Archive | August, 2011

Basil and Parsley Pesto

25 Aug

In all fairness, pesto doesn’t really require a recipe.  Combine some greens, cheese, and nuts in your food process and combine.  Simple enough, right?  That said, certain pestos are more successful than others, and this was a successful pesto.  Instead of expensive pine nuts, I substituted some inexpensive but delicious Spanish peanuts.  A combination of basil and parsley made for something a little more interested and versatile than simple basil pesto.  So far this week, we’ve eaten this on some sautéed gnocchi and tomatoes (pictured) for a delicious dinner and as a spread on a dressed-up grilled cheese.  It has a burst of fresh flavor from the basil and flat leaf parsley with the hint of salty, cheese-y nutty goodness that makes pesto shine thanks to the peanuts and cheese.

Basil and Parsley Pesto

Yield: About 2 cups pesto

4 cups fresh basil, loosely packed

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, loosely packed

1/4 cup Spanish peanuts

1/4 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Place peanuts in a food processor.  Run for about 20 seconds until very finely chopped.  Add cheese and pulse a few times to combine.  Add basil and parsley and pulse 10-15 times until finely chopped and well combined with nuts and cheese.  With processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until a paste forms.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Cabbage and Rice Casserole

24 Aug

After taking a couple of bites of this healthy, very low fat (fat-free if you opt against including the cheese!), Zak remarked that it tasted a lot like stuffed cabbage.  It certainly did, with a really subtle sweetness that played well against the vinegar and acid of the tomatoes.  The hint of heat from the crushed red pepper flakes worked really well with the other flavors.  The health value and heartiness of the casserole was punched up with the inclusion of brown rice, which accounts for the long cooking time.  If you don’t have the time on your hands, I suggest you substitute white rice for the brown and dial down the baking time to between half and hour and forty five minutes.  As is, this casserole is delicious and flavor-packed and heats up really well as leftovers.  It has all of the flavor but significantly less calories and fat and a mere fraction of the effort as stuffed cabbage.

Cabbage and Rice Casserole

Yield:  About 6 servings

Adapted from kittencalskitchen at

1/2 medium Vidalia onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small head cabbage, shredded

1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup uncooked Carolina brown rice

1 28 oz. can crushed bail & herb tomatoes

2 tbs. brown sugar

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups water

2 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

1/4 cup farmer’s cheese, shredded (optional)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray an 9″ x 13″ casserole dish or roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Place onion and cabbage on the bottom of your casserole dish or roasting pan.

Mix together canned  tomatoes with juice, sugar, vinegar, mustard, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a large bowl.  Fold in cabbage and rice until evenly coated

Pour cabbage/tomato mixture over the onion and garlic in the casserole dish.  Add water.  Cover with a lid or tinfoil.

Bake about an hour and thirty minutes to an hour and forty five minutes or until vegetables and rice are cooked through.  Stir in fresh tomatoes and top with cheese (if desired, I topped about 1/4 of the casserole with cheese).  Return to oven and bake, uncovered, another 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and all ingredients are totally cooked.

Peach Tart

23 Aug

Though I’m not usually much for baking, an abundance of peaches from our CSA prompted me to bust out the tart pan for a sweet rather than savory application.  I’m very glad I did, because this tart was absolutely delicious.  The pastry was crumbly, butter-y, and sweet and the peaches were perfectly caramelized with a hint of vanilla.  I loved the slight bite of the freshly cracked black pepper.  Although I’m no dessert expert, I thought this was a real home run.  It was also basically foolproof.  If you can pulse a food processor and work a rolling pin, you can make this easy, flavor-packed explosion of peachy goodness.

Peach Tart

Adapted from


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbs. granulated white sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1″ chunks

1/8 to 1/4 cup very cold water

Non-stick cooking spray

Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.  Pulse in 1 second bursts 5-10 times until combined.  Add the butter a piece at a time while pulsing until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the water a bit at a time until the dough forms a ball and just comes together.  Try to minimize the processing as much as possible.

Turn the pastry onto a lightly floured cutting board and form into a ball.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator about an hour.

Working on your floured cutting board, roll out the pastry into about a 14″ circle.

Spray a tart pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Drape pastry over the tart pan.  Place in refrigerator while preparing peach filling (see below).

Peach Filling:

5 peaches, washed and scrubbed, cut into 1/4″ slices

1 tbs. white granulated sugar

1 tbs. honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl, combine peaches, sugar, honey, and vanilla extract.  Let sit about an hour, chilled.

Preheat oven to 450º.

Arrange peaches in the pastry however you please.  As you can see, I did a spiral pattern, but you could just as easily dump ’em in and spread them into an even layer.

Bake 40-50 minutes until crust and peaches are browned.  Let sit about ten minutes before cutting.

Baba Ghanouj

22 Aug

Baba ghanouj is incredibly easy, incredibly delicious, and almost unbelievably healthy.  It’s so easy to roast up an eggplant and throw it in the food processor with a few ingredients, but it yields an explosion of flavor.  Though it’s possible to switch up the flavor of baba ghanouj by adding cumin or other spices, I decided to leave this as simple as possible.  It really allowed the flavor of the roasted eggplant and fresh parsley to shine.

Classes start again this afternoon so I was looking for something yummy but healthy to snack on this week while studying, and this is absolutely perfect for that.  Since I’m taking a couple of classes held in the evening this year, my schedule is going to be a little different than I’m used to.  I’m hoping I can fall into a good cooking groove quickly.  My current plan is to use Sunday afternoons to cook up a few snacks or meals that can be utilized throughout the week, such as dips like this baba ghanouj, casseroles, pasta sauces, and fixings for slow cooker meals.  We’ll see how it goes.

Baba Ghanouj

1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise

2 tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley

2 tbs. tahini sauce

1 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Homemade naan, for serving

Preheat oven to 350º.

Poke each half of eggplant a few times with a fork.  Rub flesh side of egg plant with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Place flesh side down on a tinfoil lined baking sheet.  Bake 40-50 minutes until very tender.  You should be able to easily insert a paring knife and the skin should be wrinkled.

Remove from oven and let cool until cool enough to handle.  Scoop out flesh into a colander and let excess liquid drain from the eggplant.

Place garlic, parsley, tahini, and lemon juice in the food processor.  Pulse a few times to chop garlic and parsley.  Add eggplant and pulse 10-15 times in one second bursts until mostly smooth.

Refrigerate for a few hours to allow flavors to meld.  Serve garnished with parsley and naan for dipping.

Whole Grilled Lemon-Parsley Barramundi

21 Aug

I had been toying with the idea of grilling a whole fish for most of the summer but was a bit hesitant because I had never cooked a whole fish before, on the grill or otherwise.  However, there were some really lovely-looking whole barramundi at the grocery store yesterday for the right price.  I decided I would just have to suck it up and figure it out, especially since it was a gorgeous day for lighting up the grill.

The barramundi is a white-fleshed fish with a sweet, buttery flavor.  The flesh of the barramundi is quite firm, making it an ideal fish for grilling whole.  The fishmonger at the grocery store had scaled and gutted the fish, but I removed all of the fins prior to stuffing it.  They can be quite sharp and I didn’t want to take any chances cutting myself.  Furthermore, the fins will burn off faster than the flesh of the fish and I didn’t want them smoking or catching on fire.  There are tons of tutorials and videos online for how to clean and gut a whole fish.  I had seen my dad do it a bunch of times when I was younger and the fishmonger had taken care of most of my dirty work for me, but they are definitely worth a quick peruse.

We absolutely devoured this.  The flesh of the fish was perfectly seasoned – salty and sweet with a hint of herbaceous flavors from the parsley and acidity from the lemon.  The charcoal imparted a lovely smokey flavor to the flesh and skin, which was crispy and delicious.  The entire fish was moist and perfectly cooked.  Keep a close eye on the fish and use touch and sight to judge when the fish is cooked through.  Bear in mind that the fish will continue to cook for several minutes after being removed from the grill, so be sure to remove it as soon as the flesh turns opaque on the second side.

Whole Grilled Lemon-Parsley Barramundi

1 .75 lb. whole barramundi, gutted and scaled with fins and gills removed

3 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. kosher salt

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, loosely packed

Non-stick cooking spray

Cut about 3 slices per side of fish to but not through the bone.  Rub inside and out with olive oil.  Season liberally with kosher salt, inside and out of the cavity.  Stuff cavity with parsley and some of the lemon slices.  Place the fish on a platter and top with a few more lemon slices.  Let marinate at least an hour.

Preheat charcoal grill to medium-high.

Make sure your grill grates are very clean and the grill grate gets very hot.  Spray the grill grate liberally with non-stick cooking spray just before adding the fish.

Place fish on the grill.  Cook fish, without touching, for about 5-6 minutes.  Using a spatula and tongs, carefully remove the fish from the grate of the grill.  Let cook another 3-4 minutes, for a total of 8-10 minutes.  Remove the lemon slices from the top of the fish and set aside.  Carefully flip the fish.  Replace the lemon slices.  Cook another 5-6 minutes before beginning to free the fish from the grate of the grill.  Cook another 3-4 minutes.  When finished, the flesh of the fish should be opaque and semi-firm to the touch.  The skin will be browned and crispy.

Carefully remove to a serving dish when cooked through.  Devour like wild animals (if you’re going to do exactly what we did, you can’t skip this step).

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