lovin’ the herb

I love to grow fresh herbs. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I love to cook with fresh herbs. There’s nothing that says summertime to me more than overflowing pots of lush herbs on my back steps; it makes me happy just to look at them. Sometimes I run my hand along the rosemary or sage stems just to let them give off their lovely aroma. And who doesn’t love the way fresh basil smells. I’ve been thinking I just may start rubbing the leaves behind my ears as my summer scent. Anyway with all these wonderful herbs around I try to use them at every opportunity and since the more you clip herbs the more abundant they become, it’s really a win-win situation.

Finding uses for fresh basil is really a no brainer— as soon as Jersey tomatoes start hitting the farmers market I make a simple caprese salad or a Sweet Summer Sauce with my homegrown cherry tomatoes. Abundant amounts of oregano go into my Smokey Baked Beans, I use fresh rosemary on roasted potatoes and to marinade pork, cilantro has a starring role in my Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad and what would Herbed Drop Biscuits be without fresh thyme. However as tasty as these few dishes are, they don’t really put a significant dent in my herb supply. I’m always looking for new ways to work fresh herbs into my cooking and my latest creations are a brush on grill sauce for chicken and a creamy buttermilk salad dressing.

The grill sauce is a super simple way to give some fresh summery flavor to chicken or vegetables without much advance prep. Sure it makes a mess of the grill, but the you’ll enjoy dinner so much it will totally be worth a few extra minutes with the grill brush. And the salad dressing is something like a healthy hybrid of caesar and ranch, it turns nothing fancy greens into a salad worth serving guests.

Here’s wishing you a Summer filled with lovely sights, sounds and smells.

Buttermilk & Fresh Herb Salad Dressing
Say so long to that bottle of store bought dressing and hello to yum! I usually sprinkle a bit more shredded parmesan on top of the salad and sometimes a few slivered almonds.

herb salad5

2 tbsp. fresh basil
2 tbsp. fresh dill
2 tbsp. fresh parsley
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon
3 tbsp. sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. light mayo
3 tbsp. plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp. light sour cream
1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. black pepper

  1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the herbs are finely minced and the ingredients are fully blended.
  2. Pour into a glass jar and chill overnight, allowing flavors to blend, before drizzling over salad greens and serving.

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herb Sauce
You can brush this on the chicken or vegetables as you grill them. It will make a mess of the grill, but it’s totally worth it!

herb grilled chicken

6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package of chicken, thighs or breasts

  1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Allow to run until herbs are minced and a thick sauce has formed.
  2. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the chicken with the sauce and begin to grill. Flip and continue to baste with the remaining sauce until chicken is completely cooked.
*adapted from serious eats

life altering hummus

When my son was little he was a real picky eater. The first solid food he ever ate was avocado and he loved it; but then along came toddler free will and out the window went adventurous eating. Most of his likes and dislikes were based solely on the appearance rather than taste, it used to drive me crazy! Night’s when he actually ate what the rest of the family did felt like a huge victory to me. Uggh, mealtimes those first few years were not fun!

Refusing to be undone by this kids’ unfounded rejection of perfectly delicious food, I started experimenting with a little mom sleight of hand. I looked for any way to make the “kid food” he was willing to eat healthier. Carrots and celery puréed into the red sauce I used on pizza, homemade fish sticks and chicken tenders, black beans added to brownies (not a big hit) and hummus as a dipper for crackers and pretzels. Yup you read right, good ol’ garlicky hummus. My picky guy wouldn’t touch a perfectly non-threatening string bean, an innocuous burger or a simple bowl of soup; but he would eat hummus like it was going out of style. Hummus sandwiches, hummus on pretzels, hummus with his chicken tenders… and I can’t even tell you how often he sat down with a big bowl of hummus and a spoon. People thought I was crazy, but he loved it! And I loved that he was eating something full of protein, loaded with heart-healthy garlic (during his hummus years he never had a mosquito bite!) and more exotic than mac n’ cheese or pb&j. Needless to say I quickly developed a hummus recipe of my own and could whip up a batch in flash.

Thankfully he’s no longer a picky eater, but it didn’t happen overnight. He’ll now eat almost anything I put in front of him as long as it’s not spicy and is loaded with garlic. Yet hummus still plays a big role in our house. My daughter, who thankfully is far less suspicious of unfamiliar foods then he ever was, happens to be a hummus junkie as well. In fact just yesterday her lunch request was a bowl of hummus and some baby carrots. Ya gotta love it!

Who knew that a simple bowl of garlicky hummus in your formative years could turn into an enduring love of strong flavors and a willingness to try unfamiliar food. Seriously, who knew?!?

Homemade Hummus
You can adjust the amount of garlic in the recipe to your taste or slow roast it before hand to mellow out the flavor.


1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. tahini
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

  1. Put everything in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. Spoon into a serving dish, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika. Serve with toasted pita chips and fresh vegetables, or a spoon.

pickled red onions

Last weekend I decided to drag out my crock pot and make a little pulled pork. I didn’t have a pulled pork recipe to follow, but what I did have was the recipe for those crazy good Pulled Turkey Tacos that I blogged about a while ago. I figured I could swap a pork loin for the turkey cutlets and serve it on rolls instead of soft taco shells. And so a pulled pork recipe was born.

The pulled pork turned out just as I had hoped; the meat was super tender, it had just the right amount of sauce and it was a touch spicy but not so much so that the kids declared it inedible. And one of the best things about having a crock pot full of pulled pork— there’s always plenty of leftovers for during the week! Not surprisingly I decided to serve the leftovers as soft taco filling, just as I had the pulled turkey. But while the turkey tacos were delicious with your standard issue cheese, lettuce, sour cream etc., I wanted to jazz my pulled pork tacos up a bit. How you may ask, well with pickled red onions of course! I already had it in my mind that I wanted to try pickling my own onions (I had tried to make cucumbers last summer and they ended in disaster), so now that pulled pork tacos were on the menu it seemed like perfect timing.

The onions were amazing! I added them to the pulled pork soft taco along with some aged cheddar and fresh cilantro and it seriously made a good taco into an extraordinary one.

Pickled Red Onions
These pickled onions are a fantastic addition to tacos, sandwiches and salads. They add a lovely bright and fresh crunch.

pickled onion in jar

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

  1. In a small saucepan stir together the vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Placed the sliced onion in a glass jar and pour the vinegar brine over it. Squish the onion down so that it is fully submerged in the brine, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.

*adapted from rachel ray/bobby flay

Criss-Cross Applesauce

I love Fall, it’s absolutely my favorite season. I love the beautiful blanket of falling leaves (it drives me crazy that here in Northern NJ everyone sweeps up their leaves the minute they hit the ground); I love the chill in the air; I love the contrast between the bright blue sky and Mother Nature’s muted colors; I even love the cool, earthy and slightly damp way the season smells. And there is no food that says Fall to me more perfectly than apples.

It seems like this time of year everyone you talk to has either just gone apple picking or has plans to. (Although truth be told, the Greco family prefers to apple pick mid-August in Vermont. Sorry N.J., but you really can’t compete.) Anyway, back to those apples. If you in fact do go apple picking then you’re probably like me and end up bringing home way more than you and your family can possibly eat out of hand. And seriously how many pies does any one person feel compelled to make? So to use up all those lovely fresh picked apples I make applesauce. In the past I would make it on the stove top and just let it cook until it was mushy and “done”. Then I discovered a Martha Stewart recipe for roasted applesauce. Hello delicious!

This is honestly some of the best applesauce I’ve ever tasted. It’s loaded with wonderful spices, takes less than an hour to make and freezes beautifully. My family likes to eat it in the morning with toast, at dinner alongside chicken or pork chops and warmed up with a bit of vanilla ice cream for dessert. I promise that after making this roasted version you’ll never bother with the stove top kind again.

Roasted Applesauce
Roasting the apples rather than cooking them on the stove really gives this applesauce a much more complex flavor.

1/4 cup water
4 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
a big pinch of salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 lbs. apples (about 10-12)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel, core and cut apples into medium size chunks. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Stir until blended and sugar has dissolved.
  3. Pour sugar mixture over the apples and toss to coat well. Place apples in a large baking dish, cover tightly with foil and roast 40 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly then mash apples with a fork. Adjust spices (if needed) and serve warm over vanilla ice cream, at room temperature, or freeze for a later date.

*adapted from martha stewart

feelin’ hot! hot! hot!

It’s mid-October and believe it or not I’m still harvesting cayenne peppers from my garden. To say I’ve had a bumper crop this year would be an understatement! I’ve used my homegrown peppers to kick up the heat in everything from scrambled eggs, turkey chili and curried peanut chicken to sautéed shrimp, collard greens, grits and even salad. I’ve given them to friends and neighbors and popped a bunch into the freezer, and I’ve still got oodles more to find a use for. I happen to love spicy food, so this isn’t entirely the cumbersome task I’m making it out to be, but I really was beginning to worry that I was close to running out of tasty ideas. Then I had an epiphany— how about homemade hot sauce!

I personally think hot sauce is a fantastic and often underrated condiment. But, what I don’t like is hot sauce that’s all heat and zero flavor. My favorite is Sriracha, a Thai sauce made of chili peppers, vinegar, a bit of sugar and lots of garlic. And so Sriracha I would make…

Sriracha (Chili & Garlic Hot Sauce)
This sauce is HOT, garlicky and fantastically flavorful. The recipe doesn’t make a tremendous amount, but all you need to a little to really bring on the heat.

20 whole fresh cayenne peppers
1 medium head of garlic
1 tsp. pink salt
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. water
4 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. corn starch, dissolved in 3 tbsp. water

  1. Remove all the pepper stems and roughly slice. Chop the garlic and place in a small saucepan along with the peppers, salt, sugar, water and vinegar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and add to the saucepan. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes.
  3. Place the cooked hot sauce in the bowl of a food processor and allow to run for 5 minutes. Pour into a small jar, allow to cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for 3 days before enjoying.

*adapted from pham fatale

Trust the Greco Fisherman

I don’t make it a habit to cook “kid food”. Rather I try to expose my children to all sorts of cuisine but in a more kid-friendly kinda way. For example, I purposely make my curried chicken less spicy than I would personally like it so that the heat won’t be a turn off for them. And when I serve a unappealingly green vegetable like oh-so-dreaded spinach, I try to make it extra flavorful so that they can’t help but enjoy it.

However I am very lucky in that both of my kids like fish. My son loves clams steamed on the grill and is crazy for sautéed grouper. My daughter will devour shrimp cocktail (spicy sauce and all) and salmon burgers like the ship’s going down. Because they are so willing to eat whatever I make (well, most nights anyway) every now and then I treat them to an honest to goodness “kid meal”. Mac n’ cheese, chicken pot pie or… fish sticks. Not those minced white fish Gorton’s fisherman frozen numbers, but fresh  fish fillets with a crispy (baked) coating served with a side of homemade tartar sauce.

These are super easy to make, kid-appealingly crunchy and just plain old delicious. I seriously think my husband and I enjoy fish stick night just as much as the kids. Seriously.

Easy, delicious, nutritious… That’s a home run in my book.

Baked Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce
You can use any type of firm white fish for these fish sticks. Tilapia was on sale so that’s what I used, but Grouper and Cod work just as well.

fish sticks 4

1 lb. tilapia fillets
1 1/2 cups crushed corn flakes
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. onion, minced
1 tbsp. dill pickle, minced
1 tsp. lemon juice
a pinch of chipotle chili pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In one bowl beat together the egg and milk. In another bowl mix together the crushed corn flakes, smoked paprika, butter, garlic powder and salt. In a third bowl place the flour.
  3. Cut the fish into 1″ wide sticks. Dredge the sticks (one at a time) in the flour, then in the egg mixture and then finally in the corn flakes, turning to coat all sides.
  4. Place the coated fish sticks on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until the fish is opaque and the corn flakes have begun to brown, 10-15 min.
  5. While the fish is in the oven mix up the tartar sauce. Stir together the mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, onion, pickle, lemon juice and chipotle powder. Chill until ready to use.
  6. When the fish is done serve with a puddle of tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

*adapted from good things

sweet summer sauce

As I mentioned last week my tomatoes and peppers are very happy with this record breaking hot weather. So happy in fact that I have an insane number of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been eating them everyday day; quickly sauteed with eggs, in a green salad or as a snack, but I’m not even close to making a dent in my overwhelming supply. So, what’s a girl to do but… make sauce!

Ordinarily I make red sauce during the cool months with canned tomatoes, a bit of lean meat (to round out the flavor) and a full day of simmering on the stove. But this was going to be a summer sauce; all garden fresh ingredients with a short cooking time and instead of meat I’d use a bit of butter to knock down the acidic bite.

This resulting sauce was some of the best I’ve ever made. Seriously, the best! It was so good that after we enjoyed it for dinner the remainder went directly into the freezer; how lovely it will be to pull out a container of that wonderful sauce on a cold winter night. And with the way my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes, I just might be able to squeak out another batch or two of sauce before the end of the season. Hooray for happy heat loving tomatoes!

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
This sauce was the perfect way to use the freshest of summer ingredients from my garden. It was only a matter of hours from harvesting to serving.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
5 springs fresh thyme
6 large leaves fresh basil, julienned
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the whole cherry tomatoes, give a good stir and let cook (covered) until the tomatoes begin to pop.
  2. Add the fresh herbs, bay leaves, red pepper, salt and wine. Let cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a spatula, until all the tomatoes are popped, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer until the sauce has thickened, 25-30 minutes. Once everything is soft and cooked through remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Use an immersion blender to break down the skins, seeds and onion and make the sauce smooth.
  4. Add 3 tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 tsp. white sugar and let cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with your favorite pasta or cool for use at a latter date.

‘baby daddy’ bbq ribs

Last night I had a dream about pulled pork. Actually it was kind of a nightmare. I was in some sort of cooking competition and when it was time to serve my dish to the judges I couldn’t find two forks to shred the meat and all I had was paper plates to serve it on. Crazy right? I guess that’s what I get for watching Chopped before bed.

Actually I’ve had barbecue on my mind lately. As you’re aware last weekend was Father’s Day. I asked my children’s father what he would like me to make for our Father’s Day dinner, but he said he was busy with his UPS route that day… so I asked my husband instead. (Ba-dum-bum-CHING! My husband loves when I make that joke.) Seriously though, when I asked my dear husband what he would like for dinner he requested barbecued ribs. Okey dokey, then ribs it would be.

I happen to be a true barbecue lover. I can’t think of a more satisfying summertime meal than finger-lickin’ sauce-covered chicken, ribs or pulled pork with a side of corn bread, some salad and sweet watermelon for dessert. But what I don’t like is commercially produced barbecue sauce full of high fructose corn syrup, liquid smoke and caramel coloring. No thanks. I have found bottled sauce that has a more “natural” list of ingredients, but I usually end up doctoring it up a bit to fit my tastes. So… why not just make my own. It’s super easy, just ketchup (the kind without high fructose corn syrup), a bunch of spices and a little cooking. Yum!

Okay, so back to those ribs. There seem to be as many ways to cook ribs as there are people who like to eat them. You can smoke them, slow cook them, grill them, boil them (bletch) and even fry them. They can be marinated, dry rubbed or simply slathered with sauce. The possibilities are endless! The recipe I use calls for marinating, slow roasting and then finishing them with sauce on the grill. Sure this may require a few more steps than some other recipes, but the total lack of conversation at our Father’s Day dinner table told me it was totally worth it.

Barbecued Ribs
I took all the heat out of this recipe because I wanted it appeal to my kids. 
If you prefer spicy feel free to kick it up with some cayenne pepper in both the marinade and the sauce.

4 lbs. pork spare ribs

For the marinade:
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. Spanish paprika
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. key lime juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. brown sugar

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and give a quick whisk to completely blend. Add the ribs, turning to coat well, cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place the ribs in a non-stick roasting pan and add enough of the marinade to just cover the bottom. Cover with foil and cook for 3 hours, flipping halfway through.
  3. At this point the ribs should be just about fully cooked and ready for a quick finish on the grill. Baste the ribs with the barbecue sauce and grill until the sauce begins to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes per side. Serve with additional barbecue sauce on the side and some hot sauce for anyone who wants their ribs a bit spicy.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
This sauce is super simple to throw together and much tastier than store-bought. It can easily be doubled or made spicier and it’s just as delicious on chicken or fish.

For the barbecue sauce:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. key lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. smoked paprika
3/4 cup water

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Set aside.

*adapted from saveur

All Dressed Up

I am always looking for ways to take the everyday and make it special. Sometimes I do this purely out of necessity (I’m a busy girl after all!) and sometimes it’s just because making a dish entirely from scratch isn’t dramatically better than tweaked up store-bought. I’ll make fancy from scratch frosting to go with boxed cake mix and homemade butter for store baked bread. Even something as simple as a pre-made fruit platter looks fancy when served in a pretty bowl with a few snips of fresh mint on top. I’m all for minimal effort, maximum impact.

As you know by now I love salad. I eat it nearly everyday, especially since I’ve begun harvesting it from my own garden, and I serve it anytime we have a sizable gathering. And what could be easier than a homemade dressing to fancy-up any otherwise ordinary tossed salad. Sure it’s easy to buy a bottle of dressing at the store (actually I usually serve something store-bought alongside my homemade for those “afraid of the unknown” guests) but homemade salad dressing is crazy easy to throw together and much tastier than pre-made.

In the past I’ve made a simple mustard vinaigrette and a garlicky pesto dressing, but having recently made hummus I really wanted to find another use of that container of tahini I had sitting in my refrigerator. Voilà… Lemon, Tahini & Garlic Dressing was born.

Lemon, Tahini & Garlic Salad Dressing
This was delicious drizzled on salad but I imagine it would work as well on a hummus and falafel pita or even steamed greens. And feel free to decrease the garlic and up the honey if a sweeter, milder dressing is what you prefer.

4 tbsp. tahini
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tsp. honey
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

  1. Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water, vinegar and honey. Add to this the garlic, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the sesame oil and whisk everything together until it is thoroughly blended.
  2. Adjust the salt and sweetness to your taste, adding a splash more water if you prefer a thinner dressing, and chill for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

*adapted from eating well

alakazam… pesto!

Ahhhh Spring… The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and my thoughts have turned to planning my vegetable garden. For me there is nothing more satisfying than tending, harvesting and enjoying veggies produced in my own little backyard.

Part of what appeals to me most about vegetable gardening is the sheer possibility. The possibility that you’ll have a bumper crop of string beans and become this summer’s “String Bean Queen”, the possibility that you’ll plant the eggplant too close to the yellow squash and create some crazy hybrid vegetable and even the possibility that the pumpkin you and the kids were so excited to grow, ends up a total bust.

How I love the daily nurturing and fervent watching for the slightest growth, flower and finally fruit. It gives me such joy! Long before I ever had actual raised beds to plant in I was an avid container gardener. Then it was mainly the growing of herbs, tomatoes and a little lettuce that made me happy. I used those early garden successes in every fashion I could think of, but more than just about anything else I made pesto. Tons of pesto in fact; traditional basil and pignoli, kale and toasted walnut, mint and almond and even arugula and pistachio. I was “The Pesto Queen”!

Pesto is one of the most versatile sauces I can think of. It’s great as a spread on crackers or sandwiches, yummy mixed with some Greek yogurt and served with raw veggies, makes a tasty salad dressing when thinned out with additional lemon juice and oil and can even enliven a simple bowl of minestrone soup.

But the thing that I truly love the most about pesto is that it tastes just like Spring. Fresh, green, unhurried and full of promise.

I wish for you a Spring brimming with promise and possibility…

Arugula and Pistachio Pesto
This pesto is fantastic just about anywhere, but particularly good as a sassy little appetizer with goat cheese and won ton wrapper cups (see recipe below). 

6 1/2 cups of arugula, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup salted and roasted pistachios, shelled
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

  1. Boil six cups of water in a medium-sized pot. *Working in small batches, quickly blanch arugula and then shock it in a bowl of ice water. Wring the blanched arugula dry and place in a food processor.
  2. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, pistachios, garlic, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. If the pesto is too thick add a bit more oil and lemon juice. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container.

*I always blanch whatever type of green I’m using to make pesto. You don’t have to, but it helps keep your beautiful pesto bright and green, rather than turning brown in a day or two.

Goat Brie & Pesto Cups
These are a snap to make but look like you’ve toiled for hours.

24 wonton wrappers
pesto (homemade or store bought)
4 oz. goat Brie cheese
shelled pistachios, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and gently mold the wonton wrappers into each cup. Then lightly spray each raw wonton cup with the cooking spray.
  2. Bake the wonton cups for about 6-7 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown. Remove the baked cups from the muffin pan and allow to cool for a few minutes before filling.
  3. Fill each cup with a square of goat cheese, a 1/4 tsp. of pesto and garnish with a pistachio.

“butter” than sliced bread

butter [buht-er]:
An edible whitish-yellow solid made from cream by churning, for cooking and table use. ~ To apply a liquefied bonding material to (a piece or area), as mortar to a course of bricks. ~ “To butter up”; to flatter someone in order to gain a favor. ~ “Look as if butter wouldn’t melt in one’s mouth”; to look innocent, although probably not so.

Butter. You probably don’t give it all that much thought. Yeah me neither, until recently that is. As I mentioned in an earlier post I bought the cookbook “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter”, which I’ve been enjoying flipping through. But as much as the title made me chuckle it also made me think, “But why not? Why shouldn’t I make the butter?” My son (who’s 7) has made butter at school a handful of times, so I don’t imagine it could really be all that difficult. I made a mental note to give it a try one of these days.

Have you ever had one of those afternoons where you feel like you’ve spent more time thinking about everything you need to do, rather than doing it? Thursday was one of those days and before I knew it the day was half over and I still didn’t have anything in the house for dinner. I made a mad dash to the store but with my limited amount of time was forced to buy bland grocery store Italian bread rather than the good bakery stuff. I hate having to settle for bland and mediocre! Not one to be undone by something as silly as bread, I seized this as my lemonade out of lemons opportunity to see what homemade butter really was all about. Could it possibly turn this hum-drum loaf of bread into something you’d actually enjoy eating?

It turns out making butter from scratch is not hard to do at all, especially if you have a food processor. Yes I know, you’re rolling your eyes because who but a crazy person with too much time on their hands would bother to make butter. But hold on a second. It took me all of 10 minutes to turn a little heavy cream into the tastiest butter you’ve ever spread on a slice of bread. Honestly, 10 minutes and a lifetime of difference between anything you could buy at the store. And when I tell you this homemade butter was good, I mean “oh my god” good, “I will always remember this moment” good, and “how can this be legal” good. Yeah, it’s really that good!

Oh, and that lame store-bought bread? There wasn’t an un-buttered crumb left.

Homemade Butter
I added a bit of salt to my finished butter, but you can leave it out if you prefer a sweeter result. I also understand that homemade butter will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but my family polished ours off in two days.

1 half pint of heavy cream (or 1 cup)
1/4 tsp. fine grained salt
3/4 cup of ice water

  1. Pour the heavy cream into the food processor and turn it on. Let the cream process for 1-2 minutes. You’ll see the heavy cream change first into whipped cream and then into lumps of butter. (You’ll also hear the change in the sound of motor when it goes from whipped cream to butter.) Let it process for another 2-4 minutes, until it becomes smooth and creamy.
  2. Turn the food processor off and pour the liquid that has accumulated out and into a bowl. (This is buttermilk and can be used for a future recipe.)
  3. Use a spatula to press the butter against the side of the food processor bowl, extracting as much of the buttermilk as you can.
  4. When you’ve gotten the butter as dry as possible pour in 3/4 cup of ice water and run the processor for about 30 seconds. (What you’re doing is rinsing the butter, which flushes out more of the buttermilk and will allow it to keep longer in the fridge.)
  5. Press the butter again and pour off the remaining water/buttermilk. When all the excess moisture has been removed transfer the butter into a small bowl. Mix a 1/4 tsp. fine grained salt into the butter and enjoy the fruit of your efforts. Or store in a resealable container and refrigerate.

*adapted from my earth garden