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June 27, 2011

Pesto as Nonna Wants It

Pesto is derived from the word to pound in Italian but more than that it's really grinding. With a marble mortar and a wooden pestel the coarse salt with the garlic, nuts, and basil leaves are ground and mixed with grated cheese and extra virgin olive oil until everything is reduced to a cream. Of course everybody knows that it is commonly used in pasta but it has many more delicious uses. Minestrone, boiled potatoes, tomatoes and sliced meat to name a few.
To make one batch pack 2 cups of basil leaves.
Some coarse salt, 3 cloves of garlic, a handful or more of pignoli and about half a cup of grated parmigiano reggiano.
Good extra virgin olive oil.
You can put pecorino romano too for the second batch if you want stronger flavor.
You can use a processor but that's not the way nonna wants it.  A mortar and pestle will work up your appetite and the pesto will taste a lot better.

Have a taste and see. You can also toss it in a big bowl of spaghetti al dente and serve in colorful plates.


June 23, 2011

Yellow Zucchini with Thai Basil Chicken

The Farmer's market is where you find the freshest and the most colorful produce. I saw these globe zucchini and had to have them if only for their shape and color. I have tested  them before in the kitchen with lots of good results. The yellow ones are most fun to work with. Beautiful as they are already, simple lines will do for design. I'll reserve the green squash for something else.
To begin, hallow out the zucchini as much as you can with a melon baller and make some simple designs on the skin if you wish.
Then prepare the Thai basil chicken. 

1 sprig of Thai basil,chopped and for garnish
1 pound of ground chicken
2 kafir lime leaves chiffonade finely
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 shallots minced
a knob of ginger minced
2 stalks of lemon grass, tender part minced
palm sugar and fish sauce to tates
mild red chili and black pepper to spice it up
a squeeze of 1 lime

Sautee the fresh condiments in a little oil first until fragrant and then add chicken to brown slightly.
Stuff the zucchini well packed and cook each one in the microwave oven for 2 minutes. I found this method better than steaming or in a conventional oven for it does not leave the squash mushy, overcooked or colorless but perfectly cooked.

Garnish with Thai basil and serve.
I made a green one for you too.


June 20, 2011

Spanish Omelette with a Flair

Tortilla de patatas is a favorite tapas in Spain and all over. It is made in a variety of ways and they all taste so good. I make it the usual way with just eggs and potatoes but decided to dress it up a little for flair this time. I used 4 yukon gold potatoes and 1 big russet for the wrap. To make this, slice the yukon very thinly and the russet long strips with a mandolin.
Sautee the yukon and a small sliced onion in olive until tender, seasoned with salt and pepper. Drained the potatoes well and mix in bowl of 5 beaten eggs. Then pour the mixture into the oiled and lined pan with the russet potatoes. 
Cook in medium heat then fold in the hanging slices.  Cover with a flat plate and flip the omelette on to the plate and slide it back into the pan to cook the other side. Repeat process to get the desired browning.
Slice and serve or garnish with fancy potato chips.


June 18, 2011

Croquets Bourbonnais - Crispy Hazelnut and Almond Wafer

Croquet s Bourbonnais is a crisp paper-thin wafer cookie named for Quai de Bourbonne which is a favorite spot in Paris.  A boulangerie nearby makes this unique brittle like cookie that has really gained popularity for quite some time. They look dark brown and rectangular. A cookie like none other I must say.

Croquets Bourbonnais

1/4 pound whole hazelnuts
1/4 pound whole almonds
2 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups unbleached flour sifted
3/4 cup egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

The ingredients are creamed together well, rolled thinly and baked. I have this recipe but did not follow it to the tee. I made some changes according to my personal taste and mode of cooking. I cut the sugar in half and use demerara. Added 2 egg yolks and  3/4 of a stick of butter. I also used almonds without the brown skin. I found this variation really nice and slightly different and better in texture. I always recommend testing things in the kitchen and have better result  in the process.  
To make this version, grind the hazelnut and the almonds finely and mix the ingredients to a sticky paste. 

Roll a third of the paste very thinly with the aid of a cling film and a small dowel. At least 1/8 of an inch thin.
With the film still on the paste, score lightly 3'' by 4'' rectangles then remove the film and bake in a 350F oven for 10 minutes or untill lightly golden.
Remove the silpat onto your counter to cool then flip it to peel off the silicon mat. 

Then carefully separate the rectangles carefully and they are ready to enjoy.

Serve this crispy treat as it is or with your favorite ice cream. 

June 15, 2011

Cherry Scorpaciatta- Feasting on Cherries in Season

This is a cherry farm that is 10 minutes away from where I live. It's June again and the cherries are ripe for the picking. It has become an annual thing to do in the Summer. It seems like they have ripen sooner this year and they are surprisingly sweet and crunchy despite the rainy Spring. This orchard has 3500 trees with two varieties of cherry namely Bing and Rainer in a 25-acre land. We have so much fun 
going from tree to tree selecting the sweetest cherries. The choice cherries in your bucket are weighed on the way out but the ones in your tummy is on the house. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy. 

These are ready to be made into juice, jam or pie as we always enjoy them.

Art is in the Kitchen

Art is in the Kitchen
Arthur Escoto

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Napa, California, United States