Posts Tagged Pesto
Corn made its debut at the farmer’s market this week. While it’s not yet at its best, I love fresh corn so I couldn’t resist buying a few ears. Corn, while not that beneficial from a nutrition perspective (low fat, but high carb), is a great summer vegetable for a busy person to have on hand. You can give it a quick boil for a simple corn on the cob. You can get a little fancier by spreading on an herb butter, wrapping it in foil and roasting it; or you can get more labor intensive by shaving it off the cob and incorporating it into a pasta salad. The next few posts will provide recipes illustrating some of these options.
Let’s start with the most involved, but most interesting option – a fresh corn salad. This recipe calls for a bit of prep work, but, in the end, you have a light but filling salad. The sweetness of the corn is tempered by the intense flavors of cilantro and garlic. With the inclusion of black beans, peppers, and feta, this salad takes relatively low nutrition corn and marries it with protein, dairy and antioxidants. I eat this salad as a main course since it covers so much nutritional ground and is filling. However, it would make an excellent companion to any grilled meat.
Orzo and Corn Summer Salad
(serves 4-6 as a side dish).
For the Pesto
1 bunch Cilantro
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1-2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1-2 dashes fresh Lime Juice
For the Salad
1 cup Orzo
1 ear fresh Corn on the cob
1/2 -1 large Red Bell Pepper
1/2-1 large Orange Bell Pepper
1/2-1 cup Tomatoes (preferably Cherry tomatoes), diced
1 can (15 oz.) Black Beans, unsalted
1-2 Tbsp. Cilantro Pesto
1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crumbled Feta or Grated Cheddar Cheese to taste (optional)
1. To make the cilantro pesto, separate the cilantro leaves from the stems and place oil, garlic, and cilantro leaves in a blender or food processor. Blend until the mixture reaches the consistency of a rough paste. Add a dash or two of fresh lime juice, to taste. Add salt and Pepper to taste. Cover pesto and set aside. Pesto can be stored in refrigerator for about a week.
2. To make the Orzo, heat a pot of water (about 3 cups) to a boil. Add 1 tbsp salt to the water. Add Orzo and boil for 8-10 minutes until soft but not mushy (slightly softer than al dente). Drain the water from the Orzo and rinse the Orzo in cold water until the Orzo is cold (this will stop any residual cooking). Drain off any excess water, place the Orzo in a bowl, mix in a dash of Olive Oil, cover and set aside.
3. Shuck the corn. Wash and dry the corn. Using a sharp knife, shave the corn kernels off the cob. Saute the kernels in a small saute pan with a little butter until the kernels soften but are still firm (about 3-4 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
4. Finely and uniformly (if possible) chop the peppers and tomatoes and mix together in a bowl. Set the bowl aside.
5. Open the can of beans. Wash and drain the beans. Briefly saute the beans with a little salt and pepper (about 1-2 minutes) and set aside to cool.
6. In a large bowl, mix together the Orzo, cooled corn, tomato/pepper mixture and cooled beans. Add cilantro and basil and mix gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve with cheddar or feta sprinkled on top, if using. Excess can be stored covered in the refrigerator for about a week. I wouldn’t recommend trying to freeze it.
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)
|3/4 cup (180ml)||Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|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|
- 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.
- Drain the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, rinse the tomatoes with water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- 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.
- Then add in the Parmigiano Reggiano and blend for a few seconds more.
- 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.
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 »