Cutting Board Pesto

Pesto on a crackerHey! Did you know you can make pesto without the food processor? Are you like, “Um, duh, of course you can!” Yeah, that’s what I thought, too! But then you think about it for just one second, and then you’re like, “WAIT. How DO you make pesto without a food processor?” EXACTLY. This, this right here, is how the jarred pesto people get you.

I could go on, and on, and on, about my mini food processor. And then I can think about how my pioneer ancestors would be so, so disappointed in me. At least, they would be if they knew what pesto was. Being Irish immigrants (or ex-pats, as it is apparently more PC  to say?) my guess is that they weren’t exactly one with the pesto. Or with the bathing. Or with the food in general, what with the famine and all. Aaaaand this just took a turn for the super depressing.

Either way, these were badass women who cooked with little more than two potatoes, a cauldron and a stick. Or so I tell myself while I whirred things away in the mini-chop. I simply should not be so attached to my food processor.

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Then, we took a professional knife skills class a few months ago and at the end of the class, our instructor taught us how to make a gorgeous pesto with just the ingredients + a kitchen knife. No food processor in sight. And I was prepared to be skeptical, until I tasted it.

And after that, I just feel bad for my immigrant ancestors, who WISH they could’ve gotten down with some cutting board pesto. They probably also wish they hadn’t gotten cholera and died while fording the rivers, but we can’t have it all.

What I’m really saying is, life’s short. Make this pesto immediately.

CUTTING BOARD PESTO

Ingredients:

. Healthy bunch of basil, aka, large

. 2-3 large garlic cloves.

. Sea salt

. Nuts – walnuts or pine nuts are a great choice

. Wedge of hard parmesan, to be hand grated into your pesto (the processed Kraft kind simply will not do. Also, it’s 2015, so I’m guessing the Kraft train has left the station, Godspeed and good luck to it.)

. Bottle of EVOO. You won’t use the whole thing, but the amount you use is an individual preference. Don’t limit yourself!

Instructions:

1. Wash and spin dry the basil, set it aside to air dry for a few minutes. Once dry, remove the stems.

2. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife, and add a healthy pinch of salt. Continue to mash and combine until you have a little dollop of garlic paste. Scrape it to the center of your board using the top of the knife (in other words, don’t scrape the bottom of your knife or it will dull faster.)

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3. Place the basil and nuts in the center of the board, grate a healthy dose of park over the top, and start chopping! While I absolutely am not qualified to give anyone pro knife skills tips (heh, see what I did there?) what I can tell you is that you want the sharpest knife possible, and to cut into the smallest pieces you can. Just. Keep. Chopping. Until it looks about like this:

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4. Scrape everything into a bowl and add as much EVOO as you’d like. The consistency will range from a thick paste to a swirly sauce, pending how much you add. We like it right in the middle.

5. Try really hard not to eat it with a spoon, but it’s okay if you do. Bonus points if you can put it on a little cracker action before shoving it in your mouth. It also tastes amazing swirled into minestrone soup, on top of pasta, or as the shining star of your charcuterie platter.

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ENJOY, MY LITTLE EX-PATS

Will you accept this rosé?

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Friends! Countrywomen! Put-upon spouses and partners who have had their TVs hijacked every Monday for many weeks! That time is upon us – Bachelorette Finale night. Or “finally” night*, for those of you who are sick of Bachelorette-related crap important news and happenings infiltrating your homes for more hours in a week than you’d care to say. We had to delay our viewing party by a day and the suspense almost killed me. Apparently the rest of the world got the memo that it was going to be Josh a loooong time ago, but some of us are just not that on top of reality news…ahem…

I would LOVE to pretend that I am above The Bachelor franchise. That I don’t care about it, that I don’t watch it, that I feel dumber by participating. But only one of those is true – that I feel a little dumber every time I turn it on. And then Andi puts on another scarf and tells somebody to staaaaaaappppp it and I settle in, uncaring that there are important! world! facts! about Syria or Russia or Prince George or the conflict in Gaza that are being pushed aside in my brain to make room for the Josh v. Nick debate. It’s getting very Flowers for Algernon** up in here.

The only thing I love more than Bach drama is having people over, and when the two collide. WELL. You’d better hope you’re here for the right reasons, is all I’m saying. Or the wrong reasons. I don’t really care. GET IN MAH HOUSE. Because that’s where the party at, yo. Yes, my dear friend Eliza and I threw a Bachelorette-themed evening, much to the confusion and mockery of Le Fiance. Deets are below!

The Mood:

Small bouquets of roses were placed around the house, along with many a flickering candle. Flickering candles are the essence of ro-mahance, don’t you know.

The Food:

Appetizers: The Suspense is Kale-ing Me! (kale chips) + (Will you accept this) rosé

Main: Tuscan Stuffed Chicken (though legs, thighs or butts would also do) served on a bed of brown rice

Dessert: Baked Bourbon Vanilla Peaches over Ice-Cream, as a nod to the Andi’s Atlanta roots

 

Did you watch? Did you have a viewing party? Are you over The Bachelor/ette or still totally into it?

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*The first of a few bad puns. I make no apologies.

**Who is Algernon and what do the Algerians have to do with The Bachelorette, you ask? Don’t ask me. I’m already too much dumber to answer (see above).

 

New York Times Green Goddess Chicken

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Last night was a first attempt at the now infamous New York Times Green Goddess Chicken recipe, and hoo boy was it a hit! A hit with ourselves, naturally, because nobody else lives here and we would never attempt a new recipe for the first time when we had guests over (OR WOULD WE?!) We congratulated ourselves heartily.

Up until now, I’ve always thought of Green Goddess dressing as a feisty, zippy sidekick for salad only. Who am I, world’s least imaginative cook? Why yes, yes I am, nice to meet you. But really. It’s called SALAD DRESSING. Forgive me for not thinking outside the box.

Only we are way outside the box with this one, and it’s a delicious place indeed. The buttermilk and herbs give a nice lift to what would otherwise be a pretty standard (though still delectable) chicken. As Julia Child said in My Life in France, “Ooh, those lovely roasted, buttery French chickens, they were so good and chickeny!” The same could be said of our local SF chickens, though I don’t know any chicken, chickeny! or otherwise, not made better by a tangy, savory sauce, and most especially one that is rip roaring, herbalicious, Hulk-style bright green!

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The next time we make this, I’d use only one sardine (as opposed to two anchovies) for a hint of fish, as opposed to being slapped in the face with a fish. A fish slap seems like the stuff of great physical comedies from the Victorian era. Super funny, yet non-appetizing.

I’d also recommend lightening up on the salt. The marinade was SUPER salty. Like, Great Salt Lake + the side eye your granny gives you when you tell a dirty joke at Thanksgiving. SALTY! I would back off by at least a half teaspoon, if not a full teaspoon. Which doesn’t seem like much, but when you also have the saltiness from the fish, a little sea salt goes a long, long way. We paired our chicken with a roasted sweet potato, primarily to serve as a vehicle for more Green Goddess dressing, because duh. You can also take remaining dressing and use it as a dipping sauce for the chicken itself. OR you can be a true Little Suzy Fat Pants and dump it on top of your cooked chicken, which may be what we did…

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NEW YORK TIMES GREEN GODDESS CHICKEN (with some slight edits)

Ingredients:

. 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

. 1 cup packed basil leaves

. 1/4 cup packed dill

. 2 garlic cloves, peeled

. 1 sardine filet in oil

. 1 scallion, white and green parts

. Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

. 1 – 1 1/5 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (to taste)

. 1 teaspoon black pepper

. 1 (4- to 5-pound) chicken, halved through the breast and back bones, patted dry with paper towels

. 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions:

1. Blend together the buttermilk, herbs, garlic, sardine, scallion, lime, S&P. Puree until smooth. It will froth lightly.

2. Place the chicken in a large bowl and cover with marinade. Refridge overnight. Reserve the rest of the marinade in a jar for later use.

3. The next day (hi! how did you sleep?) preheat the over to 500. Meanwhile…

4. Shake the marinade off the chicken pieces, then lay them on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pat the chicken dry, then drizzle with a bit of EVOO. Toss the old marinade, as it is now full of raw chicken juices. This is also something about which your granny would give you the side eye – a cavalier attitude toward poultry safety.

5. Roast the chicken until it’s cooked through, anywhere form 30-45 minutes. Juices should run clear and the outside will be gloriously crispy. It took my chicken exactly 40 minutes, but just watch it.

6. The hardest part – let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before you rip in. I know you want to caveman it UP right now, but patience.

Gremolata-Inspired Chimichurri

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Do you ever have a week where you feel beaten up? Like you’re the world’s punching bag, or worse – its punchline? That’s how last week felt, for a variety of reasons that have already been vocalized over a few hefty glasses of wine, along with some very unbecoming ugly-crying. It looked much like this.

When I feel like I’ve been at the mercy of the world and other people’s issues, going into the kitchen to create with careless abandon feels right and freeing. There’s a lot I can’t do, but I can cook and I can write. And where the two meet, I find my center. I also throw myself a pretty awesome pity party, as you can clearly see. BUT WHY’S THE WINE GONE?!

What emerged from my kitchen cry? A wonderfully weird sauce that is basically the lovechild of a classic gremolata and a traditional chimichurri. It’s a little weird to do a full blog post about a condiment that’s not even really a thing, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this turned out! It’s also a little odd to have a sauce inspired by a sauce, but you know what?! This is mah blog and I do what I want. That’s another great thing to do when the world punches you in the face: punch it back by doing whatever the eff you want.

Gremolata is simply a blend of herbs, usually parsley, with lemon zest and garlic, while chimichurri is a fabulously green runny parsley and vinegar based Argintinean sauce for meats. This recipe combines the basics of a good gremolata, while adding vinegar for brightness and liquidity and more herbs for flavor, a la a classic chimichurri. What’s missing? Ironically, parsley. I just didn’t have any and had no interest, in my state of extreme crankiness, in going to the store. If you have some, I heartily advise throwing it in.

We used this sauce as a secondary condiment to the famous New York Times Green Goddess Chicken (that recipe coming up tomorrow!) but you could also spoon it over a baked potato, some roasted asparagus, or even on goat cheese crostini. The options are endless really, just as they are for you when you decide to do something. Go do something awesome today. Punch life in the face.

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GREMOLATA-INSPIRED CHIMICHURRI

Ingredients:

. Small handful of dill

. 1 chopped scallions (green parts only)

. 3 cloves of garlic

. 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried shallots

. Small shake of dried herb blend – I love Penzey’s Mural of Flavor for pretty much everything, but you can use whatever you like and have on hand.

. 1/2 fresh lemon – zest and juice

. 1 teaspoon (more or less to taste) of apple cider vinegar

. Optional: small splash of EVOO

Instructions:

1. Put everything into a food processor and blend. Taste and adjust any seasonings you find lacking. I ended up adding a small swirl of EVOO at the end, just to smooth things out.

DIY Microwave Popcorn

Good people of the world, you are being ripped off.

I know, I know. Unwelcome news on a Tuesday, bad way to start the week, etc. But seriously? Have you ever heard of a little thing called “microwave popcorn”? It’s all “oh yeah baby, just hit the popcorn button. I’m hot and fresh and ready and I only cost $7 a box. Easy.”

Don’t try to butter me up, scam popcorn, because now I know what everyone should know: you can make your own.

Yes, in the microwave.

Microwave popcorn in your house, sans the microwave popcorn box.

Aside from the obvious cost savings – plain kernels are .99 per pound at Trader Joe’s, while microwave bags add up to a few bucks a bag – the DIY edition of this snack eliminates Earth killing cellophane wrappers, non-recyclable bags of questionable origin and content, and there is a refreshing absence of fake butter. Plus, you can add all your own seasonings and spices. My favorite is salt, pepper, EVOO and chile powder. You know, for when you want your snack to punch you in the mouth. That’s my preference, obviously.

Let’s do it, shall we?

DIY MICROWAVE POPCORN

Ingredients:

. I lb. bag of plain popcorn kernels from your local grocery store

. A few tablespoons of butter or EVOO, if desired

. Salt, pepper, chile powder, cinnamon, sugar, dill, powdered jalapeño – any spice you like and think will taste good on popcorn!

. A plain brown paper bag – lunch sacks or bakery bags work well

Instructions:

1. Fill your paper bag with a quarter cup of plain kernels.

2. Roll the bag closed, but not so tight that it can’t expand a bit.

3. Pop on high for two-ish minutes. I just watched it and when the obvious popping stopped, I pulled the bag out.

4. Shake into a bowl, coat with butter or EVOO, and top with your desired spices.

Eat it.

Homemade Ricotta

You know when you’re at the grocery store, and you look at something delicious and indignantly think, “I could totally make that!” and then you go home and start watching Downton Abbey, or go for a run, or chat to your long distance boyfriend on the phone for three hours, and then wake up the next morning and go about your business and you never make that thing? Even though, you know, you obviously could. Ahem, peanut butter cups, kettle chips, and ice-creams! I’m lookin’ at you.

I never thought any of that with cheese. Cheese was, to me, something that came only from the great cheese-making people in the sky. Even though Sesame Street showed me otherwise in the late ’80s, and I’ve remembered that awesomely ’80s clip all these years, it truly never occurred to me that I, too, could be a great cheese-making person, right in my own kitchen. Until our Joanna showed me otherwise.

Did you guys know you can make cheese right in your own kitchen? And then eat it, while watching Downton Abbey? Not totally in your kitchen, but still inside your own house? Unless you have a TV right in your kitchen and then you just win.

This recipe does require a few tools the average cook may not have: a cheese cloth, a cheese thermometer (no, you cannot use your meat thermometer, I already asked that), and a bowl large enough to hold your colander and accommodate whey runoff. Yes, whey. I know about whey. Because I make cheese now.

This recipe is for a delicious, creamy, spreadable ricotta, perfect for bruschetta, lasagna, mixing with honey and fruit, spreading on sandwiches, and just eating with a spoon if you feel so inclined. And why wouldn’t you? It’s your kitchen, after all. Go on about your business! Go make that thing!

HOMEMADE RICOTTA

Ingredients:

. 3 cups whole milk
. 1 cup heavy cream
. 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
. 3 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions:

1. Combine the whole milk, cream and salt in a large saucepan and heat to 190 degrees, stirring occasionally so it won’t scorch.

2. While the milk and cream are heating, rinse out a cheese cloth and spread it across a colander in preparation for draining. Then, halve and squeeze two lemons for the fresh lemon juice.
3. Once the cheese has reached 190, add in the lemon juice, stir once more, then let it rest in the saucepan for five minutes untouched.

4. Pour the cheese mixture into the cheese cloth, then place the colander inside a large bowl, to catch the runoff. Also known as whey, for those familiar with cheese making. Or, you know, Little Miss Muffet.

5. Empty the initial whey, scrape down the sides of the cheese cloth, and gently press the cheese mixture down. Then let it rest for about an hour for a creamy cheese, two hours for a firmer, more dense cheese. To store, press into a tupperware dish and refrigerate for up to three days.

EAT IT.