Lemon-stachio Pesto Crusted Salmon

May 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

With the bright flavor of lemony pistachio pesto and a bold fish one can not go wrong.

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There is no beating the pesto’s crunchy top and soft innards after it’s been roasted onto the flaky salmon filet.

Salmon. The go to fish of the USA: Eat more salmon, eat more fish! You’ve heard it over and over and chances are, you’ve bought some salmon and cooked it – possibly rather unsuccessfully? Salmon is tough, especially if you don’t usually eat fish, because it does taste like fish. Now in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with fish – which I eat often, but if you like pesto (Come on, who doesn’t like pesto?!), this is a good way to tame the bold taste of salmon without squandering it.

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*To roast garlic leave it in the peel and toss it in the oven (with whatever else you’re cooking) until the peel beings to loosen and the garlic is fragrant.

 Pesto, taken literally, actually means anything that has been pounded or crushed, as the word pesto has roots in the Italian word pesta and the English word pestle. With that being said, abandon your typical ideas about pesto and be daring. Pesto originated in Genoa, Italy (when I visited this region I was inspired by their seemingly competitive gardens laced with row upon row on perky basil plants) as a mosaic of  basil, pine nuts and olive oil, yet today there are thousands of hybrids. Here we’ll use some pungent roasted garlic, basil, spinach, pistachios and lemon juice to make a bright pesto, far from overbearing. Give it a shot and don’t hesitate to tweak it to meet the needs of your taste buds.

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Pesto

1 cup fresh Genovese basil leaves,  1 cup organic baby spinach,  1 cup shelled pistachios, salted  3/4 cup pecorino romano, freshly grated,  1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,  1 large clove garlic*, roasted,   3 Tbsp lemon juice, black pepper to taste

Salmon

Use any species of fresh caught (NOT farmed**) salmon. One person can usually eat a 4-8oz filet. To be safe, make one 6-8oz (about half pound) filet per person. Left overs are delicious topping a salad the next day.

Lemon-stachio Pesto Crusted Salmon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit on roast. Cover a baking dish or pan with parchment paper and coat with oil. Put fish in/on the baking dish and refrigerate until ready to use.  Meanwhile, combine basil, spinach, pistachios, and pecorino romano in a food processor. Process until completely mixed. Add olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse until pistachios are completely ground into the pesto. Pulse in crushed black pepper if desired.

Top the salmon with the pesto and bake for 15 minutes. Cut a filet open to check the middle, it should be opaque and flaky with an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If it is slightly pink, it’s finished. Let the salmon sit (out of the oven) for 2-5 minutes so it can finish cooking. Serve immediately.

**Note: Farmed salmon may help feed the global population, but it’s not the best for anyone. Due to it’s unnatural diet that consists of a conglomeration of grains and soybeans, it’s higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which you are most likely getting in abundance from your daily diet. Stick with wild caught to get the most authentic salmon flavor, an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy dose of astaxanthin (With no added color – Yes, farmed salmon does have added color).

Bon appetit.

Slow Food Snacking

April 28, 2012 § 3 Comments

Slow Food Snacking

Yes we, Slow Food URI, love local (Narragansett Creamery Ricotta) cheese with nasturtiums after some work in the soil. Nasturtiums are edible flowers with lots of possibilities; they can be tossed into a salad, served as tapas with cheese and crackers, stuffed, pickled or turned into butter to enhance its flavor.

Nasturtiums are like beautiful women; boldness is to be expected. With every bite of this seemingly delicate flower you’ll experience a water-cress-like bite that not even arugula can deliver.

Renaissance ricotta, nasturtium and a chive flower packed on a cracked black pepper, gluten free Glutino cracker.

Nasturtiums can easily be grown and can usually be found a farmers markets from spring to fall.

Stay tuned for Fiery Ricotta Egg Noodle post.

Blueberry Cottage Cheese Muffins

December 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

In my opinion, if you can resist a muffin, you’re not human.

 Sweet Cakes, a great little cafe in Peace Dale, makes the best muffins with the most creative flavor combinations. About two weeks ago I tried a cottage cheese blueberry muffin & it sent me back to when I was younger. One bite of the muffin whisked me into nostalgia, to the days of nagging my parents for a doughnut or muffin whenever they went into Bess Eatin’ to get a coffee. I would always order blueberry & mainly because of the crunchy sugar-baked top. It’s amazing how something as simple as a flavor can instigate such a distant memory, but in any case, it prompted me to give the cottage cheese blueberry combination a shot on my own.

Although blueberry is such a classic muffin flavor, it’s easy to get blueberry muffins wrong. Actually, it’s easy to get muffins wrong in general.  We’ve all had our share of overly dense (usually very healthy) muffins, or muffins so sweet we feel like we’ve engulfed a heavily frosted cupcake – these muffins are the perfect in between. The lemon zest is really of importance for this recipe. The citrus’s sweet acidity really lightens what would otherwise be sort of overly indulgent, creamy (think butter, milk, cottage cheese) flavors.

This recipe takes a classic from the Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser & adds a little flare. These muffins are quick, delicious & make a phenomenal addition to any family breakfast – if you can keep them around that long. Just a heads up, it’s important to really beat the butter, sugar & eggs together so the that muffins come out light & airy.

Blueberry Cottage Cheese Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mixture)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
8 Tbsp organic unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 3 Tbsp

1/2 cup, packed, powdered sugar
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup organic whole milk

 1/2 cup organic low fat cottage cheese*

2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 cups blueberries, or assorted berries

* I used my all time favorite Kalona SuperNatural Organic cottage cheese. This stuff is delectable, it even has a golden layer of butter-esque cream on top!

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit & butter muffin cups. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt & baking powder.
Cream the butter & granulated sugar together in a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar & 1 Tbsp of lemon zest, continue mixing until light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

When completely creamed, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the milk & continue to mix, until almost fully incorporated. Add the rest of the flour mixture, milk & the cottage cheese. Fold until almost uniform, with some clumps. Fold in the blueberries.

Fill the buttered muffin tin or cups with the batter. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp of lemon zest with the remaining 3 Tbsp of sugar.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of the muffins. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool for about 30 minutes before removing them from pan. These muffins should keep well for up to two days, but should probably be left uncovered so they don’t get too moist & sticky.

Enjoy warm, with a scoop of cottage cheese or a smothering of butter.

Tea Simmered Winter Squash Quinoa

December 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Simmering sencha: earthy, grass-toned, mellow & slightly astringent. Browned Garlic: bold, pungent, spicy & sweet.  Preserved Lemon: bright, acidic & a bit adventurous.

These flavors from common kitchen foods meld together to create something worth repeating; again and again and again.

Anyone who has been sorely disappointed by the flavor, or lack there of, in quinoa can join the millions. I’m sure many people who are on the quest toward healthier eating lug home a bag of this protein-packed grain in hopes it will solve all of their problems. They get home, cook the grain in water, add some salt, pepper & olive oil & never touch it again. To those of you who have experienced that, this will certainly change your minds. Plus, who doesn’t love butternut squash & some savory mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms add some "umami" depth to an already teeming-with flavor & nutrients vegetable-grain dish.

Not to mention the fact the this is a perfect whole grain option for people who have to eat gluten-free. Whole grains (wheat berries, oats, barley, rye, millet, amaranth, etc) were not meant be consumed in the ugly form of “whole wheat” pre-sliced bread, “whole wheat” Pillsbury Frudals, “whole grain” pre-made packaged pancakes or any of the like (I’m not kidding, this is what our government, according to MyPlate, considers a serving of whole grains).  Whole grains are meant to nourish our bodies – stop falling for the health claims on the sides of corporate packaged foods & get adventurous.

People complain that it is too expensive to eat healthfully, but buying bulk whole grains is probably one of the cheapest things you can get. Things get expensive when you start buying the “healthy” packaged stuff.  Oh, and forget the MyPlate recommendations – let’s make all of our grains whole.

But getting back to the bliss; if you don’t have preserved lemons this really won’t be the same. I’m sure you could try peeling lemons, then letting the peels hang out in sea salt for a couple days & you would probably get something similar, but if you want to preserve your own lemons the link is here: Preserved Lemons. Or you can always buy them online (if you’re in a rush): Buy Preserved Lemons

Tea Simmered Winter Squash Quinoa

5 cups of water,  5 heaping Tbsp Sencha tea (5 green tea bags works too), 2 cups white quinoa,  2 whole butternut squash,  1 cup mushrooms, assorted, chopped,  7 cloves of garlic, 1 preserved lemon,  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp,  3 Tbsp dried oregano,  feta cheese to garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit on roast. Slice the squash into 1 inch thick pieces & roast for 35 minutes until the skin has lifted & the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork. Fill a medium sauce pan with 5 cups of water – cover & bring to a boil. Add the tea & steep for 10 minutes. Strain the water to remove the loose tea leaves or remove the tea bags. Add the quinoa & bring to a rapid boil while covered, then reduce the heat & stir constantly (keeping it uncovered) until the quinoa has absorbed all the water (it will be light, fluffy & will expand to about four times the original amount).

Meanwhile, peel garlic & gently smash it under the side of a large knife. This can be done by putting the garlic on a cutting board, holding your knife so the blade is parallel to the bored & banging the side of the blade with the heel of your hand to squish the garlic. Slice the lemon vertically into eighths, then chop the slices into 1/4 of an inch pieces.

In a skillet add olive oil & heat for 2 minutes. When oil is warmed, add garlic & the chopped lemons. After 5 minutes add the oregano. Continue cooking over medium heat until the garlic is browned. When the garlic is golden brown, pour the oil mixture over the quinoa.

In the same skillet used to brown the garlic, saute the chopped mushrooms in 1 Tbsp of olive oil until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Chop the squash into cubes & toss into the quinoa. Add the sauteed mushrooms, taste & season as desired. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil & throw in a handful of feta for added creaminess.

This is a good recipe to make at the beginning of the week & refrigerate. It tastes great on top of kale or spinach or can be reheated for a quick dinner.

Enjoy.

Open-Face Savory Egg Sandwich

October 16, 2011 § 3 Comments

It’s a shame that this recipe isn’t what McDonalds uses to make their “Egg” McMuffins. Maybe if it was, our country wouldn’t be suffering from an obesity epidemic. I hate to start on such a negative note, so I’ll change my tone, but I had to say it.

We’ve finally got eggs! At first, I was hesitant to believe it, but after pulling the petite golf-ball-like orbs from the hen’s laying quarters for the past seven days, I’ve realized that it’s probably only going to get better.

The Rooster, also known as our neighborhood's new alarm clock.

The eggs in this sandwich were probably some of the most expensive eggs I’ve ever eaten (we have a while until our inputs & the hens’ outputs break even). Although the eggs were definitely the most expensive, they were by far the tastiest little morsels around. We’ve been letting the hens out to roam around the garden, torture the dog, flock into trees & to hop. Yes, hens hop, or at least ours do. But hey, the happier the hen, the better the egg- that’s my hypothesis.

All around the country the number of people rearing their own chickens (mainly for laying), keeping bees & planting their own gardens is increasing exponentially. It makes sense. As this nation has become more educated about the way our food is grown & raised, the energy required to ship it to us (food miles) & the actual nutritional quality of what we’ve been consuming, people have begun to lose their faith in the integrity of our food systems (& for good reason). So, instead of relying on a system that we can’t count on, why not take a whack at self-sufficiency (just a little whack).

So when I say this is the ultimate breakfast, lunch & dinner sandwich, you have to understand, the eggs did come from my backyard & that makes all of the difference. It’s a pretty damn good feeling to eat something you helped grow or grew yourself.

Aside from the egg, how can can anyone go wrong with a hearty artisan multi-grain loaf, roasted butternut squash, a block sharp cheddar (Melted. I know, even better right?) & arugula? You can’t.

Oh & yes, eggs do have cholesterol, but don’t let anyone fool you, eating eggs is much more nourishing than a bowl of some “healthy” cereal every morning. If you don’t know already, eggs are a prime source of choline, folic acid & vitamin A. They provide the perfect ratio of fat to protein & are probably not what is causing your high cholesterol. In fact, it is generally accepted that dietary cholesterol is not the persecutor of high LDL (bad cholesterol). Also, the fat in eggs is predominately good for you, as they are relatively low in saturated fat.  High consumption of saturated fat is positively correlated (when consumed in high amounts, e.g. grain-fed & processed meats, processed cheese, butter, etc.) with high cholesterol.

The squash here is from my backyard & the bread is a Multi-Grain Round from Seven Stars.

As you can see, the quality of bread you use  is important in deciding the the outcome of this sandwich. It’s got to be robust enough to not get lost under all the toppings that are added. Actually, the quality of everything in this sandwich is important; the bread, the cheese, the butter you used to brown the sage leaves in, the sage itself, the fresh bitterness of the arugula, and of course the egg.

Here I removed the toppings so you could see the bright yellow "leakiness" of my homegrown egg.

By the way, if you’ve never made brown sage butter, you’re in for a treat.

Open-Face Savory Egg Sandwich

(Serves 2 or 1 really hungry person)

1 butternut squash*,  cut in half, seeds removed,  1/2 loaf of bread,  5 oz organic sharp cheddar, 2 eggs, 1 cup of arugula,   2 Tbsp honey mustard,  2 Tbsp shredded organic Parmesan cheese,  1 Tbsp organic butter,  6 sage leaves, broad leaf if available,  salt & black pepper to taste

*You won’t use the whole butternut squash, but it will keep in the refrigerator for several days or can be turned into Butternut Squash Soup.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit & roast the squash for 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Then, switch the oven to broil. Cut two 3/4 inch thick slices of bread & broil, flipping the pieces every minute until golden on each side. When broiling you should use the middle-top racks (the heat comes from the roof of the oven) & should be vigilant about keeping an eye on the bread.

Meanwhile cook butter in a skillet over medium-high until the milk solids begin to brown, this should take about 2-3 minutes. Add the sage & cook until crispy, no more than 1 minute. Remove the sage & set it aside.

Once broiled, spread 1 Tbsp of honey mustard on each slice of bread, cover with a thin piece of butternut squash & top with the cheese. Broil the cheese-topped bread for 1 minute, or until the cheese melts (this happens very quickly).

Add the two eggs to the brown butter & cook until the bottoms turn white. Season with a little bit of salt. Flip the eggs & cook for no more than 1 minute. The yoke should be runny when they are finished. When finished top the broiled cheese bread with the sage, the eggs, some arugula & a pinch of Parmesan cheese. Broil for 30 seconds to melt the Parmesan. Season with black pepper & serve immediately.

While you enjoy, consider the following: What is holding you back from getting some laying hens?

Sunflower Pesto

September 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Until last summer, my appreciation for sunflowers was insufficient. While in Tuscany, on the ride from Siena to Florence, we passed by seas of young sunflowers, each one synchronized; following the path of the sun (heliotropism).  The unison of their dance tugged me (and most likely every passer-by) to stop & enjoy the beauty of their simplicity… but we just drove by.

Last summer, I began to grow enough basil to experiment with lots of different types of pesto.  In the midst of experimenting I made something similar to classic pesto, but replaced the pine nuts with hulled sunflower seeds. I was not crazy about it, but this time, I decided to be a bit more adventurous.

When I say adventurous I mean it.  The very, very small bit of research I did about eating raw sunflower petals yielded some intriguing information, information that may or may not tempt you to try this for yourself. First, I ran into the possibility that the petals could be poisonous, which could be due to the fact that according to Science News some sunflowers are used to extract lead, arsenic & uranium from the soil. I decided to eat them anyway & I am still here, but I guess you should only use them if you trust the soil from which they’ve been picked.  Then, after reading a horticulture source that listed the petals as an aphrodisiac I second guessed exactly what type of “poison” Science News was referring to. According to legend, the Mayans used to make “love potions” with the petals, but I’ll be sticking to pesto for now.

Recently, I read about how the seeds of sunflowers contain a significant (relative to other foods) amount of chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant that can work to prevent type II diabetes by slowing the release of glucose (sugar) into the blood stream.  In fact, maybe you’ve heard of green coffee bean extract, or Svetol, a European weight loss supplement (NO I am not promoting this silly idea)?  Svetol’s active ingredient is chlorogenic acid from coffee beans. Chlorogenic acid however, is not only found in coffee & sunflower seeds, but is also found in sunflower petals (in parts per million, ppm). So, I went for it & I’m glad I did because it was phenomenal.

Enough. Here is the recipe.

Sunflower Pesto

2 scant cups arugula,  1 cup Genovese basil,  1/2 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds,  1/2 cup unfiltered, raw sunflower seed oil,  1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese,  1/4 cup grated Romano cheese,  1/4 cup sunflower petals, chopped,  2 Tbsp lemon juice, black pepper to taste

Combine arugula, basil, seeds & cheeses in a food processor. Pulse until almost uniform texture. Add oil & lemon juice, then pulse until well combined. Remove the pesto from the food processor & mix in chopped sunflower petals.

Use the pesto to garnish warm bread or to serve over spaghetti with tomatoes. I mixed some into an arugula salad & was not disappointed at all.

Oh & by the way, did you know sunflower florets have their own mathematical equation to describe the pattern of the seeds, which corresponds to the golden ratio.

Bon appetite.

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