Kale Pesto

I diligently planted several basil plants a few weeks ago. A few days later a crazy hail storm arrived. Afterwards, my poor basil plants were diminished to nothing but stems. So I replanted. All along, I was motivated by dreams of pesto. Pesto on pizza, pesto on pasta, pesto on sandwiches and pesto on warm potatoes. Maybe even a bowl of pesto all by itself.

kale-bowl

Basil is a traditional ingredient of pesto, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. Translated from Italian, pesto means to crush or to pound. And if you’re an Italian grandma, you probably do your crushing and pounding with a mortar and pestle – not a food processor. But times have changed, and so should pesto.

Pesto, meet everyone’s darling green vegetable – kale. With kale absolutely everywhere these days, and at an extremely affordable price ($2 – $4 a bunch, on average) it makes good sense to transform a bunch into pesto, as long as you’re using a food processor, that is. I often find myself with more than enough kale and looking for ways to eat it that aren’t just another plate of greens, if you know what I mean.

Unlike kale, basil doesn’t have a strong, prominent flavor. It allows the other pesto ingredients – nuts/seeds, cheese, and garlic to really stand out. I like to change things up with the choice of nuts or seeds too. Pine nuts tend to be out of my price range so I opt for whatever I have on hand. Often, it’s sunflower seeds. I’ve also tried pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans and almonds. I think it’s personal preference. In the end, it all gets crushed together and hey, that means pesto, right?

While I’m advocating for kale based pesto today, you should experiment with different herbs and leafy greens.

kale-in-food-processor

Kale Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 1/2 cups pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (3 cups) kale
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Pulse sunflower seeds in the food processor until finely ground.
  2. Add kale, garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add Parmesan and blend to combine.
  4. Taste and add more ingredients as needed to reach your desired consistency and taste.

Tomato Basil Chutney

Have you ever noticed that the right condiment or sauce can transform an average dish into a great dish? That’s the case with this tomato chutney. The concept of chutney, similar to relish and savory jam, derives from India where chutneys are made of fruit, spices and vinegar for preservation.

 

chutney
They can be either sweet or hot but are almost always savory. This tomato chutney leans toward the sweet side while the ginger provides just a faint sense of spice. Use this recipe as a guide then try increasing the amount of ginger or adding a little heat with hot sauce, cayenne or chili powder. I like the earthiness of the basil when added in just towards the end of simmering. Basil and tomatoes embody the taste of summer for me.

IMG_0052

What does one do with chutney? You can serve it like they do in India – with curry – or with cheese and crackers, spoon some over a piece of meat, use it in place of ketchup, or mix into cream cheese, mayo, or yogurt to create a spread. I served this chutney with zucchini chard pancakes and it provided some of the expected sweetness you’d often receive from maple syrup. Without it, the pancakes would be pretty average and incomplete. Together, they hit on all the right notes.

 

Tomato Basil Chutney

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 1 cup chutney

sliced cherries

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4-5 large basil leaves, shredded

cherry tomatoes

 

Wash, slice and destem your tomatoes. I used cherry, but any kind will do. Cherry are just slightly less work, I think, as you can just slice them in half. We’re leaving on the skins and seeds here for texture.

In a pot, combine the tomatoes with the onion and garlic. Let this cook down, about 8 minutes. Then add in the flavorings – the salt, ginger, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Continue simmering over low heat until everything has broken down and started to form a sauce. If you find you have too much liquid, continue simmering another few minutes. Stir in the basil right at towards the end of cooking, then adjust the seasoning as you like and serve either warm or at room temp.

Drunken Beet Linguine

I like to cook with alcohol, but I hardly ever buy it specifically for that reason. When it comes to wine, in the bottom shelf of my fridge door you’ll find the remnants of bottles that were never quite finished. They’re tucked away there just for cooking purposes and that’s mostly de-glazing plans for sauces, stews and soups.
I don’t drink expensive wine, so naturally I’m not going to cook with it either. But most importantly, when cooking with wine – or any alcohol – you should only use something you like the flavor of and wouldn’t mind drinking.

beets

By boiling linguine in red wine and water, this pasta dish truly highlights its use by dying the linguine an attractive shade of purple. Cooking pasta in wine – “drunken” – is actually a common Tuscan technique. There are several methods out there regarding how much wine to use when doing so, and some suggest using wine as the only liquid. But the recipe below, since it is more heavily water based, offers a pretty mild wine flavor in the end, despite the vibrant result. You don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy it and you don’t have to devote a whole bottle either. Unless you want to, of course.

Beets, with their similar shade of purple, felt like a logical addition to the pasta. Since I already happened to have some cooked in the fridge, I chopped those up and added them in, along with a mix of chard and beet greens.

If you don’t have a specific use in mind, I can’t suggest enough to precook vegetables like beets and winter squash when you have the chance. They will store in the fridge for the week and make for a quick addition to a dish like this.

beets1

You could, and probably should, adapt this recipe in a number of ways. It was my first time making it, but next time I might add in a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to the pan before adding in the reserved pasta water to thicken up the sauce. I also see it being just as great with Parmesan cheese instead of goat. And I might save some time by boiling the greens with the pasta instead of wilting them in the pan.

Drunken Beet Linguine

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups red wine (about half a bottle)
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch beet greens, chard or kale, roughly chopped or torn
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 medium beets, cooked, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Add the wine to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper. Cook about 8 minutes before adding the greens, nutmeg and ground pepper, to taste. Let wilt, then add the reserved cooking liquid, the butter and the beets. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly. Toss in the cooked pasta until all is combined. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed, then top with the walnuts, goat cheese and herbs.

Holiday Rhubarb Chutney

Rhubarb chutney is one of Joann’s, our administrative coordinator’s, favorite dishes to make this time of year for holiday gatherings. Although very much a spring crop, rhubarb can easily be frozen and ready to use at any time. Don’t know how to freeze rhubarb? Check out this step by step video.

Rhubarb has a very tart flavor that blends well with the sweetness of the sugar in this chutney. That’s why you’ll often see rhubarb paired with naturally sweet strawberries in pie. When cooked, the rhubarb releases juices and breaks down into its fibers. Eventually, as you continue to cook it down, it achieves a perfect jelly-like consistency.

Much like cranberry sauce/chutney, this rhubarb version goes great with poultry, on toast, or with cheese.

Rhubarb Chutney

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/3 cup raisins, coarsely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
12 oz rhubarb, trimmed and cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic and ginger until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add wine and raisins. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Cook for one minute. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in half the rhubarb and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the rhubarb breaks down, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining rhubarb, raise heat and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until second batch of rhubarb just begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Tomatillo Salsa

Here is another one of Randal Smathers’ ingenious VerMex menu items. Why do I say ingenious? Because when I was tying up and pruning my tomato plants the other week, a long overdue task at this point in the season, I knocked off a ton of unripe, green tomatoes in the process. Although this is a tomatillo recipe, like Randal suggests, I think the green tomatoes work just as well. I have never found a good use for green tomatoes  – more so at the end of the summer when the plants have seen the last of their days, and thanks to New England’s short tomato season, are left with fruit that never had enough time to ripen. But by growing tomatillos in a non-native region like Vermont, or utilizing the green tomatoes that some people might simply discard, I think  this salsa is the perfect combo of Vermont’s resourcefulness and Mexico’s flavors.

Tomatillo salsa

With the green tomatoes I found it necessary to greatly increase the honey to bring out their great, though not fully developed, flavor.

  • 1 pound tomatillos or green tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 poblano and/or Anaheim peppers or 4 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 tbsp. sugar or honey
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • Oil
  • Bottled hot sauce (optional)
  • Optional thickening agent (1/4 cup flour or masa harina, 2 tbsp. corn starch, 1 small can tomato paste).

First prepare the peppers
If using reconstituted peppers, steep them in 1 cup boiling water until soft, discard seeds and stem and set aside in the boiling liquid. If using fresh peppers, char them over a gas burner, BBQ grill or under an oven broiler. Peel, discarding the charred outer skin, seeds and stems.

Next prepare the tomatillos (If using green tomatoes, simply chop and puree)
Remove the papery husks and rinse the tomatillos. Lightly score the tops, using a sharp knife to make an X. This will help keep the tomatillos from bursting and losing their seeds in the pot. Bring 2-3 quarts lightly salted water to a rolling boil, then add the tomatillos. Cook until soft, 5-10 minutes, then drain. Puree peppers, adding boiling liquid or water to get a sauce texture. Puree tomatillos. Do not puree them with the peppers, which take much longer to process. You want to leave the tomatillo seeds intact.

Chop the onion and herbs. Crush the garlic. Sweat the onion, herbs and garlic in the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until soft and translucent. Add the pureed tomatillos and peppers, honey and salt. Simmer gently. If it is too bitter, add a little more honey to taste. A little extra cilantro at the end will brighten the color. Can be thickened or used as is as a salsa or sauce with meat or vegetables.

Salsa Al Fresco

Salsa al Fresco

Rutland foodie Randal Smathers contributed some awesome taco related recipes to us this month. Salsa al Fresco – fresh salsa – is the first from his “VerMex” menu. VerMex isn’t a popular Vermont exterminator – it’s the idea that one can create a Vermont-Mexican menu based around the great foods grown and raised right here in our state. We sure have plenty of tomatoes and that means we can certainly make some amazing salsas even though we’re more than 2,000 miles away from Mexico. And what’s a taco without a good salsa? Not much, in my opinion. I love the fresh crunch of the peppers, onions, and corn – as I made this with the variation – the brightness of the cilantro and lime, as well as the ripe, juiciness of the tomatoes.

SALSA AL FRESCO

  • 1 lb tomatoes
  • ½ onion or small bunch of green onions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • Small bunch cilantro
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Salt & pepper
  • Bottled hot sauce (optional)

Dice the tomato, onion and bell pepper. Slice open the jalapeno, discarding the seeds and stem. Slice into strips the size of a wooden match, then mince by cutting across the  . Finely chop cilantro. Combine chopped ingredients. Squeeze the lime juice over them. Season with the cumin, salt and pepper. Store tightly covered in the fridge. Best served the next day. If desired, add a few drops of hot sauce for the desired kick.

Corn salsa variation For the above recipe, substitute cold, grilled corn for ½ the tomatoes.

Rustic (And Decadent) Apple Sauce

Be sure to check out the Diva’s Easy (Pink!) Applesauce for a tasty recipe that takes only 20 minutes.  Try our recommendation for this rustic (and maybe a little decadent) applesauce if you’re looking for a sweeter treat. Ingredients:

  • 8 cups cubed apples, try a variety of sweet varieties (Braeburn, Pink Lady) and tart varieties (Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • dash of salt
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice (optional – adds a nice zing!)
  • 2 tbsp. crème fraîche (optional – adds a smooth, rich finish)

Preparation: Combine first 6 ingredients (through the lemon juice but leave out the crème fraîche) in a saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook 25 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat; mash to desired consistency with a fork or potato masher. It desired, stir in crème fraîche. Serve warm or chilled.

*Adapted from a 2002 Cooking Light recipe

Diva’s Easy (Pink!) Applesauce

This applesauce takes 20 minutes to make, and finished with a lovely pink hue.  The secret?  Leave the skins on.  Why not?  The skins are good for you anyway.Ingredients:

  • 3-5 pounds apples, washed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • maple syrup, to taste
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, to taste

Preparation: Remove apple flesh from cores in four large chunks.  Place chunks in a food processor (half to 3/4 full at a time) and spin for 30 seconds to 1 minute per batch.  Place all pureed apples and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on the stove and simmer, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes.  Taste.  If  you desire additional sweetness, add maple syrup to taste.  Finish with your favorite spices.

Pesto For Your Pizza

Though marinara is fabulous on pizza, it’s not the only way to go.  Try a pesto base, and you won’t be disappointed.  Not familiar with pesto?  Pesto is to basil what chocolate is to cacao–a perfect combination to enhance a dynamic ingredient.  Though it may be a little late in the season to whip up a huge batch for your freezer, you can likely still find some good looking basil in smaller quantities at our local farmers’ market. Classic Pesto

This recipe makes a small batch perfect for a pizza.  Feel free to double, quadruple, etc. for larger batches for your freezer.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (can be substituted with walnuts, though pine nuts are preferred)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • kosher salt, to taste

Instructions

Combine first 4 ingredients in blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. Add both cheeses and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Top with 1/2 inch olive oil and chill.)

Three Basil Pesto

This recipe makes a batch large enough for a couple of pizzas and some leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (1/4 pound)
  • 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 cup packed Italian basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed bush basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh lemon basil leaves
  • 3/4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

Pulse garlic in a food processor until finely chopped, then add nuts, cheeses, a large handful of herbs, and 1 teaspoon pepper and process until chopped. Add remaining herbs one handful at a time, pulsing after each addition, until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil and blend until incorporated.

Simple Marinara Sauce

After pizza dough, the next consideration for your pizza is the base.  Marinara sauce is the traditional way to go for a reason:  it’s simple, versatile, and tastes great.  As the Domestic Diva points out, you can make a big batch of this and freeze leftovers for future pizza or pasta dinners. Thanks Diva, for sharing this great recipe with us! Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

 

  • 1 lg onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1 ½ cups red wine (can be replaced by vegetable or meat broth)
  • 3 ½ pounds of fresh or previously frozen tomatoes. Cut into chunks reserving juices and using additional tomato juice if needed, OR 2 cans of whole or diced tomatoes
  • ½ lg bunch of basil
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of oregano
  • 1 lg pinch kosher salt
  • 1 lg pinch sugar
  • 3-6 tbsp olive oil (to taste)

Directions

Sautè onions in vegetable oil until translucent.  Add garlic, cook until fragrant.

Deglaze with wine.  (What is deglazing?) Add tomatoes, herbs, salt and sugar.  Cook until the mixture simmers.  Add olive oil, to taste.  Puree with blender, immersion blender, magic bullet or food processor.

This is a large batch of sauce, so there will be plenty left over for freezing! Just place in large zip lock bag and place in freezer placed flat on its side.

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