magic mushrooms

I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of the mushroom family. I searched through my recipe archives, and not one dish on here highlights mushroom as the chief ingredient. Not one. Unless you count the sloppy Joes from last year, and I still vote that those are more “beefy” than they are “mushroomy”. Also, I still vote that the cans of Manwich are f-ing awesome. Judge not.

So we’re back to this – a first, of sorts – a sandwich with a key ingredient – a big ol’ fatty chunk of a portobello mushroom. Watch out, people.

I’d like to also add though, that the pesto is certainly something to “shake a stick at”, too. Chris and I spent a good part of a recent Saturday morning cooking together for our second bout of our Turntable Kitchen subscription (the first included an excellent cioppino, if you missed the post). We rocked out to some lovely tunes (including Biggie Smalls! yes! and also some lesser knowns that I’m sure will lead to album purchases) and got our bags packed for one of our very favorite picnics yet.

If you’re in the Bay area when the sky is clear (which is most certainly a crap shoot in the summer, for sure), head over to Lands’ End, essentially the furthest you can go northwest in SF without falling into the ocean. Don’t steal our picnic spot, which is top secret, because it’s so awesome and we’ll go there as much as possible, but search carefully for lovely patches of land to plop down onto. You might have to do a little shimmie down some dirt to get to the spot, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.

If you aren’t in the Bay area, just go have a picnic somewhere else for cryin’ out loud. Picnics are fun almost anywhere, except maybe a swamp, or during high-tide, or a heavy sandstorm in the desert, but you know what I mean, right? Pack a hearty lunch and some snacks, too. You’ll want to stay a while. Also, pack some sunscreen, because I forgot and almost couldn’t focus on my Temper Trap concert later that night as a result of severe burning of the insides of my legs. Especially the right one.

I pulled through and enjoyed it, in case you were wondering…

Even if you’re a meat-eater, make sure this exact sandwich is packed – you won’t regret it. And toss in a small grain salad with some quinoa, farro, or even just peaches and lettuce. A soda? Or just some nice, cold rosé (we opted for both). If you have any treats stowed away in the freezer, this is a perfect time to take that out at the last minute, throwing it on top of all your other goodies because it was the best last-minute idea ever (in my case, it was a slice of that awesome Earl Grey cake).

At the end of the day, you’ll have a hard time figuring out your favorite part of the meal, because it’s all just ten times better, and so magical, when you’re eating it outside. And atop it all, the best part of that is the company (well…. maybe the view…if it was as awesome as ours!).

Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches
adapted from Turntable Kitchen; makes 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
pesto
1 c arugula
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1/2 c walnuts
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/3 c grated Manchego cheese
1/3 c olive oil
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

sandwiches
2 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
olive oil
arugula for putting on sandwiches, optional
1 fresh loaf of ciabatta bread

instructions
make the pesto. combine arugula through cheese in a food processor. add some of the olive oil and process until smooth, adding more olive oil by the tablespoon if needed. add a squeeze of lemon juice, then adjust taste with salt and pepper as needed. process one last time until smooth.

oil and preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. salt and pepper the mushrooms and brush lightly with oil. grill whole for about 5 minutes on each side, until tender. meanwhile, cut ciabatta loaf in half to create the top and bottom sandwich pieces. I like to scoop out some of the bread (which you can grind up and use for bread crumbs) so the sandwich isn’t so ‘bread’) slather pesto sauce onto the bottom of the bread (using almost all of the loaf, but save some for another use if you have a large loaf. you just want enough for the two mushrooms to cover, which will result in good-sized sandwiches but not ginormous.) and then add arugula, if using. put mushrooms atop arugula and then close the loaf and cut into 4 equal sized sandwiches.

Battle Citrus: Locked & Loaded


[left to right: citrus slushy, lemon-thyme cakes, hearts of palm + citrus salad, citrus-glazed chicken wings, beef sliders, hurricanes, ceviche, brown butter lemon popcorn, citrus tofu pie]

I’m not sure what’s going on with my immune system, but that thing has been made of steel since moving out to California. Not that I was ever a person who got sick often, maybe 2-3 times a year after leaving a job in pediatrics (those damn kids and their germs!), but still. So far, the sick count is a whopping zilch, zero, nada. I’m sure my time is coming, especially now with all this “cold” weather and rain, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Of course, it is officially citrus time, so maybe the extra doses of vitamin C will further combat any wonky sickness that might be coming my way. We’ll see.


[top left: blood orange crostata, bottom left: citrus cake, right: fried chicken wings + lemonade]

I almost titled this post the “anti-Scurvy” battle, but I had a last-minute change of heart. I like “locked and loaded” better, since what I mean here, is that we are now locked and loaded with vitamin C which is, in itself, anti-Scurvy. You see? Good. And it sounds more menacing, which I dig. Menacing, but at the same time totally pointless, since it would take a whole helluva lot of vitamin C deprivation to cause scurvy. Just ask the sailors.

Anywho, after what felt like an eternally long hiatus, we had Battle 3 of SF Iron Chef a couple of weekends ago, and Fancy Chef Winner Molly (too long?) chose citrus, which is an amazing selection for this time of year (clearly, because grapefruits are from Paradise, remember?). Back in Chicago, we had a Battle Grapefruit in early Winter, and it was also amazing – not nearly as heavy as Roots + Tubers, that’s for sure.

I honed in and focused on two things this time around: lemons and Meyer lemons. I almost made an amazing citrus cheesecake, but since Chris and I were stupid enough to do another juice cleanse that just happened to finish up on Friday, I couldn’t fathom making a cheesecake on Friday night whereby I could not stick my whole face into the bowl to lick the excess. Something tells me that might have canceled out three days of all those vitamins and nutrients.

[On a quick tangent though, we tried the juice cleanse through Urban Remedy this time around (they had a groupon back in December) and most of the juices were really tasty. Not sure if I’ll be doing another cleanse any time soon, but if I did I’d use them again.]

So yeah – lemons lemons lemons. First off was a quick spin on air-popped popcorn – I tossed it with a lemon brown butter sauce with lots of lemon zest. YUM. But the main recipe for me was the sliders. It worked nicely, because I was definitely craving some meat after three days of juice and two days before of vegan life, which I do not prefer. I made a Meyer lemon pesto for the topping and a Meyer lemon-herb butter that was shoved inside the patty and brushed atop the homemade buns.

Since we had our little shindig at Judy’s work (The Culinary Edge), we had full use of a professional kitchen, which brought back all kinds of memories of culinary school, like navigating through a foreign kitchen, walking into an entire refrigerator, setting up the sanitizing station for dishwashing, and of course – a shitload of food all around us. Good times. But it also meant I got to grill my tasty sliders right before service the Battle. They turned out just as I’d imagined – juicy, fresh, and ultra-lemony.

Sadly though, they weren’t good enough to win. We have yet another fancy food cooker in our group now (which pardon my sarcasm, I really do like having professional and non-professional cooks at Iron Chef, because it makes us all try just a little bit harder) and he AND his girlfriend took the 1 and 2. Dang. My buddy, Liz, pulled into the top three with her beautiful citrus cake though. It was my favorite of the night.

The Top 3:

1. Jeff’s fried chicken wings with spicy citrus hot sauce and lemonade
2. Dana’s blood orange crostata
3. Elizabeth’s citrus cake with lemon curd filling

I could have sworn the sliders were #4. Just sayin’. And yes, we finally remembered a group shot. And never mind that long, scraggly hair of mine – it was definitely time for a little trimmy trim trim.

So here’s the deal: there are a lot of components to this dish, but most are very easy. You can definitely purchase store-bought slider buns unless you want to make your own. I went the all-authentic route to rack up scoring points, but you don’t need those in real life, at least usually. The first “printable version” link is for ALL components, but you can also print out components piece by piece if you are using them for something different. The pesto goes well on anything, that’s for sure. So does the butter.

And yes, folks. I am aware that the links on my site are hard to click on. They do work though – you just have to oh-so-gingerly hover over them a couple of times. I have no idea why this is happening lately, but can’t seem to figure out how to fix it. Remember – gingerly hover. :).

update – I DID figure it out! apparently my Facebook plug-in somehow interfered with the workability of the links. go figure. anyway, that is gone and the links are back and working like a charm, so click away!

and speaking of clicking, check out Kenna’s post on her very own, inaugural Iron Chef Leelanau (Michigan). Kenna and I met through our blogs, and both went to the same culinary school at slightly different times. She and Michael attended a few Chicago Iron Chefs, and she moved from Chicago to Michigan (and had a baby. a baby during a move!) earlier this year. They had Iron Chef Battle Citrus too – what a crazy coincidence! Kenna also won her first Iron Chef with us (well, her husband claimed the dish…), so maybe that strong competitive streak is paying off for her, right Kenna?!

 

Beef Sliders with Lemon Butter & Lemon Pesto
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16 sliders

time commitment: 30 minutes (with components made in advance)

printable version (all recipes)

ingredients
2 lbs beef, 15% fat
lemon butter (recipe below)
salt and pepper
lemon pesto (recipe below)
16 slider buns (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
handful of baby arugula
2 small tomatoes

instructions
divide meat into 16 2-oz portions. stuff a 1/2″ cube of lemon butter into the center of each portion. shape each portion into a thin burger patty. season with salt and pepper.

heat grill to medium high. grill sliders for 3 minutes on each side. top with lemon pesto, tomato, and arugula on a slider bun and serve.

 

Lemon Butter

time commitment: 35 minutes (most is chilling butter)

printable version (butter only)

ingredients
3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 T parsley
1 T basil
Zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
salt and pepper

instructions
using a fork, mix all ingredients together. place butter on a piece of saran wrap, roll into a log shape, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.

 

Lemon Pesto

time commitment: 5 minutes

printable version (pesto only)

ingredients
2 c basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c pine nuts
zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

instructions
in a food processor, combine basil through lemons and pulse until combined. slowly add olive oil until fully incorporated, finish by adding cheese and season with salt and pepper.

 

Brioche-style Slider Buns
adapted from GroupRecipes.com; makes 18

time commitment: 3 hours (most is inactive, rising time)

printable version (buns only)

ingredients
3 T warm milk
2 t active dry yeast
2 1/2 T granulated sugar
2 large eggs (1 for optional egg wash)
3 c bread flour
1/3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, softened

instructions
In a glass measuring cup, combine one c warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg into another small dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl, if doing by hand), whisk flours with salt. Add butter and mix into flour, resulting in a crumb-like dough. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg into the flour mixture. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn on low-medium; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can mix the dough and once it comes together, dump it onto a floured surface and knead about 8-9 minutes by hand. The dough will be on the sticky side but try not to add more flour unless you absolutely have to.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 18 equal pieces (mine were about 1.6 oz each, if you want to weigh them). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. If using the egg wash, beat the second egg and brush onto the rolls before baking (I brushed some melted lemon butter onto mine). Once rolls have risen, bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until browned. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Rinse and Repeat

Aside from having the occasional relentless sushi craving, at which time I could easily devour four maki rolls by my lonesome, seafood has not been a mainstay in my repertoire as of late. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve cooked plenty of seafood dishes, cephalopods included, but it’s been quite a while.

Does the oyster-shuckin’ day even count?! And if not, then it’s been almost a year since seafood has had a presence here – yikaroonies! Needless to say, that has got to be remedied.

Because here’s the deal – here’s my beef with seafood: you have to plan for it. Yeah, I know, that’s not normally a problem for me at all; I plan what days of the week my hair gets washed, for cryin’ out loud. But when I cook fish, I want it to be fresh as all get out. I want it to smell like the sea, and I want to buy it as close to when I hope to prepare it as possible – a day apart, tops. That’s where I run into an issue because I like to buy groceries on Sunday in the early afternoon, with hopes of eating any fish I’d purchase on Monday (don’t forget – Sundays are for the big time-consuming meals). Now, if anything goes awry on Monday, say a last minute plan with a friend, or a husband working late, or maybe I get a wild hair up my ass to finally go for a run after work (which, when the mood strikes, I must take advantage of said urge), the plans for fish-cooking are ruined.

You still with me? Because this is real life – I had to toss a couple of lovely halibut fillets into the freezer a few weeks ago because the Monday cooking didn’t happen, and cooking that same fish on Tuesday seemed like such a travesty. And yeah, it’s not like I wasted the fish and threw it away, but still – frozen halibut just isn’t the same.

You may be sensing some degree of stubbornness on my part, and that’s spot on. But this time around, I did bend the rules just a tad. I stuck to my regular method of purchasing fish on Sunday. When Monday rolled around, I stuck to my plans of cooking that night. Of course, Chris tried to throw a wrench into my plan and work late, but I just snacked and waited patiently, vowing not to ruin my fish this time. At the last minute, I decided to cook half of the fish (only 2 fillets), so that I could – get this – cook the other two on Tuesday night (because another issue I have with fish is that leftover fish tastes like poo, and that’s not good for anyone). Yeah, I know – crazy, huh?! But here’s where it gets even crazier – it was still just as good on Tuesday.

I’m sure the red pepper and harissa pesto that was nestled under those perfectly-cooked fillets helped in the taste area, but the point of my story is a point you’re not going to hear me make too often: I was wrong. (ps – you might want to do a screenshot of this page before I update this post and delete that sentence.)

With that point out of the way, maybe I can slowly work a weekly seafood dish back into my weekly cooking, like we used to do back in the day. We’ll see how it goes…

In the meantime though, take yourself to the grocery store on Sunday (or Monday, if you’re feeling frisky) and buy the prettiest pink wild Alaskan (sustainable) salmon you can find, as well as the remainder of the ingredients for the pesto. If you can’t find harissa, you can use tomato paste, which is what the original recipe used – I just wanted more spice in my life. Come straight home from work on Monday and cook half of the fish, one for you and one for your lucky guest. Whip up the pesto while the grill does the rest of the work. Eat said fish, and thank yourself for such a lovely dinner.

Rinse, and repeat on Tuesday.

Salmon with Red Pepper-Harissa Pesto
adapted from Cooking Light, October 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 15 minutes (enough time to toss some edamame into the microwave for steaming in which case you’d have a full freakin’ dinner!)

printable version

ingredients
4 6-oz wild Alaskan salmon fillets
3/4 t salt, divided
cooking spray
3 medium-sized bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed & drained
1-2 T bottled harissa
1 t olive oil
1/4 c blanched almonds
1 garlic clove

instructions
heat grill pan over med-hi heat. sprinkle fish with salt. coat pan with cooking spray. grilled fish for ~4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily (I like to leave some of the middle less cooked, as it cooks a little after it’s taken off the grill).

meanwhile, combine remaining salt and other ingredients in a small food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. serve pesto with fish.

Corn Ninja

I’m not really into the act of completing house chores with a smile on my face. Nonetheless, I think Hubs and I remain as the only condo in our building of 6 without a regular housekeeper. For me, it’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of priorities and overall dislike for cleaning, or for having any chores for that matter.

Fortunately, Hubs and I are relatively fair in our division of labor, but it still doesn’t mean that I get excited about cleaning the bathroom just because I don’t have to take out the trash or clean the litter box. My mind constantly reverts back to the ‘old days’ and my parents’ ‘money system’ – rather than giving a weekly allowance, we had to earn it by doing chores. And not like these days where kids get 5 buckaroos for unloading the dishwasher – we were luckly to get 50 cents per chore. I therefore mark 1 point in the “reasons to have kids” column for the sheer geniusness of that system; I can’t seem to think of any more points for that column just yet…

I do remember racking up on my allowance cash though, and as a result I have to say we had a pretty clean house growing up, and some bathroom sinks that shimmered so much you hated to brush your teeth (which who didn’t, anyway?) for fear you’d spew on the counter, or drip a blob of sparkly pink Barbie toothpaste into the bowl. Then again, at that point it would be ‘dirty’ and I could rack up oh, 25 cents to touch it up.

All of the chore reimbursements went out the window at gramma’s house. You see, grandparents like to have grandkids around for more than just cheek-pinching and babysitting – they also like to put ’em to work. Those of you who are grandparents are probably nodding at this point, but it wasn’t all smiles over here, partner. For one, days spent at the grandparents’ house meant days of no income, which is bad. For two, there was no Nintendo, which meant that all the while our high-scoring Mario game was getting beaten by someone else. And three, we really worked. We had to clean all the debris outta s’mores gramma’s pool, and pick up pine combs (cones…), and often we were forced to go to the grocery store and the Hardees with her and her friends so she could “show us off”.

Pound cake gramma was a little less militant, but I can’t tell you how many ears of corn I shucked, and even though that was one of the only things she made us do, I probably hated it more than all of the other chores put together. It was hot out there, and we all had to sit on the back porch with buckets, meanwhile the piles of corn to shuck seemed taller than us, and neverending. I rarely shucked a perfect ear, and she (or my dad) always made me go back and get the silky pieces off. I swear they must have grown back, because to me, those ears of corn were as naked as could be.

As a result of those days upon days of shucking corn, I gotta say – I’m pretty damn good at it now, and fast, too. If there were a corn shuckin’ race around these parts, I’d win it, no doubt. Just call me a corn ninja, ok? Gramma would certainly be proud.

This here recipe is summer in a bowl, and will definitely have you practicing your shuckin’ skillz. Corn takes the place of basil in this play on pesto, and while you might think it’s loaded with cream and butter, there’s none to be had. You’ll taste sweet corn in every single bite, and if that’s not the best taste of this month, I don’t know what is.

After you’ve shucked all the corn, it’s time to cut it off the cob, and often times that looks like a crime scene in a corn field after it’s all said and done, and half the corn is on the ground, or down your shirt, and who knows where else. If you’ve got a bundt pan handy, position the narrow end of the cob into the hole in the middle of the pan, and slice downward; the corn will magically fall directly into the pan, with barely any stragglers.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say these two words again – corn. ninja. Please and thankee sai.

Psst! It is almost vacay time, folks! Before we head out at literally the crack of dawn on Friday (probably even before..), I’d love some advice/suggestions. We’re heading into Portland, Oregon and driving all the way down to LA along the Pacific Coast Highway, with a short stop in Napa and thanks to one of you lovely people out there, a visit to a magical magical place while we’re there (and some wineries, of course). If you have any advice, recommendations, or maybe a quick comment about how jealous you are, bring it on!! Vacation is way overdue, and it’s gonna be a blast! (and no worries, I’ll keep you occupied on this front, too!)

Tagliatelle w/ Fresh Corn Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2010; serves 4

printable version

ingredients
4 bacon slices, cut into small pieces (lardons)
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears) 
2 large garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 c walnuts, toasted
1/3 c evoo
8 oz tagliatelle (or fettucine, if you can’t find tagliatelle)
3/4 c coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

instructions
Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Transfer to paper towels to drain (it is at this time that you should give a nibble or two to your cat, if you have one…). Pour off all but 1 T drippings from skillet (save drippings for another time – don’t waste that bacon fat!). Add corn, garlic, & a pinch of salt and pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 c corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 c Parmesan and walnuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally (for tagliatelle, this happens fast – in ~4 minutes). Drain, reserving 1 1/2 c pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Wild Things

My loving, darling husband has a stupid-crazy-job these days. He works harder than anyone I know (certainly harder than me), and he’s in school two nights a week to get yet another degree so he can work even harder (but hopefully bring in more cash for that B&B he’s gonna buy for me in Napa one day…). I miss him a whole bunch, and those nights we get to watch TV together are extra special lately since there’s not an abundance of them.

This week, we ate veggie pizza together and watched a movie. It was nice.

We watched Where the Wild Things Are, a movie I’ve been wanting to sit through for a while now. It’s relatively short, in movie terms, and perfect for a weeknight. It made me a little weepy, but those movies are the best – the ones that touch you, make you think, and make you relish the good moments. It makes you remember how hard growing up can be, and how in our adult lives we take so many things for granted. I think that little guy took things for granted too, and eventually realized he had to “go home”. His friend, who I assume was an alternative version of him, experiences a similar realization, and the unity at the end of the film was really something. Like I said, weep-worthy.

It didn’t hurt that I got to hear the voice of Sopranos star (the best series ever) James Gandolfini throughout, and it made me chuckle to myself every time I pictured him in strip clubs, NJ gangster-style but then saw him on screen as a frumpy, troubled creature trying to find his way in the world while throwing sticks and pouting cliffside.

For dinner, I made pizza. Veggie pizza. Grilled veggie pizza. Grilled veggie pizza with ramp pesto. That’s more like it, right? You see, I’ve been waiting patiently for ramps since I first used them last year. Wild things in their own right, they are so pungent, so fragrant that, even a year later, I still remember the taste of ramps in the way that I remember the taste of my gramma’s lemon pound cake – it’s always there, though the frequency of consuming it isn’t, and that’s a sad fact.

I whipped up a batch of pesto with my first supply of ramps (ask Jennifer about my excitement when I saw them in the store; I think I embarrassed her), and used some of it to toss with some potatoes earlier in the week. I used a little more on this here pizza, and thank goodness, there’s still plenty left and with that, I made this egg omelet sandwich and still have more. You’d think it was regenerating or something, but it’s not; I’m just really making it last. Plus, ramps aren’t something you need to eat in large amounts, unless you’re hoping the resulting bad breath might keep your landlord or your in-laws, or perhaps even your spouse, away. I don’t have a landlord, I love my in-laws, and as for my spouse, I like to keep him as close by as possible.

Of course, that’s another story when he tries to steal my pizza. Which he did. Try, that is; I tend to have ninja-like reflexes when it comes to my food. Steal it from me, and you’re liable to wind up with a black eye, or maybe a missing finger if my fancy Japanese knife is nearby. Just don’t try it, for your sake and mine. I try to stay out of jail these days.

Although, with pizza that tastes as good as this one, a black eye or missing digit might be worth it. Just maybe.

Got any fancy pizza plans coming up? Share your favorites with us – don’t be shy :).

Grilled Veggie Pizza with Ramp Pesto
Loosely adapted from Cooking Light; serves 4

yes, there are multiple steps in this pizza-making process. but let me tell you a few things: it’s all easy, and three of the four “components” can be made in advance, and in large quantities. the pesto? you just read all the things I’ve done with it already. you can also freeze it in little ice cube trays for later. the pizza sauce? you can buy it, or make a batch that’ll last through 3-4 pizzas. the dough? double the recipe and freeze one for next time – I should have, because I have another pizza recipe up my sleeve for ‘vegetarian month’. once these are made, the pizza comes together in 30 minutes – perfect weeknight fare!

printable version

ingredients
pesto
2 small bunches of ramps, leaves separated from stems/bulbs
1 c grated Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese)
1/3 c Marcona almonds (or other nut)
1/2 c walnut oil (or sunflower or olive oil)
salt and pepper

pizza dough
2 to 2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 c warm water, divided
1 packet of active, dry yeast
2 T evoo
1 t sugar
3/4 t salt
cornmeal, for dusting the bottom

pizza sauce
1 T evoo
3 T minced garlic
28-oz can of organic diced tomatoes
1 t fresh cracked pepper
1/2 t salt
1/2-1 t Italian seasoning or other dried spice (parsley, oregano, basil)

pizza toppings
1 baby zucchini, quartered
1 baby eggplant, quartered
1 red bell pepper, quartered
salt and pepper
1 c fontina cheese, shredded

instructions
make pesto.
heat olive oil in large saute pan over med-hi heat. chop ramp bulbs and stems and saute in pan for about 5 minutes to soften. add sauteed ramps, raw ramp leaves, cheese, almonds and a pinch of salt and pepper to food processor and blend. through the top with processor running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 c of oil. will make 1 1/4 cups of pesto. adjust seasoning and sit aside. [can refrigerate or freeze.]

make pizza dough.
Combine water & yeast; let sit for about 5 minutes. By hand or w/ stand mixer (dough hook attachment), combine flour, sugar, salt. Add yeast mixture and oil. Mix until sticky ball forms. Transfer to floured counter and knead until smooth (will probably add more flour as you go because the counter gets sticky and the dough is sticky; add by tablespoons). Total kneading time is 1-2 minutes (you can also do this in the mixer). Put in large bowl that is oiled or sprayed and turn down over to cover with oil/spray. Cover w/ plastic and let rise in warm place (I preheat oven to lowest possible temp, like 100, and then open door to let heat out before putting in; best is about 80 degrees) for an hour, or until about doubled in size. Take dough out, back on floured surface and deflate dough. Roll out to desired shape and dust one side with cornmeal. [alternatively, you can refrigerate dough overnight to let flavor develop. then take out 1 hour before using to let come to room temp, punch down dough, and roll out onto floured surface.]

pizza sauce.
heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. add tomatoes and their juices, salt, pepper, and spice. bring to boil. reduce to low and simmer for 25 minutes. if you like your pizza sauce clumpy, leave it as is. if you like it smooth (I do, for pizza), blend it in a food processor or break out that handy dandy immersion blender. [refrigerate if making in advance, and if you make a lot, you can can it or freeze it.]

make pizza!
preheat grill (outdoor or indoor). grill eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper chunks until a good char forms. cut eggplant and zucchini into small pieces. place red pepper in ziploc bag for 10 minutes; peel and cut. mix all together in a bowl. plop pizza down onto grill (cornmeal side up) and grill for about 3 minutes; flip and grill 4 minutes. remove from grill.

spread pizza sauce over top of pizza. spread random dollops of ramp pesto around (use ~1/3 c). add mixed veggies, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add cheese. grill for another 4-5 minutes or until cheese melts (if grilling inside, it might help to place under broiler for a couple of minutes unless you like a dark pizza crust). slice into 8 pieces and enjoy!

Truly, Madly, Deeply in Love with Ramps

ramps

Ever heard of ramps? Me neither. Well, that’s a fib. Until last month though, I thought the only use of the word ramp was to describe an incline, possibly for a skateboard. But use of the word ramp in culinary terms? huh? A recent magazine article had me pretty excited though. I knew they came into season sometime in March and were only around for a short time, so I’ve been on the lookout at the local Whole Foods. The excitement when I finally saw them yesterday was, well, hard to describe. Something similar to listening to a new album from one of your favorite bands that’s received fantastic reviews from Rolling Stone – you know they’re reputable, but you don’t always agree with them, so you’re excited – but you still wanna listen for yourself. That’s exactly how I felt about ramps.


From what I’d read about these little green delights, there wasn’t much not to like. Unless you’re strange and don’t like garlic. or green onions. Having been described as a combo of green onions and strong garlic, I was pretty much sold on the sheer idea of them. They are most popular in, get this, West Virginia and Quebec! (picture furrowed brow of confused blondie here) And furthermore, in Quebec they are considered a delicacy. In WVa, they hold annual celebrations for them: “Ramp Feed” and the “International (yes, international) Ramp Festival”, which is the last weekend in April. Oh crikey – I just missed it…. maybe next year.


pesto ingredients

If you’re wandering aimlessly (or with aim, rather) in the g-store trying to find them, they easily stand out among their green, frumpy counterparts. They’re sexy – rounded white bulbs that look like shoes of a ballerina, long slender stems, purplish in hue, transitioning once again in color to soft green delicate leaves. And their smell? Not nearly as dreamy but rather pungent, as if you stuck your entire snout into a bottle of minced garlic – and then it got stuck. Yeah, strong is right, buster. But hold up cowboy/girl – you won’t find them in your local Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, or Dominicks. Only the specialty g-stores or farmers’ markets. If possible – go to a local farmers’ market and support the local growers – consider it your good deed of the day.


Others to get while the gettin’s good: asparagus, fava beans, strawberries, rhubarb, fennel


ramp pesto

I bought 2 bunches of ramps yesterday. On looking back at my receipt, I suppose they were gratis (I now recall the ringer not being able to find the code for them) so I can’t tell you what they’re going for. But nonetheless, I would concur with the previous assumptions about them – onion-y, garlic-y, gorgeous, and downright de-licious. I had a recipe from the April Bon Appetit in mind, which also called for Marcona almonds. These little buggers are also something to write home about. Spanish, heart-shaped, milky & nutty, (did I mention fried in olive oil, lightly salted, and stored in sunflower oil?) they are without a doubt my new favorite almond. But given their price (~12 buckaroos for 12 oz) I won’t be buying them often and will settle for their roasted unsalted version given their healthfulness and better price. If I can keep Chris away from them long enough, there’s enough for another recipe in my stack. Keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t find the hiding spot. 😉


salmon and ramp pesto

I’ll have to say – this recipe tops the charts when compared to some others I’ve made lately. The salmon, simply seared and seasoned with salt & pepper, goes perfectly with the robustness of the pesto; and the little dollop on top brings it all together. Perfect with a glass of sauvignon blanc. Plus, pesto is one of my favorite sauces, and I love the multiple iterations (except for the tarragon pesto I made Thursday… not a fan.). And now that I’ve tried them, I am head over heels in love with ramps and will for sure be gettin’ my hands on some more before they’re out. I’m sure it would go great in biscuits, spaghetti, in a casserole… what else? Send some ideas people!


salmon and ramp pesto


Seared Salmon w/ Linguine & Ramp Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009; serves 6*




ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems
  • 1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/3 cup Marcona almonds (available at Whole Foods or online)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 12 ounces linguine
  • salt & pepper
  • 6 6-ounce salmon fillets

instructions

Pesto: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup ramp bulbs and stems to skillet and sauté just until soft but not browned, reducing heat if necessary to prevent browning, about 5 minutes. Transfer sautéed ramps to processor (do not clean skillet). Add green tops, cheese, almonds, and tarragon to processor; process until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup oil and puree until almost smooth. Transfer pesto to bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to skillet and cook just until opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side.

Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot; add all but 1/4 cup pesto and toss to coat, adding enough pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide pasta among plates. Top with salmon. Spread remaining 1/4 cup pesto over fish and serve

*Note: I made this w/ 4 fillets and cut the pasta by 1/3 and made the same amount of pesto. I’m sure it’s great with tons of other things, like on bread or on other pastas with some tomatoes or something 😉 oohh… maybe even in scrambled eggs? yummers