Cooking Basics: Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto Ingredients
This is an important recipe to have memorized.  If you know the basic formula, you can make a pesto with just about any green/oil/nut/hard cheese.  It’s a great way to dress up a simple pasta salad, a plain filet of fish, or even boiled potatoes for a spin on potato salad.  When it’s a pasta-only kinda day around here, pesto somehow makes me feel better about not trying harder to dish out variety.  I think, “At least Olive is eating something green and different on top of her pasta.”  While that may be the dinner equivalent to justifying nutella as a “healthy” snack, I’m sticking with calling pesto healthy.  In moderation.  The stuff is mostly olive oil.  But I think if it’s used as a garnish, it’s just fine  and a little goes a long way, anyway!
Pesto

So here is your Cooking Basic for the week –

Basil Pesto
makes about a cup and a half

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything except the oil in a food processor and turn it on.  While it’s whirring around, gradually drizzle in the olive oil through the open chute of the processor lid.  Let it process for about 30 seconds and then open and taste for salt and pepper.  I end up putting about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper to mine.  Pesto will keep on the counter for about a week or in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.  The top of the pesto will turn brown, but it can simply be scraped off before use.  Pressing a sheet of plastic wrap on its surface helps with the oxidization, too.

Basil Pesto Tortellini

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Curried Potato Pockets with Lemon Dill Cream

curry potato puffs with dill cream

This was an incredibly flavorful dinner for us last Tuesday night.  It was one of those meals that came from a lack of motivation to go to the store.  I had two large potatoes, an onion and some puff pastry and I knew – there’s a meal there, somewhere.  With just a little prep, I had a meal on the table in about an hour.  I made these with left-over pie crust, as well, but everyone, including Olive, preferred the ones with puff pastry.  Buttery and flaky with that smoky curry spice went exceptionally well with the tang of the yogurt and dill.

This meal included one of those moments where I wasn’t giving Olive any sort of chance and declared that she wouldn’t like the yogurt sauce and so I didn’t offer her any.  After we had eaten a few bites, she said, “I want the sauce?!” and so I put some on her plate and she ate it all!  Yet another lesson in giving your kids a chance to prove you wrong. You never know when they’ll surprise you!

curried potato puffs

Curry Potato Pockets with Lemon Dill Cream
makes 9 puff pockets with plenty of filling to spare

2 medium russet potatoes, cleaned, skinned and diced small
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 tbs butter
1 tbs curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 9 squares
2 tbs cream for brushing the pastry
1/2 cup plain, full fat yogurt
squeeze of one lemon
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
salt to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and once it starts to froth, add in the onion and potato.  Stir around until the potato begins to soften and then cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and add in the curry, cumin and salt and pepper.  Continue cooking over low heat until the potatoes are completely soft.  Remove mixture from stove and set aside.

Set your oven at 400F.  Mash the potato/onion mixture in a bowl until mostly smooth and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Cut the puff pastry into 9 squares and put a heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square.  Dip your finger in the cream and dab along the edges and pinch/fold them together into little letters – really, however you pinch and fold is up to you, as long as they have a fighting chance of staying closed while baking! Place on a greased cookie sheet and repeat until all the squares are filled.  Brush the tops with the remaining cream and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the yogurt dipping sauce: simply chop the dill and squeeze the lemon into the yogurt and stir till combined.  Adjust with a little salt and serve along side the pastries.  Personally, I don’t like this sauce on its own, but with the curry pockets, it’s just an amazing balance of flavors.

Enjoy!

Caramelized Onion Dip

pan fried onion dip

Every summer, certain things tend to become a trend.  We nearly always have an official corn dish, a certain way we assemble a burger from the grill, a particular drink we make over and over, or a particular ice cream flavor we bring to parties. It’s so much fun looking forward to the hot summer months by way of what we’ll be cooking.  It really helps utilize what’s in season (think: guacamole, caprese salad from REAL tomatoes and backyard basil, etc) and this summer, I think I’ve found the official dip/spread!

This dip would be amazing as a burger spread, a dip for tortilla chips, crackers, etc.  A wonderful topping for baked potatoes, a dip for fries – the options are endless.  I’ve always been a fan of the tubs of French Onion dip in the grocery stores, but this homemade version blows any of the store bought options out of the water.  It has a sweet smokiness from the caramelized onions, a super creaminess from the addition of the cream cheese and my addition, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, really makes the flavors come alive and gives it a bite that cuts through all the richness.  It’s perfect.  I also decided to spin all the ingredients in my food processor a few times because I liked the idea of the onions being finely chopped instead of left in long slivers.  I think for me, it’s a more pleasing texture as a dip.

However you decide to make it, just promise me you’ll try this one at your next BBQ.

onion dip

 

Caramelized Onion Dip*
makes about 2 cups

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tbs red wine vinegar (really, any vinegar you have on hand will do just fine!)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (we use Hellman’s original)

Cut up the onions into very thin slices.  Place in a large skillet with the butter, vegetable oil, salt and cayenne and let it cook over medium low heat until the onions turn golden, and caramelize, about 30 minutes.  You really want to err on the side of TOO caramelized instead of not enough.  The flavors get so intense as the onions break down.  Let the onions cool and set aside.

Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, cream cheese, sour cream and mayo to your food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Then add the onions and pulse until fully incorporated.  If you don’t have a food processor, just dice your onions before you cook them, and then take all the ingredients to a bowl or mixer and mix until smooth.

Adjust the seasonings and serve with…anything!

*recipe adapted from this site, who took the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook.