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Rosemary Salt – Preserving Fresh Herbs

It is that time of year – our gardens are roaring into full production.  We’ve just started getting our tomatoes, but our peppers have been coming in for a couple of weeks and our eggplant will be ready for harvest by the end of the week.  We’ve had a great crop of fresh herbs for almost two months now.  We can’t use all the fresh herbs that we’ve grown, so we’re doing everything we can to preserve them.  I’ve been making and freezing fresh basil pesto every week now, I’ve also started making flavored salts too.  I made a half cup of rosemary salt this weekend and thought I’d share my simple recipe that is so easily scalable – make a half teaspoon or a cup, it’s the same process.

Here’s what you need to make a tablespoon of rosemary salt:

Rosemary Salt

Another way to preserve fresh herbs

1 Sprigs rosemary, stemmed and roughed chopped
1 tablespoons sea salt

  1. Place the chopped rosemary and salt in a mortar and pestle (I didn’t use the M&P, I just used a knife to chop the salt and rosemary into a finer powder

Finished product – Rosemary Salt

You can use the rosemary salt on anything and everything that could use a little pop of rosemary!  Try it as you roast some vegetables, on steaks or chicken before they hit the grill, or to finish off a salad.  Personally, we love it on pork chops.

Prepped and ready for the grill

Do you make flavored herb salts?  Do you have an easier process?  What are your favorite flavor combinations and how do you use them?

Pesto – The Best Summer Sauce

Each year we plant basil. A ton of basil.  We usually plant five basil plants.  So much of that basil goes to waste.  This year, we’ve decided to do a much better job of putting up the basil and for me, the easiest way to do that is just to make pesto.  Pesto is a great sauce on pasta, fresh vegetables and especially on tomatoes and burrata cheese.  Don’t think you’ll be eating that much pesto over the short term?  Easy, just put it in an air tight container and put it in the freezer.  It won’t be as perfect and fresh as it is the day you make it, but it will still be wonderful.

Making Homemade Pesto

Pesto is an easy sauce to create, it just takes six ingredients and is easily scalable:

  • One cup of Fresh Basil
  • One peeled clove of garlic (I’ve been omitting this recently)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Pine Nuts (try adding a Tablespoon of Walnuts or swap out Pine Nuts for Walnuts)
  • 1/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1/3 Cup of Olive Oil (don’t use the GOOD stuff)

The process is effortless if you have a food processor.  I even decided to buy a $19 Black and Decker 1.5 Cup food processor – using my normal food processor wasn’t all that efficient.  Toss in all the dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Then slowly drizzle in the Olive Oil, while the processor runs.  You may need to adjust the amount of Olive Oil – just play with it until it looks right.  Take one final taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

If you do decide to freeze the pesto, be sure you press a layer of plastic wrap directly into the Pesto before putting the lid on and sticking it in the freezer. This keeps the air away from the pesto and reduces freezer burn.

For lunch today, I paired homemade pesto with frozen goat cheese ravioli, diced fresh and sun dried tomatoes…of course with more Parmesan cheese.

Fresh pesto and Ravioli

Frozen Goat Cheese Ravioli with Homemade Pesto and Diced Fresh and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

You can follow this basic recipe for other garden fresh herbs too, including parsley and cilantro.

How do you save your garden fresh herbs?  What do you love to serve with your homemade pesto?

Peach and Goat Cheese Pizza

The past couple of weeks it seems like my social media feed has been full of people making peach pizzas.  Peach and ricotta. Peach and Mozzarella.  Peach and Goat Cheese.  Peach with tomato sauce. Peach with pesto.  I will admit, I never thought about a peach pizza until recently, but I don’t know why.  I love pineapple on pizza, so why wouldn’t another fruit like peach be a logical next step?

I decided that this weekend I was going to make a Peach and Chevre pizza.  I scoured the interwebs for the perfect recipe, but nothing really grabbed me.  Now I can go off recipe for quite a few things and those are usually Italian options.  Each fall I make a huge batch of bolognese sauce that keeps me going through the winter.  I don’t follow a consistent recipe with that.  When I make a homemade pizza, I go off book too.  This recipe felt a little more daunting – I really didn’t know what I wanted to taste with this meal.  But hell, as I always say, if I try something new and it sucks, I can always just order…well….pizza.

I knew I wanted peaches and goat cheese (chevre), so we hit the farmer’s market for the peaches and stopped by Whole Foods for the pizza crust and some chevre.  I decided to keep it pretty simple. I wasn’t going to mix and match cheeses, I wasn’t going to layer in some tomato sauce or pesto.  I wanted to really focus on the two main ingredients: peaches and chevre.

I started off by preheating the oven to 450F (230C or Gas Mark 8).

I rolled out the Whole Foods whole wheat pizza dough into a quarter inch thickness (rectangular, only because getting the dough perfectly round never really works for me…) and brushed with the good olive oil.  I say good olive oil because we perpetually have two kinds at home – the kind that we use in every day cooking and is kept in a bottle with a spigot next to the stove and the other olive oil that is usually used to make salad dressings or as a final finishing touch to something.  Yes, I used the good oil here.  A light brushing over the top was the perfect base to this culinary canvas I was dreaming about.  I should say that at this point I had already  put this dough on a cookie sheet with a silpat liner (we use both the fancy French version as well as the Amazon Basics version – I find they work exactly the same).

Perfectly Ripe Farmers Market Peaches on Freshly Oiled Pizza Dough.

I sliced up two peaches – about 1/4 inch thickness and placed them all over the freshly oiled pizza crust.  I wasn’t sure how much chevre I’d need so I grabbed an 11 ounce size at the store (I used just over half, but could have used more) and crumbled it by hand over the pizza.  I then decided to cut up some fresh scallions and sprinkle over the top.  Finishing it off with some freshly ground pepper and some sea salt.

Next step: crumble a bunch of chevre all over the pizza.

I tossed this bad boy in the oven and cooked initially for 10 minutes – just to see how it worked.  It wasn’t done, but the critical thing to remember is that chevre isn’t a moist cheese, so it doesn’t melt like mozzarella.  I ended up cooking the pizza for about 18 minutes until the crust was brown (not too golden), the peaches were soft and the chevre was very tender and just starting to brown.

Into the oven at 450F (230C or Gas Mark 8) for about 15 minutes.

While the pizza baked, I put a half cup of good balsamic (we don’t use much balsamic, so I think we only had the good stuff around…I think it was the good stuff because it resided next to the good olive oil) into a sauce pan over medium high heat to reduce it. I wanted a nice thick balsamic drizzle over my pizza once it was done.  Cook the vinegar until you are left with about 2 tablespoons of the reduction. I also ran out to the garden and grabbed some basil (both traditional and purple).  I ran it under some water (pretty haphazardly) dried it, rolled it into a tube and quickly ran a knife though it.  A quick chiffinade was all I needed to do here.

Reduce your balsamic vinegar to about two tablespoons.

The timer rang and my pizza was finally done.  My first thought was “Damn, this needs something. More cheese?  More peaches?  A traditional sauce?”  I let it cool for about five minutes then sprinkled the basil and cut it into squares.

Voila! With the fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction, this pizza was ready to go! I didn’t snap a pic of the jalapenos because I ate the pizza too quickly!

I was very pleased with the flavors – the peaches were so sweet and still held their shape, despite the slicing and the heat of the oven.  Drizzle your balsamic reduction over the entire pie and dig in. As I finished my first slice, I decided to walk out to the garden and grab a jalapeno pepper.  I sliced the pepper (about 1/8″ – 1/4″) and placed the raw peppers on my pizza.  The peppers were just what this needed.  It added a great kick to the pizza and paired just perfectly with the peaches.

Want to follow my lead? Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • One portion store bought pizza dough (or homemade if you so choose)
  • 2 tablespoons of the good olive oil
  • Two ripe peaches cut into 1/8″ slices (discard the pit)
  • Two scallions – thinly sliced (both white and green portions)
  • About 6 ounces of chevre – although feel free to use more
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil – chiffanade
  • One jalapeno, sliced very thin
  • Salt and Pepper (freshly ground, of course) to taste
  • 1/4 cup of the good balsamic vinegar

Do you make pizzas with fruit fresh from the farmers market?  What would you add to my recipe?  Send me pix of your summer pizza creations – I can’t ever get enough pizza options!

Cook Books – Use ’em or Lose ’em!

We have a ton of cook books. Cook books always play a major role as Christmas gifts too. Each year we probably add half a dozen to our library. In general, we look at the book immediately after unwrapping it.  Then we make these great plans on all the new things we’ll make, then fail to execute.  When we have a dinner party or a free weekend, we’ll pull a cook book and find something new.  The book goes right back to the shelf afterwards, not to be explored again until another special occasion..

Cook Book Shelves

Our cook book shelves are overflowing

Cook book shelves

So many cook books and so little time.

I decided that I’d be meat free in January (also chose to be booze free). Needing to expand my meatless repertoire. I pulled A Year in a Vegetarian’s Kitchen – grabbed some post it notes and went to marking interesting recipes. About a dozen of these recipes really spoke to us and since they were vegetarian it fit my nutritional changes for the month.

We loved the recipes we made throughout the month. We tried so many great things in January, we decided to pick another cook book for February and will try this experiment again. While I’m not going to be meatless in February, I do plan to remain as mindful about my food as I was in January. It might be a bit tougher considering we chose Tommy Bahamas Flavors of the Southern Coast as our February book. We found another dozen or so recipes, but these recipes all require more work than our January selections, so adding these to our week night rotation will be tough.

It felt great trying so many new recipes in January and I can’t wait to work our way through this new book. How often do you use your cook books?  Seriously, how often?  Do you dig getting a new cook book as much as I do?  I love to give cook books just as much – it often means that someone will be thanking me for the gift by making something amazing out of their new book too.  Now that’s a win-win!

Recipe: French Macarons

Who isn’t a fan of classic French Macarons? Those bite sized little bits of almond flour and meringue sandwiched around a flavorful jam (or chocolate…or anything else, the possibilities are endless) are always a hit. They look beautiful, taste great and are almost never homemade. Since these things are so delicate – they melt in your mouth – I just figured that if I tried to make them I’d end up crushing the cookies and making an utter mess.

I was gifted a macaron baking set for Christmas a couple years ago. This included a recipe guide, a silicon sheet with small circles imprinted so you could properly place the batter and a whoopee cushion style device to squirt the batter into place (in lieu of using a pastry bag). The day after I opened this present in 2014, I made macarons. I diligently followed the recipe, which was originally in French, translated to English. The recipe called for you to make your own almond flour, which I did…it was awful. It wasn’t fine enough and it was just extra work that wasn’t needed.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2017. I decided to try my hand at macarons again, this time using store bought almond flour, pulled out the seldom used KitchenAid Stand Mixer and found a recipe written by a native English speaker.

French macarons are a delight to make and to eat

Pulling out the Kitchenaid to help with the French macarons.

I decided to substitute more confectioners’ sugar in lieu of superfine sugar only because I failed to read the recipe fully and I didn’t realize I needed two different types of sugar.

Cooling French macarons

Allow the French Macarons to cool completely before you fill them.

The Results

This recipe was simple and turned out really well. I do need to work on my piping skills. As I squirted the batter out, I made it too thick, so when I put the sandwiches together they were very tall.  A very big mouthful macaron, not a delicate pastry. I also used a few drops of yellow food coloring to give the cookies a deeper yellow color. I filled the macarons with either store bought lemon curd or a homemade spicy passion fruit jam. These fillings were amazing additions – the spicy passion fruit filled cookies were my favorite. The sweet and spicy jam was a unique twist on the traditional French treat – it turned it into a French Polynesian treat.

Voila!  French Macaron

The final product. Homemade French macaron. With a passion fruit filling.

Do you have a favorite macaron recipe or shop? What is your favorite flavor? Who wants to try one of my spicy passion fruit macaron?