… one of those. i dropped my lovely daughter off at her dad’s and made dinner for myself; fish and vegetables. in a desperate attempt to not come home with ice cream, i bought a people magazine to catch up on my arnold and maria news. also, i got a star magazine; i guess it’s my idea of moral debauchery. i buy one of those magazines about twice a year, instead of doing meth or robbing a convenience store; it just breaks the monotony. or maybe i’ve just been thinking too hard and need to give my brain a break. no, probably that first thing…

so, i think maria is going to be okay. the details of arnold’s unfortunate man- slut escapades makes maria look like a fool, but she married a lug, so i’m thinking she can’t be so surprised. still, she stuck up for him and ditched her career for some years to be co-star in the govenator, and govenator II: groparama. mostly i feel for the kids, your teenage years have got to be the worst time to find out your dad’s a misogynist.

after about five minutes i dialed up netflix and watched breaking away; the author of whom i had the fortune of knowing as a kid and who had passed years back, way too young, of a heart attack. a heart attack at a ridiculously young age is what took his father as well, so he saw it coming, in spite of his obsessive cycling. anyway, he won an oscar for the screenplay and it remains my most favorite movie ever. i love it as much for the memories it congers up of steve as i do for the movie itself, which is a perfect, simple masterpiece. i was taking a picture of my dinner as it was starting up, and didn’t notice until i was converting the image in photoshop later that i happened to snap the shot just as his name appeared on the screen. crazy. i think it was dennis quaid’s break- out role, so that’s always makes it entertaining. anyway, i think of steve often and his wife becky and the fun we had all living in colorado.

so, here’s the cooking part… fish: broiler.

baby artichokes and asparagus, boiled and dressed with lemon juice, chopped fresh garlic, chopped italian, flat- leaf parsley [my staple– full of vitamins and wards off cancer], lemon zest, olive oil, pepper, and alderwood smoked salt. i have salt smoked with a different wood and it’s actually a different color… how do they do that??

 

the baby artichokes are about 2 1/2″ long… so cute. rip off the outer leaves until most of the leaves are light in color. cut the top off about 3/4″ from the end. you want to remove the parts of the leaves that would remain woody after they are cooked. trim off the end of the stem. drop them into acidulated water– water with lemon juice or a little vinegar added. it keeps them from turning brown; well, really brown.

 

the final artichoke and asparagus salad… after i took the artichokes out of the water, i dumped in the asparagus stems, cut into 2″ pieces. when they were just about tender i strained them and ran them under cold water to stop the cooking and keep the green color, then tossed them in with the artichokes and other ingredients.

the other day i had halibut on the grill and made this cucumber salad [above]. i sliced an english cucumber with a mandolin, then marinated them in red wine vinegar, salt and pepper for about 20 minutes before dinner [stir frequently]. the cucumbers become slightly soft and somewhat pickle- ish.

 

to go with the halibut i sliced a red onion from the farmers’ market into thirds length- wise, rubbed it with olive oil, and put it on the grill ahead of the fish by about 10 minutes. when i put the halibut on, rubbed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, i put it on the searing burner, skin side down, and closed the lid. i flipped the halibut after a few minutes when the skin had become completely black. the charring of the skin gave a really nice smokey quality to the fish [some may say burned, but i love it], and the skin was really yummy seared into charcoal. i also like burned toast, so… at your discretion.

happy holiday everyone!

p.s… a quick side note… i purchased some morel mushrooms from a chap on wednesday at the farmers’ market. because of circumstances barely in my control [pizza], i did not end up eating them. before you berate me for such a culinary sin, allow me to impart this news flash: when i opened the bag yesterday to quickly survey their state, they were crawling with small white worms. i’m not sure what to make of it all; i suppose there is some kind of larvae in all wild mushrooms that we unknowingly consume, but that was it for me. so sad… i have extremely fond memories of mushrooming with my family all through my childhood. now i want to drink bleach.

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spring

spring is here and although everything outside in the yard has become wildly overgrown, the thing that seems to be growing most like a weed is my daughter. somehow this little creature keeps changing, morphing, and is developing a personality quite her own, in spite of me trying to bind her into a compliant little elf. darn mother nature, her ways are so delicious and so wicked; how she manages to grow little people and tiny little lettuces at the same time is such a fantastic and brilliant mystery.

yesterday afternoon we stopped at the wednesday farmer’s market. the man from fressen bakery was there with the lamboc loaf and the fantastic pretzels. and we scored some amazing spring greens, pea pods, and morel mushrooms as well. when everything is so delightful and new in the spring, i prefer just the most simple preparations: steamed asparagus with lemon, spring greens with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and broiled fish with a little smokey paprika. we had cod this evening, but halibut is still absolutely great right now.  the baby greens were not just lettuces, they were miniature leaves of chard, kale, and rabe as well. but the best thing of all is cooking and sitting down to dinner with my shmoo… who is growing like a wild dandelion into the most lovely, spunky little person…

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