Pesto Change-Oh!

Pesto Change-Oh!

For traditional pesto, you For traditional pesto, you’ll need handfuls of basil, several cloves of garlic, another handful of grated cheese and pine nuts…

It’s summertime and nothing screams summer like fresh pesto. But, what the heck is pesto, and how do I use it? Well, my fine foodie friends, pesto is basically a full-flavored paste. It originated in Italy and combines, essentially, basil, garlic, grated hard cheese (think Parmigiano Reggiano), toasted pine nuts and olive oil. You can smush these ingredients all together using a mortar and pestle, or you can march into the twenty-first century and use your trusty food processor.

For traditional pesto, place a couple of handfuls of basil, several cloves of garlic, another handful of grated cheese, and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Then, with the machine running, slowly drizzle in about ½ cup of olive oil. Stop the machine, season with salt and pepper, taste and see if you need a little extra oil. Now you’ve done it! Store your pesto in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for several weeks.

Now, how do you use it! I add a couple of spoonfuls to cooked pasta for a simple midweek supper. Add a dollop to sautéed zucchini, roasted Brussels sprouts, or butter-boiled potatoes. Spread some on your roasted turkey panini, your garlicky garlic bread and your breakfast burrito. And then there is my favorite use, corn on the cobb with pesto and fluffy cheese!

But wait! Let’s laugh in the face of fate, and change things up a bit. What if we create our own version of pesto with the summer’s fresh bounty of greens? Well, heck yeah, that’ll work!

I purchased garlic scapes and a bag of fresh spinach leaves last week at the market, and inspiration was born. Combining fresh greens, with macadamia nuts, scapes, Parmesan cheese and olive oil yielded one stunning pesto! I rolled my warm corn in the pesto, dusted it with more finely ground cheese, and served it for our Alfresco summer dinner with home-made sloppy joes. Getting hungry yet?

If summer has a super savory taste, this is it! If summer has a super savory taste, this is it!

Corn on the Cobb with Garlic Scape and Macadamia Nut Pesto

Serves 4

20 Minute Cuisine

In the early summer market, you can find long, green, circles of thin stalks that are garlic scapes. These are the flower bud of garlic plants. They are cut off the plant so that the bulb grows fatter and fatter. These strands of garlicky goodness can be used in the same way as garlic cloves with no peeling of course! I use them to make pesto and then I spread that pesto on everything. Melting, fragrant, nutty pesto is delicious on summer sweet corn. Give it a try to see what I mean!

3 to 4 garlic scapes, chopped, about ½ cup

½ pound spinach leaves, about 2 cups

1 bunch fresh basil, about ½ cup

¼ cup macadamia nuts

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup olive oil

4 large ears of corn, shucked

Place the garlic scapes, spinach leaves, basil leaves (no need to chop any of these, just dump them right in), macadamia nuts and Parmesan cheese into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until all the ingredients are ground together. Open the lid and season with salt and pepper. Replace the lid and with the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil to make a paste. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Place the corn into a pan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and cook until the corn is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the water from the pan. Place several spoonfuls of the pesto into the pan with the corn. Cover with the lid and swirl the pan so that the hot corn melts the pesto and all the kernels are generously coated. Serve the corn with additional salt and pepper and another sprinkle of Parmesan cheese!

AFTER MARKET LEFTOVERS

Remove the kernels from the cobbs and place into a bowl. Drain a can of black beans and pour into the same bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, onion and a bit of fresh jalapeno pepper. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, kosher salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Stir this all together and chill for a corn and black bean salsa that is perfect with warm tortilla chips and fresh guac!

All over this Recipe like White on Rice!

All over this Recipe like White on Rice!

I’m feeling pretty good these days. I found a healthy lifestyle diet – the Whole30. It’s a misnomer to say “diet” – it’s just 30 days of eating so well, you hardly notice you’ve cut carbs, sugar, dairy and alcohol from your life. When the 30 days are up, you can (although you might be feeling so great, you don’t want to) gradually add these foods back in, and see how you react after a month of eating clean. I don’t follow the plan religiously, but enough to say I lost several pounds, get compliments on how much younger I look, and left my doctor’s office with A+ blood work. Here’s the Whole30 Program’s official site if you’re interested in ideal health and wellness.

Doing this for myself, made me – as a recipe developer – rethink a lot of dinnertime staples. What’s a stir-fry without rice? I asked myself. It turns out, you can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating white rice, in less time in the kitchen than if you were actually making…WHITE RICE!

I’ve made fried “rice” a lot this summer, using my own go-to CAULIFLOWER FRIED RICE recipe. Though delicious, anyone doing Whole 30 must be advised to delete the soy sauce from the ingredient list. My “rice” stands as a good recipe without it; I simply enjoy the salty kick! NOTE: Whole30 publishes a list of approved substitutes, if you’re looking to replace the soy sauce with something just as good.

Since Whole30 reminds me of the Paleo diet with attitude, I’ve tried all kinds of meats with my “rice”.  This recipe is particularly good with a kabob stick of grilled shrimp on top!

With a single head of cauliflower, you can make enough to have leftovers. A brilliant shortcut in making it, is to use matchstick carrots from the grocery store. Worth noting too: the recipe pasted below is not the Bible on Cauliflower Rice. You can add or subtract the ingredients you see listed. Last night, I made it with just carrots, onion and generous splashes of Sriracha Sauce and curry powder. It was so spicy and delicious, I could swear I was an Indian chef in a past life!

Please know that you don’t have to have a food processor to make this! A garden variety spatula can chop your cauliflower to rice-sized bits just fine. Savagely attack your veggies as they roast in your sauté pan. YUM!!!!!

When the “rice” is ready, trick your brain into thinking you’re having a carb-infused gourmet restaurant experience, by following these 2 simple steps (1) Pack the rice into a small cup or ramekin (2) Turn it upside down, and let sit for a second.  Shake the cup gently loose. VIOLA, it looks like this!

Now, here’s my recipe, with about 80 percent less calories than real rice. Let me know what you think!

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Serves 4 as a side dish

30 Minute Cuisine

Here’s one for those veggie lovers out there. Cauliflower takes the place of rice in this riff on a traditional Asian side dish. Fresh peas, carrots and two types of onion take the veggie quotient to the upper limits!

I large head cauliflower, stem and outer leaves removed

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 medium white onion, peeled and diced

2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed and diced, about 1 cup

¼ pound fresh shelled peas, 1 cup

2 large eggs, beaten

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

4 to 5 green onions, thinly sliced, about ½ cup

Chop the cauliflower into pieces and place into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This will only take a few pulses.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, white onion and carrots. Cook until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce. Add the peas to the pan. Cook until the peas are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the eggs into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the eggs are soft and fluffy. Sprinkle green onions on top. Serve as a side dish or top with grilled shrimp or chicken for a whole meal.