February 28, 2011

Arugula Pecan Pesto

Pesto originated in Genoa, Italy and means to crush or pound in Genoese. Traditionally made with basil, hard cheese, pine nuts and olive oil, I like to make both traditional pesto and variations. Arugula makes a nice substitute for basil because of its spicy nutty flavor. Roasted garlic is delicious on its and as an ingredient because it add a smooth and mild garlic flavor. I generally make enough pesto to freeze as an easy option for future dishes. Arugula pesto is delicious over gnocchi and makes a great pizza sauce.

Other hard Italian cheeses may be used instead or in addition to Parmesan. Walnuts or pine nuts may be used instead of pecans.

3 c fresh arugula

½ c parmesan

¼ c pecans, toasted

2 cloves roasted garlic

2 tbsp parsley, stemmed

½ c olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add arugula and cook for 1 minute. Place arugula under cold water to stop cooking process and blanch. Once cooled, squeeze water from arugula, tightly wrap in a clean dish towel and set aside.

2. Next, place pecans, parsley, garlic and parmesan into food processor or blender. Blend ingredients until well combined. Add drained arugula to food processor and blend until thoroughly combined. Slowly add olive oil while processing and continue blending into a smooth paste.

3. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as desired. Pesto may be frozen for up to 1 year.

To roast garlic: preheat oven to 400 degrees, sprinkle olive oil on a head of garlic, wrap in tinfoil, place in oven and bake until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Use or refrigerate for up to one week.

Makes about 2 cups

February 22, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Although I do not have a particularly strong sweet tooth, I do love making sweets. Chocolate chip cookies might be one of my favorite things to bake, a simple yet classic cookie. A few years ago, the magazine Cooks Illustrated gave me the idea to freeze cookie balls for future use, so as to always be able to have fresh baked cookies on the ready. It might be one of the most useful tips I have learned because it means I am able to make a full batch of cookies but only bake them on an as needed basis. Given that I am usually cooking for a limited amount of people, frozen cookie balls are a perfect solution to fresh cookie issues.

Frozen dough does not seem to bake any longer than fresh dough. Make sure the dry ingredients and any additional flour is well combined before choosing to add more.

2 - 2 ½ c white flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 c brown sugar

½ c granulated sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt

1 c butter, softened

2 eggs

2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, combine 2 c flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

2. Next, thoroughly combine butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add vanilla and eggs and continue combining until light and creamy.

3. Slowly begin to add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, being sure the ingredients are well mixed. Add additional flour, in small amounts, as necessary until the cookie dough just comes together to form balls without being too wet but still being moist and sticky. Once dough has reached desired consistency, add chocolate chips and stir to combine. Roll dough into one-inch balls.

4. To bake: place cookie balls on baking sheets allowing for two inches between cookies. Bake cookies between 5-10 minutes depending upon oven temperature variations and personal preference, watching carefully as they tend to bake quickly.

5. To freeze: place cookie balls on a baking sheet or baking pan which will be able to fit into your freezer. Cookie balls may be placed close together. Place the full sheet or pan in the freezer and freeze cookie balls for at least four hours. Once cookie balls are frozen, transfer to a zip lock bag and return to freezer. Follow baking instructions above. Cookie balls may be frozen up to 4 months.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

February 17, 2011

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Slivered Garlic

A few nights ago I made fettuccine with Alfredo sauce and wanted a colorful and flavorful relish to accompany such a pale and creamy entrée. Cherry tomatoes were developed by Israeli scientists in 1973, and now their are a number of different varieties ranging in color, size and flavor. Roasting cherry tomatoes mellows and sweetens their flavor and seems to make their color more vivid as well. I like to use them in side dishes or relishes because they are generally slightly more acidic than larger tomatoes and so add a lot of flavor in small portions. Roasted cherry tomatoes are really good along side polenta, rice fritters or socca and also make a great pizza topping.

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp parsley, stems removed

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss tomatoes in ½ tbsp olive oil and spread out in 9" x 9" baking dish. Roast tomatoes until skin starts to wrinkle and juices are released, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat ½ tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and parsley, stir to combine and remove from heat.

3. Combine parsley, garlic and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Serve tomatoes warm or room temperature.

Makes about 1 cup of relish

February 13, 2011


Hummus is one of my favorite ways to prepare and eat garbanzo beans because it is versatile, simple and delicious. Hummus likely originated in the Middle East as sesame, garbanzo beans, olive oil, garlic and lemon were ingredients commonly eaten in the region. I prefer to make my own hummus, as it is very easy and tastes especially good when fresh. Hummus can be paired with any number of items including meats, vegetables, cheeses and breads.

Though time consuming, I prefer to cook my own garbanzo beans canned garbanzo beans always taste canned to me; however, either will work well for hummus.

2 c cooked garbanzo beans

¼ c tahini

1 clove garlic, peeled

½ lemon, juiced

¼ c parsley, stemmed

¼ c olive oil


salt and pepper

1. Place garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, parsley and olive oil in a food processor. Thoroughly combine, adding water as necessary to bring hummus to desired consistency.

2. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Makes about 2 cups

February 9, 2011

Southwestern Stewed Pork and Beans

I first came across Christmas lima beans while shopping at a farmer's market in Tucson, Arizona. The Native Seeds Search was selling them along with many other beans and grains. I was drawn to their red and white color immediately and decided to bring them home to New York to cook with them. Christmas lima beans were popular in the South during the mid-19th century and have only recently resurfaced with the help of heirloom bean growers around the country. They have subsequently become one of my favorite beans. Though they can be difficult to find, I have been able to order them online and find them at specialty markets. Beet salad or marinated brassicas or beets and tangerines would make a nice starter or side to this stew.

Any variety of bean will work for this stew, such as a kidney, pinto or other lima bean.

½ lb pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 c Christmas lima beans, cooked

1 medium yellow onion, trimmed and diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, trimmed and diced

1 large red pepper, trimmed and diced

1 small waxy potato, peeled and diced

½ c corn, fresh or frozen

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground cumin

½ c beer

2 c stock


salt and pepper

1. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven, or similarly heavy pan, over medium heat. Add pork, brown each side, remove pork from pan and set aside.

2. Keeping pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the potato and fry until golden brown. Next, add onion, carrot, pepper and celery, sautéing until translucent. Add cumin, chili and garlic and continue sautéing until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add beer to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Return the browned pork to the Dutch oven, add cooked beans and return ingredients to a simmer. Once simmering, add stock, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until pork is tender, about 20 minutes. Add additional water if necessary to maintain cooking liquid.

4. Once pork is tender, remove stew from heat, add corn and water if necessary. Cover and set for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Serve warm with sour cream and cilantro or toppings of choice.

Serves 3-4

February 3, 2011

Coconut Pumpkin Purée

Although pumpkins are likely the best-known squash grown in the States and a versatile ingredient for cooking, we seem to associate them with only Halloween or Thanksgiving and a limited amount of dishes. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in the Americas and are now grown around the world. I like using pumpkin because it works well in both sweet and savory recipes. Pumpkin purée accompanies orange pecan kale and blue potatoes.

Olive or vegetable oil could easily be used instead of coconut oil. I roasted the pumpkin but other methods of cooking would work as well. The amount of coconut milk may vary depending upon preference.

4 c cooked pumpkin

1 medium yellow onion, trimmed and roughly chopped

2 tbsp coconut oil

½ c coconut milk

salt and pepper

1. Heat coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sauté until translucent and remove from heat.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4