Posts Tagged Olive oil

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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Quick Flavor Boosters to Keep on Hand

With these basic herbs, spices and oils on hand, I have found that when both time and creativity are lacking, I can still come up with something flavorful to eat.  These are all easy to find in any grocery or liquor store and are inexpensive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fish: the ultimate quick fix

Let me say this:  I LOVE fish!  Trout, Salmon, Catfish, Flounder, Cod, you name it, I’m probably a fan (with the exception of Sardines which are just gross and Tilapia which are boring).  So, how can you incorporate fish into a busy work week?

Fish stays fresh 2 to 3 days max in the refrigerator and doesn’t easily lend itself to big casserole type dishes so it can be a little difficult to integrate fish into your week without some planning.  That said, fish is one of the easiest healthy main courses that you can prepare after a long day.  I am very fortunate in that I have easy access to a large supermarket and a farmer’s market so I often have fish 2-3 times a week.  If getting to the grocery store is not as convenient for you, try to get in the habit of buying fish on Sunday so that you know that you have options for the next two days.

Go from raw fish to delicious dinner in about 20 minutes with these two basic recipes.

Variation 1: (super easy)

Serves 1 (or two very light eaters)

Ingredients:

Qty. Item
1/4 to 1/2 Lb Fillet of fresh fish (salmon or catfish work particularly well for this)
1 dash Infused olive oil (citrus infusions work beautifully here)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 very small pat of butter (optional)

Instructions:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to Broil.
  2. Rinse fish with cold water and pat dry.
  3. Place on a broil safe tray. Pour oil over the fish.  Then season the fish with salt and pepper. Place butter on top, if using.  Note:  The fish should be well covered with the oil, but not so much so that the oil pools on the tray.  If there is a lot of excess oil on the tray, it will splatter and make a smoky mess of your oven and kitchen.
  4. Broil for 6-8 minutes depending on thickness of the fillet and your preferences for doneness.

Variation 2: (A little more complex)

Serves 1 (or 2 very light eaters)

Ingredients:

Qty Item
1/4 to 1/2 Lb Fillet of fresh fish (salmon or catfish work well)
1 dash Dry Vermouth (approximately a cap full)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
3 small knobs butter (optional)
2 sprigs Fresh Rosemary
4 sprigs Fresh Thyme

Instructions:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Rinse fish with cold water and pat dry.
  3. Place fish on a sheet of aluminum foil that is big enough to wrap around the fish to create a little pocket wrap.
  4. Pour the Vermouth over the fish.  Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper. Dab on the butter, if using.  Then place the Rosemary and Thyme on top of the fish.
  5. Wrap the fish up and roast on the middle rack in the oven for about 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet and your preferences for doneness.
  6. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid over the fish and serve.

* Note on the skin: There’s two ways to remove the skin for this dish. You can remove the skin from the fish after Step 2, or you can lift the flesh off the skin once the fish is cooked.  The second approach is a bit easier since the skin usually sticks a bit to the foil.

Round out the meal with a fresh salad and/or a seasonal vegetable such as green beans (that can be steamed while the fish is roasting or broiling.)

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