Monday, November 14, 2011

Food: Basil Pesto

 My last harvest before that crazy mid-October snow storm!

Making basil pesto is one of the easiest things to do in the kitchen, and frankly one of the most versatile ingredients you can have on hand.  We use pesto not only to make pasta, but also to make bread, salad dressings, marinades, and all sorts of sauces. 

To store, you can either "oil cure" it  as I've shown below (lasts about 2 months in the fridge) or you can freeze it.  Our stash never lasts longer than 6 months, but that's because we eat it all the time!

What you'll need:
-A food processor.  You can probably use a blender, too, but this gal here is my favorite wedding present, and I use her often.
- Basil of course.  Don't use the stems--especially the big ones.  Pick off the leaves, wash and dry them before using. I make as big a batch as I can manage.  It's just as much work to make a huge batch as it is to make a little one.
-Olive oil.
-Nuts.  For tradition's sake, use pine nuts.  If you're broke or run out, I like walnuts.  My grandmother uses peanuts...
How you'll do it:
-Put as much basil as you can muster into the food processor. Add a bit of olive oil (maybe a 1/4 cup to start), salt and pepper.
-Whir that until it breaks down and then cram some more basil in. Add more oil.  You may need to add a bit of oil as you whir it, too, to get things going.  You'll just have to eyeball it.
-Once you get all of your basil chopped up to an almost paste (aka pesto), add the nuts.  I usually do a 1/2 a full cup of nuts depending on what kind of nuts (I use less pine nuts than walnuts).  Pulse once or twice to chop them up, but be careful not to make them completely disappear.  You want little bits of crunchy in there.
-Salt and pepper to taste.
 How to store it:
-I use canning jars or old jelly jars.  It seems to be the easiest way for us.
-Once I fill the jars up to about an inch from the brim, I clean the rim, and then top it off with oil before sealing up.
-To keep the pesto green in the jar after using some, make sure that there is always a layer of oil on top of the pesto.  This keeps the air out and prevents the oxidation that will turn your pesto brownish.
As mentioned above, I keep them both in the fridge and freezer.  There is always one jar of pesto in my fridge ready to go, and the rest hang out in the deep freeze until I need them.  To defrost in a hurry, I'll either run the jar under hot water or remove the metal top and put it in the microwave for a minute.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Food: Peanut Butter Stir Fry

Wow!  I can't believe how long it's been since I posted.  I also can't believe I let this post sit half finished for a month!

Some of my favorite things in the world are Thai food, peanut butter, and using up things that are about to go bad in my fridge.  This recipe really helps satisfy all of them.  Please modify your recipe to include whatever kind of meat (or tofu) and veggies you have--that's the best part of this dish!
The ingredients: 
These guys you really need
Garlic (1-2 cloves)
Onion (1 med/large)
Bell Peppers (1-2 red, green,whatever)
1 hot pepper (jalapeno, chilis) with or without seeds depending on your heat preference
Peanut butter (1 cup or so)
Chicken or vegetable stock/broth (1-2 cups)
Coconut MILK (4 oz.)
Lemon or lime juice to taste (fresh works best and looks prettiest)
Protein (1/4 -1/2 lb. chicken, steak, pork, tofu)
Curry powder (TBS or so)
Ground ginger (1 tsp or so)
Hot sauce to taste (I like Srirachi sauce)
These guys are whatever you have in your kitchen
Green onions*
Cilantro (to garnish)
The steps:

Chop all of your veggies into bite size pieces, with the exception of the garlic and hot pepper which should be diced pretty finely.  Remember to remove the seeds of the hot pepper if you don't like things as spicy.
Put everybody in a good size pan with a bit of oil and a sprinkling of salt.  I've used peanut, olive, canola, and sesame for this and it all kind of comes out the same taste-wise, so use whatever you like.  I like to ride the line between a sweat and a sautee on this.
Cook veggies to mostly soft (I like mushier veggies) and then transfer to a bowl to set aside.
Get out your protein (I used chicken this time, but I usually do tofu or a mix), and cut it into bit size pieces.  Before adding it to your pan, you may want to add a little more oil.  Toss in the curry powder and ginger with the chicken and a bit of salt and black pepper to taste.

Cook the chicken until brown and just barely cooked, and then remove from pan and set aside.

Now we make the sauce!
Add your peanut butter and coconut milk to the pan, and stir over med-low heat until mostly combined.  This could take a minute, so be patient.  If you'd like to add more curry or ginger, now's the time.

Once combined, it will thicken pretty quickly over the heat, so start adding in the stock until you get your desired consistency.  I usually thin it out until it's back to the consistency of the coconut milk, as I find it coats things well that way.

Add your chicken, and heat for a minute.
Then add your veggies.

I serve this over rice (usually the sticky white kind), then garnish with lime wedges (or just some juice), chopped cilantro, and green onions, and put out a bottle of srirachi (hot sauce) for folks to add as they please.

This also freezes really well with or without the rice.; I divide it up into invidual servings in tupperware and freeze for up to 3 months.  Heat in the microwave a few minutes and enjoy!