Archive for April, 2012

I love pesto, in so many ways

According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking under “Sauces thickened with plant particles”,

“Pesto takes its name from the same root that gives us pestle, and the basil leaves and garlic were traditionally ground with a pestle and mortar.  Because this takes some time and effort, modern cooks usually prepare pesto in a blender or food processor.  The choice of appliance and how it’s used influence both consistency and flavor.  The crushing and shearing action of the pestle, the shearing action of the blender, and the slicing action of the processor all produce different proportions of intact and broken cells.  The more thor0ughly the cells are broken, the more their contents are exposed to each other and to the air, and the more their flavor evolves.  A course pesto will have a flavor most like the flavor of fresh leaves.”

Well then.  I’ll have to find the time some day to test this out…  In the meantime, pesto isn’t just about basil anymore, and it’s hard for me to choose favorites.  Here are some pesto possibilities:

Basil pesto is traditional, of course, but we’re not in basil season yet and who knows where the basil from the grocery store comes from.  Wait until we have plentiful basil at the farmers’ market, unless you’re growing it yourself.

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Leek pesto, a la Mark Bittman.  This is the newest addition to my repertoire.  It’s leek season and in searching for a new recipe I found this in one of my several Bittman cookbooks.  I love this man’s sensibilities with ingredients.  Try leek pesto over pasta – it’s a lovely creamy sauce, with no cream!

Pasta with Rich Leek “Pesto” - from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • About 1 1/2 pounds leeks (2 or 3 large), trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped
  • salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (don’t skip these – they bring a nice green color)
  • black pepper
  • 8 ounces any pasta (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  When it’s hot, add the garlic and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 20 – 30 minutes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Transfer the leeks to a blender or food processor with the egg, parsley, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary.  Return the puree to the skillet, off heat.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it’s tender but not mushy, then drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Turn the heat under the leek mixture to medium, add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid to thin the pesto, and toss in the pasta along with the cheese.  Add more liquid as desired and toss.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve.

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(last year's scapes)

Garlic scape season is coming up quickly and there is no better way to use up those gorgeous scapes than with a garlic scape pesto.  Make a lot (A LOT), quite inexpensively, and freeze for use in the months to come (great in the winter!).  It’s one of our favorite toppings for grilled pizza.

Garlic Scape Pesto (originally from the Washington Post)

  • 1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

To freeze, I omit the cheese (until it comes back out of the freezer), and scoop into several small ziplock bags, squeeze out the air, and freeze flat on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, I stack up the frozen bags in a corner of the freezer – green goodness for later!

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There’s Green Olive Pesto.  Kinda like green olive tapenade. Remember when it was sold at the flower stand at the Hudson farmers’ market a couple of years ago?  I thought it was yummy, and made a version of it several times using this recipe.

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Ramp pesto?  It’s ramp season – but I can hardly bring myself to pulverize precious ramps into Ramp Pesto.  I could be very wrong about this.  At the moment I’m storing up my ramp eating for next weekend.

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Or, there’s kale pesto – rather life changing.

I am not a fan of kale.  Not sauteed, not baked into kale chips (faux chips), not surrounded by creamy mashed potatoes.  And then I met Oliva.  You’ll notice that the Lacinato Kale Pesto container above is empty.  I bought a couple at the Hudson farmers’ market last weekend (my version of livin’ large) and my OH was appalled to find that I gave one container to a favored co-worker.  Who ate two-thirds of it in one sitting, on crackers but mostly straight from the fork.  I’m sure this is good on pasta, but it hasn’t made it that far yet.

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These are my favorites – and they all seem to be green.  What are yours?

coming up: food festivals in the upper Hudson Valley – 2012

Caveat: this is not a complete list.  It never is.

The Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail Pasta Event (Pasta & Sauced) is happening right this minute, today April 21, 2012 from noon to five.  Make it your lunch, or have a late afternoon snack.  I did it last year and it was great; it snuck up on me this year.  Don’t forget your growler.

Ramp Fest 2012 is coming up quickly, on May 5th, 12- 4pm at Basilica Hudson.   Tickets are $20.  Lunch!  If it’s anything like last year, this may lead to the over-harvesting of ramps in our area.

Red Hook Strawberry Festival is sometime in the middle of June.  We should always celebrate strawberries. (update: it’s June 16)

(new addition!)

Mount Lebanon HerbFest is Saturday June 9 – Sunday June 10 – Shaker history + herbs!  The Fest itself is Sunday 10am – 4pm.

Austerlitz Blueberry Festival 2012 – Sunday July 29th, 2012 – 9am to 4pm – RAIN or SHINE (they’re very emphatic about that).

Bangladeshi (Cultural) Festival – Sunday September 2, 2012.  Snacks!  You can read about last year’s inaugural fest here.

Bacon Fest NY – Sunday September 2, 2012 – 9am – 6pm.  Seriously.

Taste of Hudson, Saturday September 8, 2012, lunchtime-ish on Warren below 3rd Street.  Last year was fab, hoping for more of the same this year.

Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest – September 8 & 9, 2012,  11am – 6pm on Saturday, 11am – 5pm on Sunday.  Location: Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck NY.  This is a big one.

Perhaps there will be a farm/harvest festival or two in September/October?

I know as soon as I hit publish, another one will pop up…

become a winemaker – here in the Hudson Valley

But you have to move quickly – it starts tomorrow!

Millbrook Winery is launching a Winegrowing Boot Camp this weekend; oenophiles get to walk (or work) through the growing season, have a couple of eat and drink sessions (which they presumably know how to do already) and get a case of custom-labeled Tocai Fruili (white) wine.  The cost is $750 + tax for 6 Saturdays of instruction plus some eating and drinking.  And a case.  Here’s the brochure.

Yea! for another great foodie first in the Hudson Valley!

spring gardening

I’m thinking about spring gardening waaaay ahead of schedule, and I’m not even really a gardener!  However, I have a yard and a little tiny strip of an herb/tomato garden.  I have a woodchuck.  Despite inspiration from Margaret at A Way to Garden, all I’ve been able to figure out is that I need to not plant tomatoes this year to give the ground a rest.  And if I plant parsley and lettuce I’m just feeding the woodchuck.

Spring Gardening Day, hosted by the The Master Gardener Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia & Greene Counties, is happening Saturday, April 14, 2012.

There will be 16 classes in 3 90-minute sessions.  Some of the classes I’m thinking about are:

  • Gardening with Herbs
  • Shade Gardening with Native & non-Native plants
  • Vegetable Gardening for 2012
  • How to be a Healthy and Happy Gardener Gardening Without Aches, Pains & Injury (hello!)

Pre-paid registration is due by Tuesday, April 3 (that’s practically now!).  The fee is $25 for the day or $10 per session (per person).  You can find more information here.

  • Spring Gardening Day
  • Saturday, April 14, 2012
  • 9:00am – 2:30pm
  • Columbia-Greene Community College
  • 518.828.3346

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