Spinach Pesto with Fusilli

pesto pasta tastefood

When you think of pesto do you think of basil? Most of us do. Traditional Pesto Genovese, the ubiquitous garlicky basil puree tossed with pasta is an Italian staple. I have to admit, though, that basil is not my favorite herb. When I use it, I do it sparingly so it’s pungent flavor doesn’t overwhelm. So, when I do make a pesto I like to substitute some or all of the basil with other herbs and greens – and you should too, even if you love basil. Herb pestos are a great way to use copious greens, and a wonderful way to spread their flavor in pastas, dolloped over pizzas or smeared on crostini. They are also great as a garnish or sauce for grilled meats, chicken, and fish. Try substituting parsley, cilantro, mint – or a mixture of all of them. Greens such as arugula and baby spinach also work well. I made this pesto with fresh baby spinach leaves and added a little lemon and mint to brighten the mix.

pesto spinach jar

Spinach Pesto with Almonds, Mint and Lemon

Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

4 ounces baby spinach
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the spinach, garlic, mint, cheese, almonds and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream to blend. If too thick add a little more oil to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and black pepper.

To serve with pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 1 pound pasta, such as fusilli, and cook until al dente. Drain. Toss with several heaping spoonfuls of pesto to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese. Serves 4.

 

Cranberry Fig Chutney

~ Cranberry, Fig & Rosemary Chutney ~

Thanksgiving dinner is simply not complete without a cranberry sauce. While I have nothing against the traditional cranberry-sugar combination, I often find missing an extra layer or kick of flavor – so I devised this chutney. Chutneys are concoctions of sweet and savory fruit, spices and herbs, resulting in a well-rounded mouthful that pops in your mouth. This recipe is not heavily weighed down by too many spices, so the humble cranberry shines through – which, of course, is a requisite for Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

This chutney is not just for the Thanksgiving table. Use it as a condiment for roasted pork, duck and chicken. It’s also delicious when served as a condiment on a cheese board, or dabbed on crostini with soft goat cheese. Makes about 2 cups.

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

Place the figs in a small bowl. Pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes. When the figs are ready, place the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Here are a few more recipes for the Thanksgiving table from TasteFood:

Brussel Sprout Gratin
Sweet Potato Mash
Pumpkin Pecan Roulade
Cranberry Walnut Trifle

Baked Shrimp and Kale with Chermoula

Baked Shrimp and Kale with Chermoula

~ Shrimp, Kale, Chermoula, Oven ~

It’s not fair to say that this recipe is all about the chermoula sauce. After all, shrimp and kale are no slouches when it comes to ingredients. It’s just that the chermoula does something wicked to this dish. Let me first tell you what chermoula is: a North African paste including cilantro, parsley, lemon, paprika, cumin and garlic. Typically chermoula is used as a marinade for fish, but I’ve used it with beef, chicken, thick slices of eggplant and cauliflower steaks; it always tastes good. So good, you might be tempted to eat it with a spoon or swipe a hunk of bread through it and call it a snack. In the case of this recipe, I dropped chermoula-coated shrimp over a bed of kale and popped the whole lot in the oven. It was almost too easy considering how good it turned out.

Baked Shrimp and Kale with Chermoula

For a smokier version, substitute the paprika with smoked paprika. Serves 4.

Chermoula:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound large shrimp, deveined, shells removed
1 bunch lacinato kale, tough ribs removed
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Heat oven to 375 F.  Combine the chermoula ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix well. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Tear the kale leaves into large pieces. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish. Arrange the kale in one layer in the baking dish. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Dump the shrimp into the baking dish and arrange in one layer over the kale. Spoon any remaining chermoula over the kale and shrimp. Bake until the shrimp are bright in color and just cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Grilled Sriracha Chicken Skewers
Moroccan Lamb Stew
Coconut Shrimp Curry

Chipotle Skirt Steak Fajitas

Chipotle Skirt Steak Fajitas

~ Chipotle Skirt Steak Fajitas ~

It’s August, but fall is in the air. There is a deep chill to the mornings, while the afternoon sunlight colors everything a hazy golden hue, stretching long shadows into the garden.  As if on cue, apples and pears have moved into prominent display in the markets, and school lunches are once again on our mind. The first week of school, with post-summer reunions, orientations, and a significant step into high school, has finished with success. The kids are happy; so then are the parents. I can’t think of a better excuse for a little down-home Margarita-Friday celebration, along with a fiesta-inspired dinner.

Chipotle Skirt Steak Fajitas
Serves 4

For the marinade:
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 pounds skirt steak

For the Avocado Corn Salsa:
1 15-ounce can black beans drained
Corn kernels from one ear of corn
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe, but not too soft, avocado, cut in 1/4 inch chunks
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Soft corn or flour tortillas
Garnishes: tomato salsa, sour cream, fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Place skirt steak in a shallow rimmed dish (or a zip-lock bag). Pour the marinade over the steak. Cover with plastic and refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight, turning once or twice.

To make the salsa, combine all of the ingredients except the avocado and cilantro in a bowl. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning. (Salsa may be made in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate). Before serving add avocado and cilantro. Gently toss to combine.

Remove steak from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Discard marinade. Grill steak over direct high heat, turning once, until desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes for medium-rare. (Or broil in oven, turning once). Transfer to cutting board and rest for 5 minutes. Cut against the grain in 1/2-inch strips.

To assemble fajitas, spoon Avocado Corn Salsa over a tortilla. Top with a few steak strips. Garnish with tomato salsa, sour cream, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Roll up and eat. Pass the napkins.

Roasted Salmon with Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

Roasted Salmon with Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

I’ll be honest. The real star of this salmon dish is the green olive and almond tapenade. No offense to the salmon, which is sublime as always.  But, frankly, this tapenade is positively addictive, adding salty, briny brightness and crunch to the buttery salmon. So, if possible, make a double batch of the tapenade. Then you will have extra to smear on a slice of bread or swipe a carrot stick through. You might even find yourself eating it straight up from a bowl with a spoon. I’m speaking from experience.

Roasted Salmon with Green Olive Tapenade

Serves 4.

For the tapenade:
1 1/2 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup almonds, toasted
2 anchovies, drained
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the salmon:
4 – 6 to 8 ounce salmon fillets, pin bones removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the tapenade:
Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process to a coarse paste. (Tapenade may be made up to two days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.) Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Make the salmon:
Preheat the oven broiler. Arrange the salmon in one layer in a roasting pan, skin side down. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt. Broil about 6 inches under the broiler until the salmon is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to serving plates. Top with a spoonful (or two) of the Green Olive and Almond Tapenade. Drizzle with a little olive oil and additional lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce


~  Marinated Skirt Steak, Chimichurri Sauce and a Grill ~

I swore I was going to try to eat a little less meat. Well, I guess I shouldn’t swear. And I certainly couldn’t plan on a last minute summer trip to visit friends in the wild west earlier this month. As they say, never look a gift horse in the mouth, and when the gift is a generous invitation to visit not one family but two families at their respective homes in Wyoming and Idaho, you must seize the moment, thank the lucky stars for your friendships, and buy lots of wine as hostess gifts. And make that red wine, because, in the west, you will be eating copious quantities of delicious red meat.

~ Grand Teton National Park ~

I am convinced that the Rocky Mountains’ high altitude, dry air, and vast landscape will make anyone a carnivore. Bison, buffalo, elk and beef have a place on all menus. Prefer a whiter meat? There’s plenty of pork, chicken and turkey, too. (And no worries if you are not a meat eater. This is the land where the Snake River does it’s snaking – winding and looping its way along the border of Wyoming and Idaho, stocked full of bass and trout.). But this post is about the meat.  One day, we prepared this skirt steak recipe for our dinner. It was submerged in a marinade before we headed out for an afternoon of hiking and mountain biking. When we returned with a big appetite, sore muscles and a few bumps and bruises, all that we needed was a hot shower, a glass of some of that red wine, and to fire up the grill. Ingredients for a fresh, green chimichurri sauce were quickly blitzed in a food processor as a bright accompaniment to the meat. Then we sat and sipped our wine as we watched the sun set behind the mountains. This is living in the wild west.


~
Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Serves 4-5

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 pounds skirt steak

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Place skirt steak in a large container with lid or ziploc bag. Pour marinade over. Cover container or seal bag and refrigerate. Marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling to bring to room temperature.
Prepare grill for high heat (or preheat oven broiler). Remove meat from marinade; discard marinade. Grill over direct high heat, turning once, 3-4 minutes each side for medium-rare. (If using the oven, arrange meat on in one layer on a broiler pan. Broil, turning once, 4 minutes per side). Transfer meat to cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. To serve, slice skirt steak against the grain on the diagonal in 3″ strips. Serve with Chimichurri Sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce:

Chimichurri is a traditional condiment from Argentina. It’s a great accompaniment to grilled meats and fish. There are many variations of chimichurri, but the common ingredient is parsley.  The flavors will develop when allowed to sit for an hour at room temperature.

1 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup cilantro
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine parsley, cilantro and garlic in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop. Add remaining ingredients and pulse briefly to combine.

Grilled Flank Steak Skewers with Spicy Green Chile Sauce

Grilled Flank Steak Skewers with Spicy Green Chile Sauce

flank steaks tf

~ Flank Steak, Spicy Green Chiles, Beer and a Grill ~

If the weather is so hot that it feels like it’s shouting at you, then why not shout back with this spicy, peppery recipe for grilled flank steak? There is nothing soft-spoken about steak marinated in a fiery beer bath or its 3-chile dipping sauce. Sharp, fragrant and heady with stout, lime and sriracha, the marinade tenderizes the beef as it soaks overnight and soaks up the flavors and just enough spice without overwhelming. The sauce is inspired by Zhoug, a Yemeni condiment that’s a cross between chimichurri and harissa, which is a match made in heaven. Serve on skewers for fun party food and be sure to pass the beer and tequila for a bold and jazzy meal to beat the heat.

Grilled Flank Steak Skewers with Spicy Green Chile Sauce
Serves 4-6 as a main course

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dark beer or stout
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons sriracha or hot sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain in 1 inch strips

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Place flank steak strips in a resealable plastic bag or glass container with a lid. Pour marinade over and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove steak from marinade 30 minutes before grilling. Discard the marinade. Prepare grill for high heat. Thread strips on pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Grill over direct heat, turning once, 5-6 minutes each side for medium-rare. Serve with Spicy Green Chile Sauce (recipe below).

~
Spicy Green Chile Sauce (Zhoug)

Makes about 2 cups

1 poblano pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
1 green serrano pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

Place peppers and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add cilantro, cumin and salt. Briefly pulse to combine. Transfer to a glass jar. Pour olive oil over to cover. Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days. (The flavors and heat will diminish with time).

Note: When you make the zhoug, be sure to take a tiny taste of your peppers. If a pepper is too fiery for your taste, then carefully remove some or all of its membranes and seeds without coming in contact with your skin.