cilantro pesto

Finally, a short post.
Makes about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pesto
In food processor or blender, chop 1/3 to 1/2 c. nuts (I used pecans. I think pine nuts are traditional pesto fare. Walnuts, almonds, or peanuts would be good too I bet.).
Chop them well, until you have nut dust. Or nut sand. Yeah, more like nut sand.
Add a liberal handful of cilantro. I'd say close to 1 cup. But I'm not exactly sure because I didn't measure.
Chop liberal handful of cilantro with nut sand.
Assess your love of garlic - coarsely chop and peel appropriate number of cloves (for us it was two). Add appropriate number of cloves to liberal cilantro/nut sand. Chop until you have something resembling a very thick seedy mustard.
Eyeball about 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil - more or less would probably be fine - and add to appropriate garlic/liberal cilantro/nut sand mixture. Process in blender until you reach the desired consistency. We ran out of oil at this point, so I think all in all I added just 1 tablespoon of oil. We ended up with dry, pretty spreadable pesto. I'd like to try it next time with more oil and make it more of a pasta sauce or pizza sauce, I think.
And now you have pesto!
My last few posts have been super long, so this one will be short. My sister-in-law Ashley inspired me to try this pesto when she and my brother stopped in for a night. They just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary (woohoo!) and we were so excited to see them.
And it doesn't hurt that we have more cilantro growing in the garden than we know what to do with. I mean, really.


Would you cross the street for them?

I'd like to spend a little bit of time talking about beets. I'll get to the recipe later. My hope is that I can convince you, not so much to love beets (because I don't either), but to think about them and maybe even give them a second chance. Viva la beet. To begin with, why do beets evoke negative passion in so many people? Some of my personal theories follow: 1. we associate them with things our grandmothers made us eat, and therefore were gross (in the same boat as collards, stewed anything, and fish sticks) 2. we associate them with other various pickled sundries, and can't stand the thought of ingesting something that we're not even sure exists in its unpickled form 3. we americans can't stomach anything that invokes failure (think about this one) 4. they make your pee turn pink which must mean they're toxic (more here) 5. most of us wouldn't know what to do with it if it beet us over the head (sorry. couldn't resist) 6. they're so brightly colored that there must be something strange going on Feel free to add your personal theories below. But why? I have to admit, the first time I remember eating a beet was, well, about three weeks ago. Before that, I would've told you I didn't like beets without any reason to back it up. But these beets I tried were pickled, and I was at a friend's grandmother's house, and I loved the grandmother so I thought I should try a little of everything. I'm a grown-up, right? That's what grown-ups do, they don't offend old people. So, I placed the smallest pickled beet on my plate, hid it under the salad greens and behind the corn casserole, and finally came around to tasting a sliver. My first thought? I didn't hate it. Miracle of miracles. Then, my friend who was leaving town for a number of days passed off some beets that she had. Surely God was trying to teach me something, by providing beets twice in three weeks. But why, God? Why? So, I cooked the beets (there were five golf-ball-sized beets - not sure if this is small, medium, or large in the beet world) and had them at our most recent potluck, thinking that if there's ANY place in the world where a beet might be eaten, it would be at a potluck. I was hoping that at least one of the attendees would have this beet fetish and take them all off my hands. But no. One girl pulled out the pregnancy card, and of course I couldn't argue with that. I certainly didn't want to be the one to send her into early labor or turn her urine pink. A guy confessed that he couldn't identify them, but hesitated to ask because by asking he was locking himself in. My husband didn't touch them (probably because he DID know what they were). I put about a tablespoon of cooked beets on my plate, because, well, I didn't hate them, and it was food. Was I trying not to offend myself? Not sure. To make a long story short, I'm still working on the beets (the potluck was 4 days ago). I have only made it through half of the beets I cooked up, but I'm giving myself small doses every day until I make it through. I'm not hating them, by the way. They taste alright. And now a final, somewhat related topic before I get to the recipe. I love my dad. Amazing man. I love the things he says (like "Godblessdearauntpatsy'shousecat" in place of an expletive when teaching my youngest brother to drive). If I asked him about beets, he'd probably say, "Well. I mean, I wouldn't cross the street for them or anything." Perfect. Can you think of a better description? I can't. Unless it's this gem that my husband popped out the other day: "Well, it's not like I'd write home about them." I wouldn't cross the street for beets, but I am writing about them. And you? OK. Long post. Short recipe. Beets Makes a little, serves a lot, turns your pee pink! Could you ask for anything more? 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1/4 c. chopped onion 1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped (depending on how much garlic you like) 1 1/2 tsp. cumin 5 golf-ball-sized beets, leafy tops removed, sliced or diced (however you prefer your beets) 1/2 can rotel tomatoes (with their juice) or 1 tomato, chopped and 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeded 1 c. water Heat oil in small saucepan. Add onion and garlic. Saute 1 minute. Add cumin. Stir until all onion and garlic is coated in cumin; saute 1 more minute. Add beets, tomatoes, and water. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 30-40 minutes or until beets are soft (if all the water cooks off, add a little more, like a tablespoon at a time, so that they don't burn). Viva la beet. PS. I took an informal survey of friends that went like this: I'm taking a poll: how do you feel about beets? a. i've never tried them but i hate them b. i've never tried them c. don't like them d. eh. e. they're OK f. give me your beets, please. Of those that responded e or f, some gave me recipes, which I'll add below so that you can try them too if you want: from Julie: you boil for a while until skin peels off easily when you pinch with thumb and fingers, then pour vinegar on them...also good with a little butter when they are still warm from Lani: In a salad with arugula, goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Or alongside a New England Boiled Dinner.... Or in Red Flannel Hash (not sure what this is but I feel that I must find it now, because Lani has 8 kids and this just sounds like a kid would want to eat it) or just boiled with butter, S&P from Katie: Pre-heat the oven to 425. Cut them into 1/4 inch slices and lay in a caserole dish with garlic pieces. Cover with olive oil and basalmic vinegar. Roast for about 12 minutes then turn over and cook until you can put a fork through them. Eat and enjoy...and don't be freaked out if your pee is slightly pink/red the next day ;)


A dough that will live in infamy

I got the recipe for this no-knead pizza dough from here, a blog that I ran across that I'm absolutely in love with. I just have to say that I aspire to post as frequently and creatively as albanyjane, and leave it at that. 
Just be advised that you need to start this the day before you want to eat it. It's so worth it though! Long rise time = incredible tastiness. 

No-knead pizza dough 
Makes 3 8-10 inch pizzas (serves 3-4) Amazing, by the way. Best pizza dough I think I've ever had, if you take away my goof-up*. In case you wondered how I feel about it

Combine: 3 c. flour 
1/4 tsp. yeast 
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt (yep ... 1 1/2 TABLESPOONS of salt. I think you could probably cut down on it but I'm a little afraid to because I don't know how important it is. My husband did say he thought the dough was a little too salty though so I think I might tweak it next time.) 
Add 1 1/2 c. water (a little more if the dough is too stiff) and mix. 
Cover and let rise for 18+ hours (I let mine rise 22 hours, from 6 PM on Saturday night until 4 PM Sunday). Don't scrimp on the rise time. 

When you uncover it, it should smell a little funky and have lots of air bubbles in it. Oh, joy.  
Flour a large cutting board. Pour all dough out onto board and sprinkle it with more flour. 
Fold over a few times (sounds like kneading to me, but I guess for the integrity of the recipe name we can just say it's an easy folding of the dough). 

Divide into three sections, re-flour the cutting board, and put the dough back on the board, cover, and allow it to rest for 1-2 hours (at this point, if you're using a smaller cutting board, you can flour another board or two and divide the dough between boards. Or, you can follow albanyjane's directions that involve flouring a cloth and all that. I avoided placing my dough on a cloth and just left it on the cutting board, and it was just fine.) 

When time's up, heat oven to 450 degrees and uncover the dough sections. 

Place one on parchment paper OR a greased baking sheet (you can throw some cornmeal on the sheet before putting the dough on it if you're adventurous). 

Spread out the dough to the desired size (I ended up just plopping it down and pushing the edges out until they formed 8 to 10 inch ovals ... ). 

You can put whatever you want to on there ... we did an olive oil/salt/pepper base for each one, then some variation of sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, colored peppers, bacon, cheddar, and manchego cheese. You could go fancier or just put on it whatever you wanted. I think next time I'm going to try a pesto base with a few veggies. It'd also be good with just some fresh herbs. OK, I'll be honest. I think it'd be just as good if it didn't have any toppings. I'm crazy about this stuff ... 

If you put the dough on parchment paper, slide the parchment paper onto a baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and dough (though still pretty light) is brown. And as you're eating it, think of all the amazing things you can do with this dough. It will change your life. 

*goof-up follows: First, I'd like to defend myself a little bit. I substitute. I use sour cream instead of milk, beans instead of corn, lentils instead of ground beef, and mustard in place of lemon juice (sometimes). And every time, whatever I'm making comes out just fine. I experiment (especially when guests are coming.) 

Why not? I joke (if the fact comes out that dinner is a new recipe I've never tried) that if it fails, I'll treat them to a burger from the fast food restaurant down the street. And every time, whatever I'm making comes out just fine. I improvise. If I don't have what a recipe calls for, I make a judgement as to whether or not it's actually an important ingredient. If I don't have the right size of pan, I find a different one. And every time, whatever I'm making comes out just fine. 

So, I had the basic ingredients for this lovely dough. The first twenty three hours and forty-eight minutes went by without a hitch. When the dough was ready, I opened my drawer to pull out my parchment paper and realized I didn't have any. Who cares, right? You can use wax paper instead, right? I remembered my mom lining cake pans with wax paper, and it peeled off so beautifully after baking I knew I was on to something. 

So, I tore off three sections of wax paper, plopped down my dough, spread it out, topped it with cheeses, and baked said lovely pizza for the required 10 minutes in the 450 degree oven. 

I think my first clue should've been how much the dough stuck to the wax paper as I was spreading it out. But I didn't really realize anything was amiss until I removed the first pizza from the oven and started to remove the wax paper. There was no lovely peeling-off of the paper. It adhered. It wasn't just like the dough was kinda stuck to the paper. The paper had melted into the dough. 

Have I mentioned yet that we had some friends over for dinner? And that I had joked about treating them to a burger if this didn't work out? No one got any burgers, but we all approached our waxy pizza in different ways ... 

friend (female): encouraging. eat pizza while trying to avoid wax paper. comment on tastiness of food. ask for recipe. some scraping of pizza off of wax paper. 

friend (male): deliberate. eat pizza layer by layer: topping first, then dough. use knife to scrape wax paper to get some dough off. continue to use knife, focusing on 4x4 inch square of paper, with ultimate goal being to remove every vestige of food from wax paper. laugh at absurdity of working so hard for a square of dough. still working on first piece of wax paper pizza when second piece is served. 

husband: methodical. tear exposed edges of paper off. use knife and fork to cut through pizza, then use knife to pry lower layers from wax paper.

me: hungry. try a couple of times to peel off wax paper before taking bite. impatient with ordeal. eat pizza AND wax paper after brief contemplation of level of toxicity of ingested paper.

Moral of the story: stop joking about the burgers.


Peach Dixie

(So, you've heard of "Apple Betty," "Peach Betty," and "Cherry Betty," right? Well, what I want to know is, why does Betty get all the credit? Here's to you, Dixie!) Fruit mixture: 1/4 c. water 1/4 c. brown sugar 1 Tbsp. corn starch
3 c. sliced peaches (about 4 or 5 peaches)
Topping: 1 c. oats 1/2 c. brown sugar 1/2 c. shredded coconut 1/4 c. flour 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1/4 tsp. nutmeg 1/4 tsp. ginger 1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick), melted Combine water, sugar, and cornstarch in small saucepan. Add peaches and cook over low heat until liquid thickens to a syrupy consistency, stirring occasionally. Pour into an oven-safe serving dish of your choice (I used a ceramic oval dish (9"x12") but briefly considered an iron skillet and a 9"x9" square dish). Combine oats, sugar, coconut, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a separate bowl. Sprinkle over peach mixture. Pour melted butter over everything. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until golden-brown, bubbly, and extremely tasty-looking. Serves 6-8. Last weekend I picked up some peaches in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina. I was there for a girls' weekend with some college friends, one of whom is getting married in July. We surprised her by taking her to Hot Springs, North Carolina (it looks deceptively close on the map but took close to 2 hours!), where we soaked in warm mineral springs and had ourselves a lovely brunch. But we weren't the only ones at Hot Springs that weekend. Our first clue: little white tents at opposite ends of a large field. Our second clue: soldiers in blue and gray. Our third clue: an 11"x14" handwritten sign stuck in the ground: "Civil War Event." The South had risen again. They shot over my car as I drove in (was it because I have Virginia license tags?). That made me a little bit nervous. They fired cannons as we left. We saw a couple of women in hoop skirts carrying parasols (?!?) and chatted with Union soldiers about setting up a re-enactment costume industry and how they hide their Ipods in leather pouches to lend authenticity to their hobby. Interesting, really. I love a good weekend with the girls!


They're from Mary!

My friend Mary J. took the lovely new picture on my blog header ... when I asked her about posting some of her food pictures on my blog she said she'd send me some to look over. "Some" in my book meant two or three. Mary's "some" was 20. Tough decision. I'll probably be changing the banner every day for the rest of the month! Thanks, Mary! PS. I couldn't figure out how to crop the picture to the right width for the header, hence the slight overhang on the right. Does anyone know and want to walk me through this?


frustration for breakfast

Puffed Pancake 2-6 servings, depending on hunger (of course, ours was 2 servings ...) 1 Tbsp. butter 3 eggs 1/2 c. flour 1/2 c. milk 1/4 tsp. salt Place butter in 10-inch ovenproof skillet and place in 400 degree oven. While butter melts, mix eggs, flour, milk, and salt in a bowl. Remove skillet from oven and pour mixture into skillet. Return to oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and puffy. Cut into wedges (or quarters, or halves like we did) and serve with syrup, fruit topping, or powdered sugar. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with how sorry I can feel for myself. That makes me really frustrated, which happened yesterday morning around breakfast time: I wanted scones. Simple, tasteful scones. Open fridge: eggs available, but no cream and not enough butter. Open pantry: flour. So close ... Open freezer: butter hiding somewhere behind frozen vegetables? Nope. Blast. Alas. No scones. Blast frugality. Puffed pancake instead. (It's actually one of my favorites, and my husband loved it and said it was exactly what he had wanted for breakfast anyway. I wasn't completely convinced, but he is a precious man and I do appreciate his encouragement.) I've been around enough to know that what I think of as a simple life is actually very comfortable, but that's no consolation when I want to make scones for breakfast and only have two of the required ingredients. And it's not a matter of a trip to the store being too inconvenient. We live two blocks away. It's a matter of a very tiny food budget. I have approximately $0.71 to spend per person per meal. That equates to mostly rice, beans, and eggs (in a tortilla, over nachos, or in soup) for lunch and dinner, and usually toast with an egg for breakfast. Sometimes bacon if it's on sale. We eat meat on special occasions or when we have guests. Cabbage was the only green vegetable we had for a while because it was so ridiculously cheap. I've started to be able to buy lettuce and tomatoes again, and we planted a garden so we can get lots of fresh vegetables in a few months ... but that was no consolation when I wanted scones. I'd love to make scones when I get the urge, but I guess I need to have something to look forward to when my husband graduates .... Sigh. Oh, frugality. I think I'm done feeling sorry for myself now. I'm glad I got this out. AND I'm thankful for my garden. And for potlucks (round two tonight!) because we have such lovely friends who make all this worthwhile ... 6.3.2009 Update: This isn't personal towards you. I just wanted to get it out. 6.3.2009 Update #2: Just as I'm bemoaning my poverty, a friend brings about 20 assorted bagels and loaves of bread from a local bakery to the potluck last night to give away ... God is providing for my needs, even when I'm grumpy about having needs.