Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fresh Spinach-Pea Pesto Pasta

Pesto comes in many forms... from the classic basil genovese to a variety of spreads that highlight different herbs, greens, nuts, and/or cheeses. While some traditionalists may have trouble calling these varying spreads pestos, I take "the more the merrier" approach. There are just so many wonderful combinations that can be made. Though many highlight a particular herb (parsley, cilantro, basil, etc)  or a combination of two or more herbs, the pesto pasta featured here takes in an entire salad!

The idea for this particular pasta was piqued by thoughts of a favored salad I make from Ina Garten's 2006 cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa At Home. Her recipe is a super simple spinach salad that gets turned a bit with some prepared pesto, defrosted frozen peas, shaved parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts. It's insane how simple and delicious it is. So, why not convert that Pesto Pea Salad to a main pasta dish?

The "pesto" part of this pasta comes together super quick with the help of a food processor. A good heap of fresh spinach gets a spin to break down a bit and make room for the addition of defrosted frozen peas, fresh parsley and basil, toasted pine nuts, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, kosher salt, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The addition of fresh lemon really helps brighten and enliven the flavor of this spinach-laden "pesto" and a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a few fresh (or defrosted frozen) peas lend a pretty (and tasty) garnish.

The end result is a quick and delicious, super-good-for-you pesto that beautifully laces the more robust threads of al dente bucatini pasta.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Glazed Fresh Cherries {and a Rustic Cherry Pizza Pie for Stemilt Growers}

More often than not, cherries don't make their way much further than our kitchen sink before they're completely nibbled and noshed. And if they do happen to get squired off for a special occasion, it's usually one that requires only the most minimal of dressing up... as they are so naturally sweet and delicious on their very own.

Recently, I did put a good batch of sweet cherries aside to create my take on cherry pie for Stemilt Growers... a Rustic Cherry Pizza Pie. It's a simple crostata-like pizza that's layered with a little crumb made with almond meal, fig jam and granola, then topped with fresh, glazed Stemilt cherries.

It's a delicious, fun and casual approach to "pie." And the recipe (which can be grabbed by clicking over to The Stem) results in a bit of leftover glazed cherries that are de-li-SHUSH on just about anything you might pile into a bowl. Here... old fashioned oats are laced with brown sugar and cinnamon, then topped with a few spoonfuls of drippy, glazed cherries and a drizzle of almond milk. 

They are simply fresh Stemilt cherries that have taken a little spin in some melted fig jam and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Piled atop a dessert pizza... or on some morning fare... they glisten with goodness. Take a peek at The Stem for complete details.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Braised Baby Artichokes {Flavored with Garlic, Lemon, Anchovies & Sumac}

In marriage, cooking is a bit like poker. If you produce an ample array of satiable meals that successfully quench the appetites of those you love with many of their favorite flavors, then you are able to throw in a raise here and there.

I'll see your stack of pancakes, grilled salmon, brussel sprouts, apple pie, etc... and I'll raise you one artichoke dish.

Perhaps this is more like bartering than poker?

Regardless of the terminology, artichokes are a valued chip in my stack of flavor plays. I adore them... my husband not so much.

I love large artichokes steamed and served up simple with a little vegan "butter" or dipping sauce. I love the little marinated ones straight out of the jar. And... most of all... I love the baby artichokes you can get this time of year. With no fuzzy choke to fiddle with and their delectable delicate nature, they are good in so many ways. Sliced ultra thin and served up as a fresh salad with lemon, olive oil and a little seasoning; halved and grilled; roasted; or slowly braised to perfection.

Recently we ate at a great little spot called Terra Plata, a lovely restaurant nestled on an unusual triangular block in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. Literally, its front door is the only door on the corner and the building fans out to a "V" from that point. It is flanked with walls of windows that open to the sidewalk on one side and a quiet little alley on the other, letting in abundant light and the world passing by. It is backed by a group of buildings that make up the Melrose Market, housing Seattle's well-known Sitka & Spruce, along with a handful of fun retail nooks, specialty food spots, and a great little wine bar.

We had a number of delicious little plates at Terra Plata, including a braised artichoke starter that literally melts in your mouth it is so smooth and perfectly simmered. While I was able to discern many of the flavors in this dish, there was one that was particularly distinct and unknown to me. When I questioned our server he immediately noted the addition of ground sumac, a seasoning that is not in my everyday repertoire. A minute or two later he returned to our table with a small plate topped with a little sprinkle of this seasoning for us to taste. That was major points in my book. I love it when restaurants (staff, chef, etc) are eager to share their knowledge with you.

I didn't want to press my luck and ask for the recipe... so, this is my own little take on Terra Plata's lovely rendition.

I started with a good drizzle of olive oil heated in a large skillet, to which I added a few smashed cloves of garlic and a little sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Once the garlic is browned and has infused the oil with its wonderful aroma and flavor you pull it out and it gets discarded... happy to have played

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Little Breakfast Sandwich... for Mother's Day?

Holiday traditions and family celebrations are all about making memories; capturing the feeling and fun of times shared... though not necessarily in the same way or on the same day as you've always shared them. As time moves on (and kids get older), you kind of have to roll with the flow of things a bit more.

The simple (and sometimes not so simple) cadence of life oftentimes requires creativity and flexibility when it comes to celebrations.

My own Mother's Day came one week early this year... and by complete surprise. It began with this little breakfast sandwich -- a not-so-traditional BLT with turkey bacon, spinach, tomato, a fried egg, some hummus, and a bit of shredded carrot -- made for a car trip north, and culminated in a weekend-long visit in Seattle with both our girls (the youngest flying up from San Francisco). Totally unexpected... and totally great!

While the first eighteen years of Mother's Days for me... and many moms I know... held a fairly rhythmic tradition of handmade cards and the day spent together, every one of the eight since has been uniquely its own. Whether acknowledged by card, by phone... or a surprise visit... each is a reminder of just how incredibly lucky and honored I am to have two wonderful young women call me mom.

While my Mother's Day came early, happily on the heels of this little egg sandwich, I did create a fun DIY project for Stemilt Growers this week that would be great on a Mother's Day table. It's a Mother's Day Apple Bouquet that is featured this week on The Stem. And, since we're talking occasions here, I have to say it would also be great as a little end-of-year teacher's gift... maybe with a yellow #2 pencil mixed in!

So whether it's heading out in the car with a little egg sandwich or sitting around a nicely dressed table, traditions and celebrations are meant to be savored... however they get rolled out.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and opinions expressed are my own.