Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sweet Pea Pesto

Pesto always appears so gourmet, but it's the easiest thing this side of your food processor. When was this great rumor about pesto fanciness spread? Do you think it was some council of old timey Italians scheming to fool Popes and Doges? I'm painting a great mental visual on that one that includes elaborate headwear and painterly hand gestures.

Whoa... I just went all college art history on pesto. Let's all calm down and eat some noodles. Here's the deal... pesto is simple and people think it's fancy. No sense in telling them it's super easy, just take the credit.

This version strays from the traditional basil, subbing in springy peas, mint and arugula; all rounded out with asparagus and prosciutto. And seriously, I made this in about 15 minutes on a weeknight. Fancy weeknight win!

Sweet Pea Pesto
1 bunch asparagus, cut in 1-inch chunks
1lb angel hair pasta
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 handfuls arugula
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook for two minutes. Use a skimmer to remove asparagus to a bowl of ice water. Add pasta to remaining boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Combine peas, parmesan, mint, arugula, salt and pepper in food processor. Pulse several times and then stream in olive oil while processor runs.

Add prosciutto to a small pan over medium heat and cook until lightly crisped, about 2-3 minutes.

Toss cooked pasta with pesto sauce and asparagus. Top with prosciutto and enjoy.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cocktail Hour: Cilantro Citrus Spritzer

What the heck is a spritzer anyhow? Well, I'm now defining it as any fizzy, fresh and fancy cocktail. And yeah... it's my blog, so I'm going to write my own cocktail definitions. Or maybe I'm wayyyyy off?

Swammy? Slippy? Swanson? Spritzer?

Anywhoodle... now the it's heating up around here, I'm in the mood for something more refreshing than my red wine. Enter the summer spritzer -- cold and tart. This version I whipped up on one of our first hot evenings has the herbacious bite of cilantro with lip-puckering citrus, all rounded out with a bit of sweet and cooling coconut.

Cilantro Citrus Spritzer
Makes two generous cocktails
4 shots good-quality vodka
Juice of 1 lime, plus a few slices
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a few slices
1 handful cilantro leaves
1 can LaCroix coconut soda water (If you can't find it, sub for 1part coconut water, 1 part club soda)

Combine vodka, lime juice, lemon juice, cilantro and ice in a cocktail shaker. Give it a vigorous shake and pour into big glasses and top off with coconut water. Garnish with lemon and lime slices and enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Simple Secrets: Adobo Chicken

I'm usually one for fresh ingredients, but still certainly have a few pantry staples. One of my favorites is canned chipotle peppers. These smoked jalapenos can be found in petite cans with adobo sauce and lordy, it makes an easy marinade.

If you like spicy and smokey, you'll die for this quick sauce. A quick buzz in the food processor and you've got a delicious flavoring for grilled chicken. Chop it up and you've got saucy tacos ready for any taco Tuesday. Tacos not your jam? Try this solo or to spice up a salad.

Simply combine the canned peppers with fresh lime juice and garlic in a food processor. Buzz, brush and grill.

I usually reserve a bit of the marinade to toss with the cooked meat, especially if I'm making tacos. It gives the extra saucy punch and whew... brings delicious heat.

Layer the adobo chicken into corn tortillas and add cabbage, cilantro and avocado. This flavorful meat will give even the best taquerias a run for their money. And who knew it could be so easy?

Adobo Chicken
1 can chipotle chilis, in adobo sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
3 chicken breasts (I prefer bone-in for grilling)

Combine chilis and sauce with lime juice and garlic in a food processor. Buzz until smooth and combined. Reserve a 1/2 cup sauce and brush the rest over chicken.

Grill chicken over medium-direct heat for 6-10 minutes or until 165 degrees internally. Remove from grill and allow to rest about 10 minutes. If preparing tacos, chop and toss with remaining sauce. This chicken is also excellent on its own or over salad. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Green Couscous

I feel a little crazy, but I seriously can't get enough of spring. The husband is surely annoyed with me going on and and on, and I literally have been stopping to smell the lilacs every time I pass. The leafy trees just get me in the mood for green on the plate. Each verdant plate forgiving a buttery bowl of winter.

With this craving, I went for green on green on green on green. How much springy life can you get in one dish? This couscous goes for it with gusto.

If you're a vegetable lover, you simply must check out Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cookbooks I've ever seen, but the vegetable recipes will ignite your creativity and palette. It's been one of my go-to books with the return of fresh veggies and inspired this recipe. 

For this recipe, you'll make a quick herb paste in the food processor that will flavor the entire dish and provide a gorgeous green base color. 

Then simply toss the paste with pesto and lots of other green goodies, like arugula, jalapenos and pistachios. I love making salads like this on the weekends and then packing them for lunch throughout the week. If you're looking for something more substantial, serve this with fresh-grilled white fish.

This fresh bite will get you in the mood for picnics and the smell of fresh cut grass. Enjoy it on the patio if you can, or at very least, dream about cool morning dew on bare feet. 

Green Couscous
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
1 cup boiling water
1 small onion, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 cup basil
1 1/2 cups cilantro
1/2 cup tarragon
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups arugula, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbed

Place couscous in a large bowl and stir in boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 15 minutes. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion. Cook until lightly browned and soft, add salt and cumin in the last minute of cooking. Allow onions to cool. 

Combine basil, cilantro, tarragon and remaining olive oil in a food processor and buzz until full incorporated. 

Toss couscous with herb paste and cooked onion. Stir in pistachios, green onions, jalapeno, arugula and feta cheese. Enjoy!

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi