Posts Tagged Cooking

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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Home-Cooked vs. Take-Out

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who doesn’t understand why anyone would take what’s left of their precious little free time to cook their own food when you can get any type of cuisine delivered right to your door or desk in under 40 minutes with no clean-up after.  For the person who views cooking as a chore to be avoided at all costs and who has a lot of discretionary income, there is probably no counter-argument that will sway such a person.  For a person with less of an aversion to the kitchen, I offer four points to consider when weighing the value of cooking your own food against ordering take-out:

1.  Ingredients – you control them.  Sugar, fat, unrecognizable mystery sauce – you can control  or eliminate all that.

2. Quality – because you control the amount and quality of the ingredients, you control the quality of the finished product.

3. Portions – you control whether you eat a pound of pasta or a normal serving size.  I know that, theoretically, you always have the ability to control your portion size by simply putting the fork down, but that takes a lot of self-control.  We’ve all done it – eaten 3/4 of a plate of food that was already 2x more food than we really needed, but we kept going past the point of comfort for the simple reason that the food was there.  Check out Brian Wansink‘s book, “Mindless Eating:  Why We Eat More Than We Think” for some fascinating and funny insight on that point.  I personally find it a lot easier to control how much I eat before I put it on the plate, than after it’s on the plate.  Take-out portions are always too big and too hard to walk away from.

4.  Costs –  on a cost per serving basis, the monetary costs of cooking for yourself will often be equal to or less than the costs of ordering the same food in for delivery.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing against take-out in all cases, but against take-out as the default method of eating.  Take-out definitely has its benefits – cuisines that might be beyond your cooking skills to duplicate (that’s Indian food for me) and it eliminates the time costs of your own labor.  The last benefit is pretty powerful, and if you’re using that free time to do things that make you happy and enhance your life, then by all means order in every day.  However, if you’re just freeing up more TV time, why not spend some of that time cooking for yourself?  If your apartment is as small as mine, you can cook for yourself and watch TV so it’s a win-win.

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Welcome Aboard!

Welcome fellow professionals, cooks and the just plain curious!

For the past ten years, I have been challenged to find a way to balance a busy corporate law practice with my love of cooking and the very basic need to feed myself and to feed myself well.  Of course, the easiest solution – and one every office professional is probably familiar with – is to open up a new window on the computer, click on the Seamless link, and order up a meal from whichever restaurant is showing the fastest delivery time.  Now, don’t’ get me wrong, I think the service that Seamless provides is brilliant, but the problem is that take-out food is just never as delicious as home-cooked and very rarely as nutritional.  Add to that the tendency to over-order and, therefore, overeat, and it’s really not a good every-day solution to the problem.

I love to cook as a cathartic and creative outlet so to my mind, the best solution is simply to cook your own food.  Over the years, I’ve tried different strategies for cooking my own meals and still working erratic hours.  Along the way, I’ve learned a few things and created a few recipes that I would like to share with similarly situated professionals who love food, want to eat good food, but can’t figure out how to fit it all in.  Therein lies the goal of this blog – to share with and, hopefully, learn from other desk warriors by day and cooks by night.

Now, in the interest of upfront and full disclosure, I should tell you that this is not a site for dumbed-down 5 ingredients or less type recipes. Cooking takes effort and time. What this blog will cover is how to plan your time and effort to produce good quality and good tasting meals efficiently.

I hope that you will find this blog helpful and that you will comment profusely (but politely!)

Alexis

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