Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best Basil Pesto

Summer is my favorite time of year to cook. I love all of the fresh berries that are in season and I get so excited to grow my own herbs. There is nothing like fresh herbs to brighten up a dish and give it tremendous flavor. I was so happy this summer when my basil just took off! It grew big, beautiful, and bushy. It had the most gorgeous deep green color and I could not wait to get my hands on it to make pesto. I like to make pesto once a year and then some of it so I can use it through the summer. Last year I made Giada DeLaurentis' pesto and this year I tried Ina Garten's. I loved Giada's last year and thought nothing could beat it, but I have to say Ina wins this one for me. Maybe it's the combination of walnuts and pinenuts or the whole nine cloves of garlic that tip the scales to make this one an absolute winner. It was so delicious and I now I can hardly wait till fall rolls around so I can make my tomato pesto soup.

I like to do alot of things with my pesto but one of mine and my husbands favorites is to simply toss it with some pasta, add some peas and some fresh parmesan and then enjoy! One recipe I can't wait to try is Ina's pasta, pesto, and peas. I will include the recipe bellow incase any of you want to try it out.

Isn't that the most beautiful color!

I could have literally just sat down and eaten the pesto
right out of the food processor with a spoon! It was that good.

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas


  • 3/4 pound fusilli pasta
  • 3/4 pound bow tie pasta
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pesto (packaged or see recipe below)
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignoli, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.


  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignoli, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

Yield: 4 cups

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers do Cookies!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Ok-so this month has been a crazy one! I have only posted twice this month which is really sad. I am just glad that I found time to complete this months Daring Bakers Challenge! However I didn't complete all I wanted to. I really wanted to try both the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and the Milan Cookies. But my life this month only allowed me to bake the Milan Cookies so hopefully in the near future I can try the other ones out. These cookies were very simple to make. I have to say I am not a huge fan of Milan Cookies (I know I know! To some of you that may sound crazy) but these cookies did have a good flavor. I am not a huge fan of orange and chocolate together, but if you are then you will love these cookies! You can throw them together in a minute and take them to a party. I don't know if I will be making these cookies again because they weren't my cup of tea, but if you like Milan cookies, orange and chocolate then you will love them! I have included the recipe for the Milan Cookies as well as the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow cookies so enjoy!

Make sure you check out how the other Daring Bakers did here!

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Missing; One Very Important Camera!

I can not begin to tell you how frustrated I am! I have been missing my camera for almost a week now! I never knew how much I depended on my camera but life just hasn't been the same. I have made a few things and am so upset I coudln't take pictures. I also have pictures on my camera of things I have made that I can't wait to post about but the pictures aren't uploaded onto my computer. So...the search continues! However I do have a recipe to share! I found this picture I took of the chicken piccata dinner I made a while ago. I didn't think it was a great picutre so I never did a post about it, but I am so desperate right now that any picture is better than none!

So Chicken Piccata- this is Ina Gartens recipe and it's wonderful. My husband loves chicken and I always put him in a good mood when I make this. It's very simple and looks very elegant so take a wack at it! You'll love it!

Chicken Piccata by Ina Garten


  • 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.