August 9, 2013
High summer means basil and while sometimes our homegrown stuff doesn’t get enough sun to compete with its Italian cousins this year that’s not a problem – Yay!!! It’s hard to resist making pesto the first time I get basil each year(I hate the stuff in jars) so that’s what I did last night. To get over the pine-nuts costing more than gold problem, I used toasted sunflower seeds instead and they were just grand (and way more local as pine nuts usually seem to come from China which seems like a long way to me). Obviously pasta pesto makes a grand dinner in itself and it was hilarious watching not so baby (18 months already!!!!)Lee shoveling spaghetti into his mouth like a walrus last night but basil is a natural bedfellow for this season’s peaches so I couldn’t resist a salad as well.
I decided to use beet greens as a base and if you’re not familiar with these guys you’re in for a treat. You know the way beetroot is soooooooo good for you? Well, the leaves are actually better for you than the actual beets. Yes! But you have to get them fresh so use them today rather than than let them wilt as they will quite quickly. The colour is amazing – gorgeous ruby stems with dark green leaves so they make everything look fab. Throw them into any salad or juice as soon as you can – your body will thank you.
Back to our salad – I chopped up the leaves and stems pretty finely, tossed a handful of toasted sunflower seeds through them along with some goat’s cheese and chopped peach. The dressing was simple, olive oil and white wine vinegar (3:1) then a drizzle of honey over everything just before I served. Delicious.
Toasted sunflower seed pesto (this will make enough for the salad which serves 2 plus a decent size bowl of pasta for one)
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
a generous pinch coarse salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Begin by toasting the sunflower seeds till golden then set aside to cool down completely. Take the basil leaves off the stalks and put into a mortar along with the garlic, olive oil, salt and sunflower seeds. With a pestle pound to your desired consistency then stir in the cheese. Needless to say, normally I’d be using a hand blender for this sort of thing if I could but with this kind of quantity you don’t quite have enough to go electric so scale up if you can. Store in a jar under a layer of oil for up to 2 weeks (but it won’t last that long!)
A salad of Beet greens, peach, goat’s cheese and pesto and toasted sunflower seeds
1 Bunch beet greens
1 ripe peach
120gr goat’s cheese
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds lightly toasted
White wine vinegar
A generous dollop of pesto (as above)
Finely chop the beet greens and stems then wash and dry everything. Peel and chop your peach. Combine the seeds, greens, stems, and peach. Crumble in the cheese. Lightly dress with oil and vinegar. Top with the chopped peach and a generous dollop of pesto. Finally drizzle with a little honey and serve. Summer is served. 🙂
Have a brilliant weekend,
September 25, 2009
We’re coming to the end of our summer varieties . Courgettes are now officially thin on the ground, at least in Wicklow, as are Aubergines. I had such plans but we just didn’t get enough sun to feature them as often as I’d hoped. Tomatoes are also coming to an end, so to have them along with Basil is a last blast of summer (you know, the one we never had). Basil + Tomatoes can mean so many things – a simple salad (just add your best Olive Oil and a little Salt) or a more substantial salad if you add Mozzarella (this is the classic Caprese). One of my first posts on this blog was Marcella Hazan’s simple Tomato salad. It still beats pretty much anything.
For an easy dinner chop up your Tomatoes and briskly fry them in hot Olive Oil with some Garlic and a little of the Chilli that’s packed in the paper bag along with the Tomatoes, then toss with Pasta, Basil Leaves and maybe some Black Olives. It’s a dish that takes all of 10 minutes to put together.
These days I favour Pecorino over Parmesan with pasta. I bought a big block on a whim a while back and using it has reminded me of why it works so well. It’s a saltier cheese, with Tomatoes this works well as they tend to be sweet (or should be).It’s all about contrast which sounds a bit cheffy but is true. As there’s Basil in this week’s bag I’ll give a pesto recipe. I know, it’s a bit obvious but properly made it’s really really good and nothing like the stuff you buy in jars (even the fancier brands are muck). Good pesto has plenty of Garlic, real Pine nuts and ideally, Pecorino Cheese rather than Parmesan but you can use Parmesan if you’re stuck. It might seem a waste but using decent Olive Oil pays dividends as it adds so much to the flavour. Best of all, Pesto takes all of ,oh, 2 minutes to make, a quality I really rate in a recipe especially when it’s Culture night and the weather is good!
Pesto (for 2)
Peel and roughly chop 2 fat cloves of Garlic and put in your blender along with 8 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (a generous glug), 2 Tablespoons Pine nuts, a generous pinch of Salt, and your Basil Leaves (remove any really thick stems first). Blast until everything is blended. A little chunkiness can be nice but you may prefer a smoother Pesto so you decide when to stop blending. When you’re finished, stir in 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Cheese. Serve with freshly cooked Pasta and more grated Pecorino (or Parmesan).
This can be made in advance and will keep in your fridge for up to a week in a jar with a layer of olive poured over. As Basil goes so well with all kinds of veg (especially roasted) Pesto makes a great dressing – just thin it out with some Olive Oil and a little Lemon Juice to add some zing
June 19, 2009
It’s starting to look like summer and all those wintery bakey kind of things that seemed to hit the spot a couple of months/weeks ago are the last thing you want to eat. It’s time for lighter food and Frittata is one of those great summer dishes. Frittata is an Italian dish and is basically an open-faced omelette. Unlike other omelettes, it is not folded and it’s texture is firm and set (but never dry) rather then creamy or runny. Another difference is that it is cooked slowly over a low heat. In terms of fillings, it’s like the rest of Italian cuisine i.e. it tends to have only a few (sometimes just one or two) but very well-chosen ingredients as opposed to the fifteen you tend to get when ordering a vegetable/vegetarian omelette in many Irish restaurants.
Frittatas are served hot, warm or at room temperature. I think hot tends to kill some of the flavour and serving them from (or even putting them in) the fridge does something horrible to them so I’d favour warm or room temperature myself. They can be eaten alone or as part of a selection of antipasto style dishes and they make a great sandwich.
The basic technique for cooking a Frittata is the same for all the types below and is as follows: Beat 6 Organic (in a dish like this you can really taste the difference between organic and non) Eggs adding Salt and freshly ground Pepper to taste. One thing though – never crack and beat eggs until you are ready to use them – if they sit around premixed before you start cooking something very strange happens to their flavour and texture. Melt Butter or Olive Oil on a 10 inch non-stick pan. When it heats up and in the case of butter, begins to foam pour in the egg mixture and turn the heat down low. When the Eggs have set and thickened and only the surface is runny you can either a) put it under a preheated grill taking it out when the top of the frittata has set (but not browned) or b) place a large plate or board on top of the pan and turn the pan over onto it, then slide the frittata back onto the pan (the top uncooked side will now be on the bottom) and cook for a few more minutes. This technique, also used for the Spanish style potato omelette, sounds trickier than it actually is and has the added advantage of impressing dinner guests no end. A whole other technique, which also works well, is to pour your egg mixture into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes in a preheated oven or until the frittata is no longer runny.
Frittata with Courgettes
1 small Onion (sliced very thinly)
Olive Oil 350-400gr.
Courgettes (about what you have in this week’s bag)
6 Organic Eggs 2 Tablespoons grated Pamesan Cheese
Torn Basil Leaves (if you have them)
Sauté the Onion in a dash of Olive Oil with a pinch of Salt until it softens and begins to brown. Wash the Courgette(s) and slice into 3mm discs. Add to the Onions with a pinch of Salt and cook until golden brown. Take the vegetables off the heat, drain them and allow to cool slightly. Make the Frittata as described above adding the vegetables and 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan along with some torn Basil leaves if you have them to the egg mixture first.
Variation: Instead of adding the Parmesan you could top off your Frittata with discs of Goat’s cheese and brown under the grill at the end. If you cook the Frittata in the oven the Goat’s cheese can go on at the beginning
Frittata with Onions
2 medium sized Onions (finely sliced)
6 Organic Eggs
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese grated
Slowly sauté the Onions in about 3 Tablespoon Olive Oil and some Salt in a covered pan. When the Onions soften, uncover the pan and cook until they turn a rich golden brown. Drain and allow to cool slightly then add them to the eggs with a couple of tablespoons Parmesan (or do the Goat’s Cheese thing described above) then proceed as described above.
Frittata with Tomatoes, Feta cheese and basil
2 medium sized tomatoes
6 Organic Eggs
125gr. crumbled Feta (or Goat’s Cheese)
10 torn Basil leaves.
Chop the Tomato and add to the beaten eggs along with the Feta and Basil leaves. Proceed as above.
The above are some of the more classic fillings (at least the first two are). If you want to try others, Asparagus and Artichokes make amazing Frittata fillers. Green Beans are also a classic. After that it’s really up to you. The only thing I’d caution against are Mushrooms, which, while they taste great, tend to turn the Frittata a rather disturbing murky brown colour so I’d leave them for a French style omelette. On a heavier note, the Italians also make Frittata with leftover Spaghetti (!!!). This has always struck me as a comedy type dish so having never tried it, I can’t vouch for it (If anyone decides to go for laughs of disbelief at their dinnertable I’d be very interested to know how you get on). For three eggs you need 220gr. Spaghetti (sauced with anything except clams or shellfish which would dry out. If you don’t have any leftover pasta you can make some and toss it in Butter, Parmesan and Chopped Parsley, then leave to cool a little before continuing), and 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan.
Our Fruit and Mediterranean selections all have Apricots this week which are probably good to go this weekend – Enjoy!
Hope you enjoy these recipes,
Have a great weekend,
September 22, 2008
Courgettes, as you know, are a summer staple; not even all the wind and rain can hold them back. Nice as they are, at this time of year “Courgette fatigue” starts to set in. There are only so many Courgette pastas you can eat…. Salads are the way forward especially with vinegar as it brings up their flavour so well. Then to bulk things out and make a larger meal you can add Herbs, Cheese (Goat’s and Feta are especially good), Pinenuts, Tomatoes and Cous Cous. Below are a few of the many salads we’ve eaten over the summer months and for those of you fed up pretending it’s summer right at the end there’s a gratin and pasta recipe.
For one of the best Courgette salads just chargrill or griddle Courgette rounds (see below for details) then add a dressing of Olive Oil and Red Wine vinegar (4:1) along with a little Salt and Sugar. Add some torn Basil or Mint leaves if you have them and set aside for at least 20 minutes so all the flavours have a chance to soften and mingle. Serve with Cheeses, Hummus, Cous Cous, Green Salad and Olives for lunch or as part of a main course with grilled fish.
If you want something a little more filling try an extended version of this by adding Lettuce (or any salad leaves you have) Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Black Olives. Because the Courgettes are cooked, this salad feels like a meal and really needs nothing more than good bread for a perfect lunch……..
Chargrilled Courgette Salad with Lettuce, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta and Olives
- 2 Medium Courgettes
- 1/2 Head Lettuce
- 300gr Cherry Tomatoes
- A handful Black Olives
- 100gr Feta
- Olive Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar
Begin by preparing your Courgettes. Either cut them into rounds about 1/2 cm thick or slice them into lengths (about 5 cms is perfect) of the same thickness. Heat your grill or griddle pan and when it’s ready place the Courgettes on it then cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until the slices start to char (if you’re using a griddle pan you’ll get those snazzy stripes). When they’re done take them off the pan and put them in a bowl. Cover with a plate so the heat from the Courgettes generates some steam which continues the cooking process and leaves them lovely and tender.
While the Courgettes are steaming, wash and quarter about 300gr Cherry Vine Tomatoes (or chop 2- 3 regular sized ones) and make a dressing using 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar and 4 of Olive Oil, a little pinch of Sugar (takes any bitterness out of the Courgettes) and a pinch of Salt.
Mix the Tomatoes, Courgettes and dressing together and and leave aside for at least 20 minutes. If you’re preparing in advance this could be done up to 6 hours before.
To put the salad together, wash and dry half a head of Lettuce then tear the leaves into manageable sized pieces with your fingers. In a salad bowl, mix the Courgettes, Tomatoes, Lettuce Leaves, Feta Cheese (crumbled) and the Olives. Toss together, check the seasoning adding more vinegar if necessary and serve.
Another Very Simple Courgette Salad
- 2 Medium Courgettes
- 3-4 Cloves Garlic
- Olive Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Basil Leaves
Slice your Courgettes and gently sauté in Olive Oil. Just before they start to change colour add 3 or 4 finely chopped cloves Garlic and continue to sauté until the Garlic has softened and the Courgettes are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool before dressing with Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar (about 4:1 should be fine but you may need to adjust) mixed with pinches of Sugar and Salt. Add some torn Basil leaves and leave for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to soften and mingle. Serve with cheeses or perhaps a simple omelette and a green salad.
Warm Courgette salad with Pine Nuts and Goat’s Cheese (for 2)
- 2 Medium Courgettes
- A handful Pinenuts
- 1/2 Head Lettuce (or enough Rocket for 2)
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- 150gr Soft Goat’s Cheese (Chevre rounds are ideal)
Once again, slice and sauté the Courgettes until golden brown but this time leave out the Garlic. When done, allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Begin by toasting a handful Pinenuts. To do this, place them on a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat until they start to change colour.
Wash and dry about 1/2 Lettuce.
Make a dressing by mixing Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (again about 4:1 should do it) with pinches of Salt and Sugar.
To put everything together, toss the Lettuce leaves (tear them first if they’re too big) and Pinenuts with the dressing and put on a plate or platter. Scatter the Courgette slices and small rounds of Goat’s Cheese (Ricotta would also be lovely) on the Lettuce leaves and serve.
And if you fancy something more substantial try…
Courgette Gratin with Tomato and Parmesan (for 2)
- 1 Medium Onion
- 3-4 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
- 3 Medium Courgettes
- 80gr freshly grated Parmesan
- Basil Leaves
Make a Tomato sauce by sautéing a medium Onion in Olive Oil over a lowish heat until soft and beginning to change colour (this will take about 15 minutes). Add a 3-4 roughly chopped cloves Garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes until the Garlic has softened. Add a tin of chopped Tomatoes, a teaspoon Sugar and a generous pinch Salt. Continue cooking over a low to medium heat until the Tomato has reduced by at least half. Check your seasoning adding more Salt if necessary and a little more Sugar if the sauce seems bitter. Cook for a further 5 minutes then remove from heat.
While the Tomatoes are cooking, slice and sauté the Courgettes till golden brown.
To finish the dish, put a little Tomato Sauce on the base of a small ceramic gratin dish followed by a layer of Courgettes, some grated Parmesan and a few torn Basil Leaves if you have them. Continue layering the Courgettes, Tomato and Parmesan until everything has been used ending with a layer of Parmesan. Grill until golden and eat hot, warm or cold.
Pasta with Garlic, Courgettes and Chilli (for 2)
- 2 Medium Courgettes
- 1/2 Fresh Red Chilli
- 2-3 Cloves Garlic
- freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- Enough Pasta for 2
Slice and begin frying your Courgettes along with 1/2 fresh Chilli in a generous dash of Olive Oil. While the Courgettes are cooking put on enough pasta for 2 (any kind works fine). When the Courgettes start to change colour add 2-3 cloves Garlic finely chopped. Be sure to keep moving the Courgettes and Garlic on the pan so the Garlic doesn’t burn.
When the pasta and Courgettes are ready mix together adding plenty of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, Salt, Black Pepper and a little more oil if necessary. Serve immediately.
Variation: Instead of the Chilli you could throw in a handful of Capers at the end.