Friday, February 10, 2017

Spaghetti with 5-Herb Pesto by Tom

Fresh Basil, Sage, Parsley, Tarragon and Celery Leaves Pesto

Barbara was flipping through one of her cookbooks and asking me what we should make for dinner that evening.  More accurately, what was I going to make for dinner.

I kind of had a desire for pasta.  So when she passed this recipe, I told her to stop.  Looked interesting and not to difficult to make.  Right on both counts.

This is really a three-step recipe.  Step 1: cut up four different herbs.  Five when you count the garnish on top.  Step 2:  puree in a food processor the ingredients for the pesto.  Step 3: prepare the spaghetti.  From then on it is just assembly.

What will strike you immediately is the fragrance coming from the herbs.  Next the garlic from the pesto.  And finally the beautiful aroma when it all comes together.

But it does not stop with the smell.  The taste is really good.

This dish was exactly what I was hoping for!  Great taste and a relatively light and healthy meal.

---Tom

Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs 
(from Williams-Sonoma Good Food To Share cookbook )

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves (our store did not have this, so I used dry tarragon about 1/2 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons lightly packed fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lightly packed celery leaves
salt and ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan at the table



Finely chop the basil, parsley, tarragon and sage and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle in the lemon juice and lightly coat the herbs.

Next combine the garlic, Parmesan cheese and the pine nuts in a small food processor or blender.  With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.  Process until the mixture is creamy and well blended.

Pour the oil mixture into the bowl with the herbs and stir to combine.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti per the instructions on the box.  I like pasta to be al dente, which usually takes about 10-11 minutes.  When the spaghetti is at the desired consistency, drain through a colander, and then transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates, as we did.

Add the pesto mixture to the spaghetti.
Sprinkle on the celery leaves.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
Add grated Parmesan cheese.

This smells really good and it tastes really good!  Twirl and enjoy.

---Tom

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Toasted Pecan Cocoa Biscotti

Twice Baked Italian Cookies (Biscotti)

Well, I broke down and baked this weekend, having made it through a full month into the new year to compensate for the excesses of the holidays.

I was really missing a morning treat to go with our coffee, and this recipe on the side of the Dutch-processed cocoa powder box fit the bill. They are not very sweet but they are chocolatey.

Toasted Pecan Cocoa Biscotti
(from the Dorval cocoa powder box)

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. instant espresso powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a large cookie rimmed sheet with parchment paper.
Toast the pecans, either in the toaster oven, or in the oven, or in a large skillet on the stove top, until fragrant but not dark.  (3-4 minutes in my toaster oven. Watch them carefully.) Break them into large pieces, or chop roughly.  Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, espresso powder, baking soda and salt.
In a larger bowl, using an electric mixer, combine eggs, butter and vanilla until well blended.  Turn mixer to low and slowly add the sugar.

Then gradually (a 1/2 cup or so at a time) add the flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.

Mix in the toasted pecans.  (Make sure they are cool.)

(The batter will be stiff.)
On a floured surface, (turn out the dough)
and divide it in two logs (as equally sized as possible and flattened on top.)
Place them on the parchment paper lined baking sheet, allowing for enough space for the dough to expand as it bakes.
Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes until firm to the touch. (Wish I had taken mine out sooner.)
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
Using a serrated knife, slice the logs into pieces approximately 3/4 inch thick.
Place back on the baking sheet with pieces standing upright and bake for another 20 minutes (checking after 10, and then again at 15) or until the desired crispness.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
These biscotti are the dry-style of biscotti.  Best with coffee or red wine.

B

Friday, February 3, 2017

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar, Pine Nuts and Parmesan by Tom

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar, Sprinkled with Pine Nuts and Shaved Parmesan

On a recent trip to Toledo to visit my parents, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant called Revolution Grill.  The name highlights the fact that the menu changes frequently, or revolves, around whatever is freshly available that day.

But one dish per our waiter that does not change is their roasted Brussels sprouts appetizer.  He said people come just for that dish.  With a recommendation like that, we just had to try them.  They were really good!

The Brussels sprouts themselves were roasted and then a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar coated them.  Added to the dish were pine nuts and freshly shaved Parmesan cheese.  It was delicious.  But I detected a hint of hoisin sauce and some sweetness, although it was denied by our waiter.

So, of course, I had to try to make them at home.

The first time I made them, I just used balsamic vinegar.  It was good, but not quite as good as at the restaurant.  The second time I made them I added hoisin sauce to the balsamic vinegar.  Much, much better but still not quite right.

As they say three is a charm, and this time I got it.  I detected a little sweetness initially, so I added just a little tiny bit of maple syrup.  That did it!

So, I now offer you my roasted Brussels sprout recipe with balsamic vinegar, hoisin and maple syrup.

---Tom


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar Mixture, Pine Nuts and Shaved Parmesan
(from Revolution Grill in Toledo, Ohio)

Serves 4

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
1 tablespoon pine nuts
shavings of Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a baking sheet, lightly coat with olive oil.

Place the Brussels sprouts cut side down and squish around in the olive oil so that the cut side is coated.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the underside of the Brussels sprouts are slightly golden brown.

Meanwhile mix the balsamic vinegar, hoisin sauce and maple syrup in a bowl or cruet.  Be sure it is well mixed.

When the Brussels sprouts are finished, remove from the oven and put into a serving bowl.  Spoon or pour as much of the balsamic mixture as you like over the Brussels sprouts, enough liquid to insure the Brussels sprouts will get coated.  Mix thoroughly to coat the Brussels sprouts.  Now sprinkle the pine nuts and Parmesan cheese over the vegetables.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

---Tom