Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pesto, Pumpkin Bread, Etc.

Unfortunately for the blog world, I don't have enough minutes in my day to post everything I eat. I'm sure everyone would find it terribly interesting, since I try to only ever eat things that sound positively delicious at the moment: a Lindor truffle ball, some homemade soup, or Wheat Thins with sliced cheddar. Maybe that doesn't sound terribly exciting to you, but then again maybe you don't enjoy food as much as I do.

So, in the past two weeks, I've made (at least) a few noteworthy foods, and I'm just going to quickly mention them and throw down the recipes for reference. Don't be misguided by my short blog, though, if this turns out to be short. You definitely need to try these.

First, I made fresh halibut on the grill with this wonderful tomato cream sauce...definitely the best I've ever done, and it wasn't even my recipe. It was Emeril's. Shocking, I know. I used my garden tomatoes, Brandywines (the last of the season, which finished ripening in the house). I'm sure that helped, but I think the recipe was very well done. You can find it here. Well, it's a recipe for more than the sauce, but the sauce is what I made. Except I used chicken broth instead of fish stock. And I didn't add the tomato paste or parsley. And I probably threw in more thyme than it called for, since my garden has produced abundant amounts of thyme. So delicious!

Next, I made pesto with the last of my basil before we had a hard frost. My brother Dan had sent an email out to the family about his pesto recipe, which was strikingly similar to mine, with a couple of exceptions, so it got me thinking along pesto lines, and I quickly (because pesto is very fast to make) threw together a batch. My favorite way of eating pesto, by the way, is on roasted, cubed red potatoes. You'll need to add a little extra olive oil and perhaps salt to the potatoes along with the pesto, but I personally find it way better than on any pasta. Following is my recipe, but I should preface it by saying Dan's called for half the pine nuts and 2/3 the cheese, but I like the pine nuts and cheese, even if it dispells the basil a bit. His also calls for twice the garlic, which I only recomment if you've got tiny cloves of garlic or like a really strong bite, as it doesn't get cooked and will hit you pretty fast. Sometimes I do like mine that way, but usually I like a more subtle blend.


2 cups basil leaves, washed and dried
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts (toast in a dry skillet over low, they burn very easily)
pinch or so of Kosher salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c. grated fresh parmigiano reggiano
about 1/2 c. olive oil

Blend the first four ingredients in a food processor, then quickly blend in the cheese. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil to desired consistency, no more than 1/2 cup.

Don't forget to try it with potatoes!

And I finally reached my 4-year goal of finding a pumpkin bread recipe that I really like. I wanted something a little creamy, reminiscent of the smooth custard feel you get when you eat a pumpkin pie, not so much like zucchini bread that feels dried out after a day. When I was little, we used to spread butter or cream cheese on our zucchini bread or pumpkin bread - I wanted a bread that didn't need that and preferred to be left toppingless. My 7-year old Emily and I at last achieved that just yesterday. The recipe makes two loaves. I froze one, and this is all that was left of the other for a measly, low-light picture. Since I took the picture 20 minutes ago, even less is left. So here it is, a combination of recipes, of course, so it's mine now:

Pumpkin Bread

1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c. white sugar
4 large eggs
2 c. pumpkin (canned works great)
1 t. vanilla
2/3 c. cream (oh, come on! that's 1/3 c. per loaf, and how much of that are you eating?)
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 T. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Spray two 9" x 5" loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, about 2 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Separately, stir together the pumpkin and cream. Slowly add the flour mixture to the pumpkin batter in 3 additions, adding half the pumpkin and cream between each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and bake 60-70 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out fairly clean, or at least without really moist crumbs attached to it. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pans and cool completely (or at least another 20 minutes) before slicing. Wrap any leftovers tightly to keep moist.

You better try this one while it's still the season for pumpkin. Of course, once you have it, you'll be making it throughout the winter.

I better go finish off that last piece.


Anonymous said...

Well, as your big brother I have two words of advice: raw cashews! I know it's not the standard for pesto, and I wouldn't want it all the time, but it makes an absolutely delicious and creamy pesto that can't be beat. Only the raw cashews will be as sweet and soft as you need for a pesto, but give it a try sometime and you'll probably like it. (I almost wanted to eat the pesto with a spoon when it was freshly made!)

My recipe did call for 4 cloves of garlic, but I'm a garlic lover and probably threw in more than that. Also depends greatly on the garlic variety that you are using how pungent or sharp it is.

Although I roughly followed the recipe, I used what I had on hand to whip it up. Probably used more cheese than the recipe called for and almost double the nuts. Probably not quite 2 cups of Basil on hand when I made it either, but if it's a tomato based dish I throw in basil near the end just before the pesto anyway.

2 cups Basil leaves
1/2 cup Extra-virgin olive oil (as needed)
4 cloves Garlic; peeled, coarsely sliced
1/4 cup Pine nuts or shelled walnuts (I used raw cashews)
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan cheese or any hard cheese (I used Pecorino Romano)

On the subject of fish... I really love fish on the grill, and my favorite so far has been a 1+lb fillet of steelhead trout, salted on both skin and flesh side about 1-2 hours ahead of grilling. Then fire the grill on high, lay the skin side down first on the grill, after 3-4 minutes turn over and grill another 3-4 minutes. Remove from grill just before flesh is fully cooked through, rest it about 5 minutes before devouring. I used a small amount of smoke chips on the grill at the same time. It reminds me of hot smoked salmon in flavor, and the texture is absolute heaven on a plate. It's simple too, just pre-salt it and grill - the added smoking chips are great, but not essential. (If you don't like salmon, halibut or other oily fish then don't bother with this recipe. It's the fish oil that makes this a great meal - steak with fins!)

Anonymous said...

Oh... I should have mentioned my favorite recipe for pasta sauce with pesto. I kinda wing it everytime, so this is never quite the same twice.

1/4-1/2 medium RED onion finely diced (other onions are fine, but the red is my favorite for this)

Maybe a little garlic depending on how much tomato I put in.

Sweat the onion/garlic in about 3 Tbsp of olive oil & 1/2 tsp salt.

1-2 medium tomatoes, cut coarsely
Throw tomatoes in when the onion is translucent.

Salt & Pepper to taste, but remember you will put in pesto at the end.

Once tomatoes start to break down throw in 1 Tbsp butter & 1/4+ cup coarsely chopped basil. Stir that in.

Once the basil wilts put in 1/4+ cup pesto. REMOVE FROM HEAT, or the cheese in pesto will stick to the bottom of the pan.

If it looks a little too thick then add a little pasta water to the sauce. Stir lightly and you'll have a very nice & creamy sauce that people would swear should be in a fancy italian restaurant.

Great over any pasta, but I like it with linguine best topped with a little bit of freshly grated cheese.

For variety add seasonal vegetables to this dish. Fresh zuchinni, mushrooms, peas, beans, or whatever has a hearty flavor to it would work good.

Cooking is an art of personal pleasure. Experiment and you might be surprised what you learn.