A Little Something…

…to hold you over until tomorrow’s exciting experiment:

I made another round of garlic scape pesto, this time without the peas. This time, I used two bunches of garlic scapes (about 10), one bunch of fresh basil (also from the CSA), 2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, 1/3 cup of olive oil, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. I put this batch in the freezer so that I can enjoy the delightful taste of scapes later in the season!

…and a little something to hold me over: the perfect summer snack. I chopped up the little pickling cucumber, added a bit of feta and tossed them with some olive oil and chili powder. Such a nice little treat.

Happy snacking!

~CM

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House Warming Experiments

Yesterday, my dear friends were moving into their new apartment and I wanted to bring over a special treat. I was taking the train up to see them, so I needed it to be easy to transport. After my cousin sent me the link to Smitten Kitchen’s pea pesto, I spent a long time perusing her wonderful blog. If you haven’t read it before, check it out! I was especially intrigued by her post on homemade ricotta (or ricotta-inspired soft cheese). I decided to try it out and also make a version of the pea pesto.

When it comes to the cheese, it was remarkably easy! And the end result was delicious. I highly recommend it. Because I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe verbatim, I’m just going to post my pictures. Check out her blog for the details. NB: The fresher the milk you can find, the better the cheese will end up.

I used my Le Crueset because you should use a non-reactive pot. I was concerned about using non-stick so this was my best alternative. After heating the milk and cream to 190 degrees, I added the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, let the cheese sit for 5 minutes and poured the whole shebang through cheesecloth.

This is what it looked like when it first went into the cheese cloth. After this, all you do is wait! Let the cheese drain for about 2 hours. As it drains, it hardens and the curds become more visible. After 1 hour, you could already see a big difference:

After an hour, the cheese has reduced a bit, though there is still a lot of whey mixed in with the curds. By the time it was done draining, it had reduced to about a cup and a half of curds. The lemon gave it a nice fresh, summery taste. After I go to the gym a few more times, I am definitely making this cheese again!

When I first saw the pea pesto recipe, I knew it was something I wanted to try. In our CSA share this week, we got another small bag of delicious looking peas. I shelled them and we had about 1/2 cup total. I knew this wouldn’t be enough to make the pea pesto as directed, but I knew I still wanted to include the peas.

Perfect fresh peas!

Because I didn’t have enough peas, I decided to fill out the pesto with garlic scapes and basil! I’d been wanting to make garlic scape pesto anyway, but, again, based on quantity (and my need to eat them right away) I haven’t been able to make it yet. I chopped the four garlic scapes into about 1 inch pieces, just using my kitchen shears, and tossed about a cup of basil into the food processor.

I blanched the peas for about 4 minutes while toasting pine nuts in a dry cast iron skillet.

Once everything was ready, I tossed 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, all the peas, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and about 1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese into the food processor and blended until smooth.

The pesto became the most beautiful vivid green color and had a delightfully smooth texture. The peas lended a touch of summer and mellowness that is unusual for pesto. The garlic scapes added just a bit of bite and heat and the basil filled it out with a classic pesto finish. We served these on slices of baguette with the cheese spread first topped with the pesto. I ate probably two thirds of it and it was delicious (if I do say so myself)!

Don’t you wish I brought this to your house? Luckily, you can make it for yourself! The pesto is also delicious tossed with pasta. Just reserve a bit of the cooking water to help it bond to the noodles and smooth out the texture.

~CM

Rediscovering Green Things

I’m back home! Man, is it nice to be back. I had a fabulous time in the Midwest at my cousin’s wedding. We had so much fun but I am wiped. If you ever want to feel 16 again, take an eighteen hour road trip with your parents in a very small car! We made excellent time back, but I was definitely ready to stretch out after squeezing into the back seat. I love our trips to the Midwest because I get to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins, but sometimes I feel like no one out there has heard of fruits or vegetables! We ate a TON of starch and my body is craving greens. So I was excited when I got home and found some bits and pieces left from our CSA share. I had stopped at one of my favorite neighborhood shops, Capone Foods, and picked up fresh pasta, sauce, and ricotta.

After cooking the pasta, which was black pepper papardelle, I tossed a bunch of spinach about the size of my head into the pot with a little bit of olive oil and sauteed it for about a minute just to soften it up.

Yum! Leafy greens do the body good! After a quick saute, I tossed the pasta back in with the spinach. Doesn’t that look tasty and fresh?!?

The sauce I picked up at Capone’s is a Roasted Red Pepper Pesto. I’ve never tried it before, but all of their other sauces are fabulous. This one was no exception. The peppers just added a hint of heat and smokiness. Then, adding in the ricotta gave the meal just enough creaminess.

Very satisfying! I can’t wait to get into more light summer cooking in the days and weeks ahead. I’m off to finish out my meal with a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with some of my local honeycomb. Cheers!

~CM