Archive for category Condiments

Mid Winter Taste of Summer with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Generally,  I’m a big proponent of eating seasonally and locally, but the months of January through March in New York really test my principles.  Go to your average farmer’s market during these months and it’s all tubers and meats as far as the eye can see with a few very very expensive hydroponic tomatoes thrown in.  I’m one of those people that could live quite happily with only 2 seasons – spring and summer.  So in a flight of fancy and in an attempt to alleviate the culinary boredom of winter, I bring you a recipe for a summery Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

The concentrated sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes combined with the savory garlic cloves and pine nuts makes this sun-dried tomato pesto bright and packed with flavor.  This is the ultimate in cooking after work because, if you’re organized, the pesto can be prepared in less than 15 minutes, and it’s extremely versatile.  The most obvious use is as a sauce over pasta.  Another easier use is to spread it on toast and top it with a little mozzarella and basil for those really late nights when it’s too late for a full meal, but you need a little something to quiet your stomach.  If you feel like doing a little more cooking after work, sun-dried tomato pesto is very nice spooned over grilled chicken breasts (bringing total prep time to just under 40 minutes).  Or, you can copy my dinner tonight, which was toasted challah bread topped with sun-dried tomato pesto, a few fresh basil leaves (yes – another out of season cheat, but I’ve really been craving spring lately), and slices of a grilled chicken breast.  It was heavenly and took less than 40 minutes to prepare the sun-dried tomato pesto and cook the chicken.

This recipe makes enough for several meals so with a little creativity you can cook a variety of quick meals after work through the week with very little effort.  Oh and I almost forgot – a spoonful of sun-dried tomato pesto mixed into or on top of scrambled eggs is excellent – although the garlic might not make you very popular in the office that morning!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

makes about 1 1/2 cups (360ml)

Qty Item
3/4 cup (180ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 cup (114g) Basil leaves
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh lemon juice
1 cup (227g) Sun-dried Tomatoes packed in Oil
1/4 cup (57g) Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup (57g) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  1. Toast the pine nuts and then set them aside to cool. Note: the toasting is not critical, but adds flavor; and walnuts make a cheaper substitute for the pine nuts, but will give the pesto a stronger nutty taste.
  2. Drain the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, rinse the tomatoes with water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  3. Place all the ingredients except for the Parmigiano Reggiano into a very powerful blender in the order listed. Pack the ingredients down into the blades, then blend on medium speed until the desired consistency is reached (it’s a pesto not a sauce so it should still be a little thick).  The amount of oil varies a little every time I make this pesto depending on the tomatoes used and how carefully I’ve measured everything.  If you find the pesto is too thick and dry to blend properly or for your taste, add more oil by slowly pouring in more oil through the opening in the cap of the blender while the blender is running on a low speed until the desired thickness is reached.
  4. Then add in the Parmigiano Reggiano and blend for a few seconds more.
  5. Store any leftovers in a freezer safe container under a thin film of oil.  It will last about a week or so in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.

Note: If you don’t have a powerful blender, you can use a food processor.  If using a food processor, it’s easier to process the dry ingredients together first until you have a very chunky dry paste then slowly pour in the oil through the tube while the processor is running until you reach the desired consistency.


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T’is the Season… for Meyer Lemons.

It’s that time of year again when Meyer Lemons start appearing in grocery stores in New York.  What are Meyer Lemons, you ask?  My understanding is that Meyer Lemons are native to China and are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.  They were introduced into the U.S. early in the last century by Frank Meyer (thus, the name “Meyer Lemons”) and are now most prolific in the U.S. in California.  If you haven’t ever tried them, stop what you’re doing and go get some immediately as they are truly wonderful.  The flavor is still lemon-like, but sweeter and less tart.  If I were more poetic, I would attempt to describe its perfume, but since I’m not at all poetic, let’s just say it smells lovely.  The skin is thinner and smoother than a regular lemon, and as you can see from the picture, they are a beautiful sun gold color.   Anywhere that you would use a regular lemon, you can sub in Meyer Lemons for a more complex taste.

I didn’t create this salsa recipe, but I use it and modify it regularly (one of my favorite modifications being the use of Meyer Lemons rather than regular lemons).  I know roasted lemons sound weird, but the roasting mellows out the acidity of the lemons.  The salsa is great as a topping for grilled fish or chicken, or as a dip for shrimp. While the salsa is easy to prepare, it does require some resting time so, like most condiments, its best to make it ahead and store it.

I mostly use it on top of a broiled fillet of white fish such as trout.   Just rub the fish with salt and pepper and a little oil then broil for 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the fillet.  Finally, top with a spoonful or two of the salsa.  Round out the meal with some steamed or roasted vegetables and some rice, if you’re craving a starch.The original recipe can be found in John Ash’s cookbook “Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher.”

Meyer Lemon Salsa

(makes about 2 cups)

Qty Item
1/2 Lb Meyer Lemons, skins scrubbed to remove any dirt or wax
2/3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Scallions, finely chopped, white part only
1 Tbl Sugar
2 Tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper (or dry chili pepper flakes)
1/4 cup Fresh Meyer Lemon juice (about 2 lemons worth)

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.Cut the lemons in half and pick out as many seeds as possible without destroying the lemon. Lightly coat the lemons with a tablespoon of the oil. Place the lemons cut side down in a baking dish (lined with aluminum foil for easier clean-up) and roast uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove, cool and cut the lemons (including the skins) into 1/4-inch dice.

3.In a bowl, combine the lemons, the remaining olive oil, scallions, sugar and salt and stir gently. Cover and set aside for at least 3 hours so the flavors can marry and mellow. The flavor of the lemons will change over the course the rest period.

4.Adjust the seasonings with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

5.Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in an airtight container.

Note: you can adjust the sugar and salt to suit your taste and the ripeness of the lemons.



Condiments to the Rescue

Keeping a variety of condiments on hand is the key to being able to whip up a variety of meals without a lot of fuss on a weeknight.  I’m not just talking about your diner standards such as ketchup and mustard – although keeping a good dijon mustard on hand is always a good idea.  I’m talking about pestos, chutneys, and, if you want to get fancy, preserves.

While some pestos can be made in as little as 20 minutes, most require a little more time.  I find it easiest to prepare some whenever I have some free time and good quality ingredients and then freeze them for later use. The key to making a good condiment (as is the key to making anything), is to use ingredients that are in season and locally grown, if possible. The flavor will hold up better to freezing.

Condiments can very quickly transform a simple grilled fish into something still simple, but divine. It’s also a good way to extend the life of a seasonal delight such as Meyer Lemons (see Meyer Lemon Salsa recipe here).  The following are two condiment recipes that I love and generally keep in my freezer. Read the rest of this entry »