Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arugula Walnut Pesto

When Otis takes his nap I, like clockwork, head to the Serious Eats Photograzing page to see what's cooking (pun intended).  Recently I came across a beautiful photo for a Spring Salad by A Little Zaftig.  The blog title piqued my interest and I went to her site to check out her recipes.  It's a great blog.   I was curious to see who A Little Zaftig follows, so I checked out her blogroll and came across Cookie+Kate.  That's where I found this recipe for Arugula Walnut Pesto.
The pesto recipe was originally posted by Elise of SimplyRecipes.  You might recall that I made her mücver (zucchini) fritters a few weeks ago.  She's an extremely talented cook.
Anyway, this recipe is seasonal and the pesto pairs perfectly with fresh pasta and some parmesan shavings.  I like making sauces that don't require a lot of flame time because my teeny-tiny kitchen starts to heats up around this time of year. 
A note on garlic: This recipe uses roasted garlic which is a great way to keep the garlic flavor without the garlic-intensity that you can sometimes find in pesto.  
Arugula Walnut Pesto Recipe (Courtesy of Elise at Simply Recipes by way of Cookie+Kate)
Yields 1 heaping cup
2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled (I went with 5 cloves)
1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced (I left this out)
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Brown 6 garlic cloves with their peels on in a skillet over medium high heat until the garlic is lightly browned in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan, cool, and remove the skins.
Toast the nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown.
Food processor method (the fast way): Combine the arugula, salt, walnuts, roasted and raw garlic into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the processor. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese OR
Mortar and pestle method (the slower way): Combine the nuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. With the pestle, grind until smooth. Add the cheese and olive oil, grind again until smooth. Finely chop the arugula and add it to the mortar. Grind up with the other ingredients until smooth.

Because the pesto is so dependent on the individual ingredients, and the strength of the ingredients depends on the season or variety, test it and add more of the ingredients to taste.  I ended up adding a pinch more salt and omitting the raw, minced (not roasted) garlic all together.
Serve with pasta, over freshly roasted potatoes, roasted tomatoes or as a sauce for pizza. 

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ina's Chilled Cucumber Soup

Memorial Day Weekend has been jam-packed and it's not even halfway over. Last night we went to the wedding of two very close friends. I managed to stave off the tears at the ceremony and chupah (because with me and my current state of pregnancy- once I start going, it's hard to turn the spigot off), but the tears started coming down (without abatement) during the groom's speech. And they couldn't be stopped. There was so much laughing and crying (from laughing so hard)...it was just one of those wonderful nights and one terrific wedding.  

The bride was gorgeous, the venue was beautiful, the drinks were flowing (many Manhattans for my husband/a small glass of champagne for me), and the night was truly wonderful.   

Now between the wedding, the post-wedding brunch and a BBQ later this evening, I haven't been doing much cooking. But I do have to put something together for a Governor's Island picnic tomorrow. And I don't have a ton of time.

I decided to go with a chilled soup instead of something hot. It is, after all, over 90 degrees in NYC and that's without factoring in the humidity. So any soup that can come together sans stove-top is much appreciated.

This soup is so easy to make (all you need is a big bowl and a food processor) and it's big on flavor. The freshness of summer dill, the sharp bite of red onions and the refreshing coolness of the cucumber meld together perfectly in the Greek yogurt. The fresh lemon juice (introduced just before serving) really makes the soup pop!
It's an easy solution for all your early summer picnics!  Enjoy. And have a wonderful holiday weekend… 

Chilled Cucumber Soup 
Serves 6
3 (7 ounce) containers Greek yogurt
1 cup half-and-half (I went with between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)
2 hothouse cucumbers, unpeeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion (I will go with 1/4 cup next time)
6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
4 teaspoons kosher salt 
          (start with 3-- or even 2 1/2 and add more salt to suit you preferences* see comments)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
Thin slices of lemon, halved, for garnish
Fresh dill, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yogurt, half-and-half, cucumbers, red onion, scallions, salt, and pepper. Transfer the mixture in batches to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the cucumbers are coarsely pureed and then pour into another bowl. Continue processing the soup until all of it is pureed. Fold in the dill, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until very cold.
Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Serve chilled, garnished with lemon, and fresh dill.
In the original recipe, Ina adds 3/4 cup of cooked, halved shrimp. I left it out.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5Pointz, Long Island City, Queens and Pizza Margherita

On the day the world was supposed to end (May 21, 2011), we hopped on the subway and headed towards Queens. I really wanted to check out 5Pointz, a graffiti/street art project on the facade of a 200,000 square foot factory building in Long Island City. It had long been on my list of places to visit, so I was glad we finally got to see it.  
At 5Pointz, artists get permits to "tag" and paint; it's all completely legal. Most of the work is ephemeral and only lasts a few weeks before it is painted over, but the really good stuff stays around for a bit longer...

Matt, Otis, a very pregnant yours truly, and our dear friend  Andrew (a supremely talented modern classical composer who's working on a piece called Otis!) decided that before we took in all the street art, a pilgrimage to Jackson Heights' Delhi Palace was in order. With bellies full of delicious Indian food, we then set out 


* * *
It was a nice weekend and nothing could cap it off better than some homemade pizza.  I was craving a DiFara style pie, but not wanting to wait 2 plus hours in Midwood, I decided to make the pizza myself by adapting a recipe I saw in Saveur. 
Cook's Tip: Use high-quality, fresh mozzarella and slice the cheese into 1/4 inch rounds. Place the cheese in between 2 paper towels. Put a plate on top of the covered cheese and weigh it down for 20 minutes.  You can use a large can of tomatoes or some other canned product for the weight.  This will get the moisture out of the cheese so you don't have puddles on your pizza!   

Yields 2 11-inch personal pies
1 ball of dough (I purchased a ball of pizza dough from Union Market and it was excellent.  Another good option-- your local pizza shop.  Many will sell you a ball of dough for a buck or two.)
Extra-virgin olive oil
San Marzano tomato sauce (recipe follows)
One large ball of mozzarella di buffala (it's expensive but worth it)
Basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Remove dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.  Put a pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven and heat oven to 500 degrees; heat for at least 40 minutes.  Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (I divided my ball into two), dust with flour; using your hands, stretch and shape dough into a 11-13 inch circle.  Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment paper or an oiled pizza mesh(I use the mesh).  Drizzle oil around rim of the dough.  Spoon about 1/2 cup tomato sauce onto dough leaving 1/2 - 3/4 inch border. (Original recipe had 1/4 cup of sauce on the dough.  I used more.)  Season with salt.
Arrange mozzarella di buffala evenly over pizza.  Drizzle pizza with more oil.
Using a pizza paddle or grasping the edges of the parchment paper, transfer pizza to pizza stone.  (I used a pizza paddle.)
Bake until golden brown, about 13 minutes.  Keep you eye on the pizza.  One Saveur commenter noted that his pizza was ready in 8 minutes.  Our oven took 12-13 minutes and it was perfect.
Slide pizza back onto the paddle and transfer to a work surface.  Top with basil, drizzle with more olive oil, if you like (and I do!), and put the pizza back on the stone for 1 minute.  Remove pizza from oven.  Slice.  
Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.  Reserve remaining sauce for another use, such as pasta. 

Basic Tomato Sauce
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, inspired by 101 Cookbooks)
2 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
A couple glugs red wine
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
1 15-ounce can pureed tomatoes
A handful of julienned basil (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional)
Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add shallots, red pepper flakes, salt, and garlic sauteing them together for a few minutes until the shallots are translucent and beginning to color. Add the red wine, letting it sizzle and cook down slightly, then the whole and pureed tomatoes. Breaking the whole tomatoes up with a wooden spoon, let the sauce simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste. I used an immersion blender to puree the sauce, but if you like a thicker texture, leave it as is.

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