Friday, March 12, 2010

Pesto of a different sort

During the summer when we stay at Alex's house in Sonoma there is always fresh basil, and by virtue of that fact we eat a LOT of pesto during the warm summer months so it has become a food that I associate with dinners on the porch soaking up the early evening sunshine. Looking outside at the damp gray world I can't think of anything in the whole world that sounds more enticing right now then grabbing a bowl and heading in the back yard to pick fresh basil in the sunshine. Sadly, right now in the dead of winter here in frigid California (ok, so maybe its not that cold, but it did rain today) there is little fresh basil to be found. We could buy frozen or jarred pesto which does the trick in a pinch. But somehow in the middle of winter when you really begin to miss summer, eating foods like pesto that bring to mind flip flops, and dining al fresco, just seems more sad than satisfying.

Thumbing through the latest Martha Stewart Everyday magazine I found what one could consider a compromise between my need for pesto, and my aversion to foods that make my heart ache for sunshine. It's a simple recipe for pea and parsley pesto. A thick green oily sauce like traditional pesto, but this sauce doesn't have that summery aroma of basil that screams summer. The lack of basil goodness is made up for with a nuttier flavor than its summary counterpart, and a healthy dose of garlic. And it is DAMN good. In the same way that fancy warm winter coats and boots totally save winter fashion from being boring, the walnuts and peas make this winter pesto exciting. Basically this recipe made my whole week and I am once again able to embrace winter. I like to think of this recipe as Martha's midwinter gift to me, and lord knows that in the midst of gray sky's and midterms I needed a little pick me up.
Pea and Parsley Pesto
Everyday Food
  • 1 cup frozen peas (I will not stop you from using fresh if you got 'em)
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 garlic cloves (3 regular sized, only two if they are large) smashed and peeled
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

If using frozen peas cook them for a minute or so in the microwave covered with two tablespoons of water.

In a food processor combine the peas, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and one tablespoon of water. Pulse until everything is blended to a paste. While the machine is running slowly add in the olive oil and continue to run the food processor until the mixture is blended.

Add salt and pepper to taste. We followed the serving suggestion and served this over pasta that we added another cup of frozen peas to during the last minute of boiling and it was wonderful. It would also be fantastic on sandwiches, mixed into hummus or salad dressing, or in an omelet. MMM...winter pesto.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


We had an Oscar night picnic tonight, and the spread included these little bruchetta's with fontina and greens which were meant to be simply complimentary to the rest of the meal but they were the biggest hit out of everything. Now let me tell you, dear reader, that we also had chocolate peanut butter cookies with a big ol' plop of jam right in the center. This bruchetta was actually better than those cookies. That's how insanely delicious these little toasty snacks of wonder are.

See? Nice picnick huh? It was. The food made up for the fact that after suffering through all of the boring Oscar categories our DVR cut off right before they opened the envelope to announce best actor. That's right people we missed ALL of the good stuff; best actor and actress, director and picture. Sad as that may have been we had that bruchetta and it was crunchy, and garlicky, with warm melty fontina cheese all over the top. Outrageously good, I am surprised that we weren't reduced to blows fighting over who got the last piece.

So maybe our cookies were a bit meh, and yeah, we did miss watching the first female win the best director category and "the dude" getting his Oscar, but there was warm delicious bruchetta and I gotta say that was enough for me. I can go to sleep happy.

Bruschetta with Fontina and Greens
From Giada De Laurentis

  • 1 pound loaf of ciabatta with the ends cut off and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

  • 1 Garlic clove sliced down the middle to rub on toasts

  • 3 Garlic cloves minced

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil to cook greens+ roughly 2 more to drizzle on toasts

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 12 oz baby spinach

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 cups (4 oz) fontina cheese, grated

To make the toasts preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the slices of bread on the parchment paper in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and allow to bake four roughly 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the toasts and allow to cool slightly and then rub the toasts with the cut portion of the garlic halves. Set the toasts aside and get to work on the spinach.

In a skillet heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the three minced garlic cloves along with the red pepper flakes and cook until you can smell the garlic, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted then season to taste with salt.

Top the toasts with the spinach and then sprinkle with cheese and put them back into the oven to season with salt and serve.