Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Basil and Spinach Pesto

This year I’m growing basil in my backyard. I have yet to figure out how to freeze fresh basil without it turning black from freezer burn, so instead I’m making several batches of pesto which will freeze better.
I started harvesting my basil three months ago. Within two weeks of picking the leaves, the basil plants were even bigger and leafier.
Basil pesto is super easy to make and can be used in so many different ways. Mix it with any kind of pasta or spread it on sliced toasted french bread as a base for bruschetta. You can also dollop some on top of baked potatoes or make a pesto pizza.
In this recipe I added spinach to increase the volume, without affecting the taste. Use 1 part spinach for every 2 parts basil.

2 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup spinach leaves, packed (Optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
3 tbs chopped garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a hot pan, stirring constantly, toast the pine nuts and walnuts until they turn golden brown.
Add the basil and spinach leaves to a food processor along with the nuts and garlic. Pulse a few times till well combined. Add the cheese and pulse. Slowly add the oil until it’s completely absorbed, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Update (2011-11-12):
A great way to store the pesto for quick and easy re-use is to freeze it in ice-cube trays. When the pesto has frozen completely, empty the pesto cubes into a ziplock bag and return to the freezer. Now you can quickly access the pesto when you need it. I found that mixing the frozen cubes with the pasta just after its been drained and still hot, allows it to melt and coat all the pasta. 1 cube per person seems to work for me, but you may like more pesto with your pasta.

Now I can enjoy pesto all winter, long after the summer growing season has ended.

Photograph by Michael Findley

Friday, September 2, 2011

Arroz Chaufa (Fried Rice)

When you think of fried rice, you usually think of a side dish to some Asian saucy meat, or just something thrown in for the purpose of soaking up the sauce. But in my house, fried rice is the main dish, a complete meal on its own.
And when you see what all goes into making it, I think you’ll agree. It truly is a complete meal. It has fiber (rice), meats (ham, chicken, bacon), vegetables (green onion, mushroom) and egg.
Don’t be afraid to go crazy with your veggies either, this is the perfect dish for doing so. I also like to use julienned carrot, sweet peas, bean sprouts, snow peas, whole kernel corn, broccoli, and celery. This is a good way to use veggies that might go bad.
I didn’t use garlic in this particular recipe (amazing if you’ve read any of my other recipes) and although I missed it, I think it held its own with just the ginger. The nice thing about fried rice is that you can make it a dozen different ways and never get tired of it.
I’m not sure, but I think the term chaufa originated in Peru. It means Asian style food. Paired with the Spanish word for rice — arroz — the dish gets its name.
This recipe is a lot simpler to make if you own a wok. Without it, you’ll probably use several pans.

4 cups cooked white rice
3 eggs, scrambled
1 cup chopped ham
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 to 1 cup shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
4 tbs thinly sliced and chopped ginger
1 tsp salt
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken breasts
4 large slices fried and crumbled bacon
3 tbs soy sauce

Cook the bacon to you liking, then put on paper towels to drain.
Drain the grease into a small container but leave a little in the pan to cook the scrambled eggs. Remove the scrambled eggs into a separate bowl. Add a little olive oil or bacon grease to the pan and saute all vegetables. Don’t overcook.
Add the rice and mix everything well. Add soy sauce, scrambled eggs, and shredded chicken. Mix well.

Prepared on 2011-06-08 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley