And again it is JULY at Yelton Manor Bed and Breakfast, and my afternoons are spent putting up the harvest as it comes in. Today: basil pesto, a fabulous summer YUM and winter staple if you simply plan ahead and freeze a boatload of it! If you are following my blog you already know that I love pestos of ALL kinds, and Basil Pesto is the King of Pesto, the original, the classic! I make it once a week this time of year, have dinner with some of it fresh each time and freeze the rest in ice cube trays for using on pizza and pasta throughout the winter.
Pine nuts are toasted simply: put them into a dry pan and toast on a medium heat until fragrant and golden brown. The precious little nuts are pricey, I know, but that’s what makes your pesto so awesome!!! SO worth it! Spend some cash on the very best Parmesan Reggiano cheese too, you’re worth it. Remember: you cannot buy this kind of quality, delicious, healthy food, you can only make it yourself, so do it right and with the very best!
The ingredients are simple, cut this recipe by half if it’s too big for your food processor, (I have a big monster, hooray!).
I reaped 12 cups if my own organic basil, first tops of the season!!! Added 12 garlic cloves, 2 cups toasted pine nuts, 8 oz grated Parmesan Reggianno cheese, 4 t salt, 2 t pepper, 2 2/3 cup olive oil, and presto it is pesto!!!
So, out of the processor it goes and into ice cube trays. These plastic trays are easy to find at The Dollar Store. Cover very tightly with saran, double wrapping to ensure a great seal against freezer burn.
Seriously, if the police ever raid the inn they will be certain that I have a freezer full of marijuana, but honestly, Officer, it’s pesto!
Each square is a perfect size for a Naan pizza, or for two perfect bowls of pasta with marinara. If you purchase jars of basil pasta you will pay a fortune for it and you cannot trust that the ingredients are as pure and wholesome as what you put up yourself. Go ahead, be obsessive, it’s the only way you can be certain to truly eat well any more!!!!!!! What a delight: summer PESTO…soon to be enjoyed in winter!!!!!!!
At Yelton Manor B&B we specialize in feeding 34 hungry holiday-ers every full inn morning. This calls for a big breakfast buffet where the hot egg dishes bake, family style, like casseroles. But sometimes we serve a smaller houseful, and we have fun creating beautiful plates that can only be possible with fewer diners.
Turn the corners of your lips UP into a big smile, because here is an easy technique that turns out a very lovely breakfast entree! And remember: breakfast is the new lunch and dinner too!
Choose a red, yellow, orange, purple and/or green sweet pepper, crunchy fresh from The Farmer’s Market. Core and slice into rounds. Make sure to trim any white pith inside, because it will be bitter.
No secret ingredients here, but we played around in The Manor kitchen to perfect the technique. Choose a nice fry pan that has a tight fitting lid, preferably see-through.
Use butter if you want a buttery, caramelized bottom on the fried egg. Use Pam or olive oil if you please. We used Pam and still got an excellent result. Grease the fry pan well.
Over a medium heat, warm the pan with the peppers laying flat. This pre-heating let’s you drop the eggs into the peppers without significant leakage out of the form. Have a 1/4 cup of plain water nearby. Test the pan for readiness by flicking water drops…when the water sizzles your pan is ready.
Then pour the 1/4 cup of water around the edges of the pan and close with the tight lid. This will steam the eggs for a nice “over easy” effect, leaving a runny yolk, ideally, but cooking the whites satisfactorily.
Watch carefully for perfect doneness! Then plate up beautifully, garnish with snipped herbs and edible flowers from the garden, and delight your diners!!! Today we served whole grain bagels on the side, and pumpkin muffins too. As a healthy, delicious accompaniment, we frequently add hot, sliced, baked sweet potato rounds to the plate.
This is a simple, lovely presentation and would be beautiful on a “breakfast in bed” tray too!!!
It’s SPRING!! And all Yelton Manor Bed and Breakfast food cravings are for asparagus! Here’s a simple but elegant, creamy soup that has a few ingredients that make it extra exciting: paprika for a subtle heat, spinach for a brighter green color, a runny poached egg dropped into it for comfort and some great homegrown herbs for dazzle. There is no cream in this soup, but it still comes out very rich and creamy. Serves 6.
Start with a large leek, white and green parts, sliced down the middle then sliced into half moons. Saute in a tablespoon or two of olive oil along with 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. When they are tender, about 10 minutes, add a teaspoon of Hungarian paprika.
Add 3 cups of vegetable stock, preferably homemade, to the pot, along with the asparagus. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
Now you’re cooking! When the asparagus is tender, add a cup of fresh spinach. Stir in and take pot off heat. Place the soup in a blender and whir it up to a creamy consistency. Return soup to pan to keep warm until serving.
Time to go raid the spring herb garden! I love the taste of French tarragon, very licorice. Chives are always great, also fresh parsley. Chop for topping off the soup bowls.If desired, poach 6 eggs until just perfect, solid whites/runny yolk. Fill 6 bowls with soup, drop a poached egg into the center of each and top off with your herbs. Voila!! Enjoy!
I love pesto!! It’s so versatile for pasta dishes or bruschetta and so easy to whirl up in a food processor. Of course I’m addicted to traditional basil pesto, but sometimes, especially when it’s not summer and herb season, I love to experiment with other ways to make a pungent, garlicky, cheesy, herb spread. Sun dried tomatoes! It’s another pantry staple too, so you can whip this up when unexpected company arrives! If you have a notion to dry your own tomatoes, by the way, I always use the recipe and technique from about.com. But store bought is fine too. In this recipe the spinach stands in for the green, but basil is great too.
1 cup sun dried tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Soak the tomatoes in water to soften them, then drain. Combine everything in a food processor until blended well into a perfect, pasty pesto!!
At Yelton Manor B&B we believe in the power of pesto, it’s true, and this easy beauty proves that you don’t even need to start with a green herb to make it! Mercy, this is so good. Simply put in food processor:
1 12oz jar marinated artichokes, drained
4 T finely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
2 T olive oil.
Blend until coarsely chopped, not too smooth. Taste and adjust for salt and freshly ground pepper.
Here’s the real trick to making these awesome: the crostini. Slice a French baguette into 1/2 inch rounds. Melt unsalted butter with minced garlic and spread on. Then toast them.
Spread the toasted crostinis with the artichoke pesto, and finish with a sprinkling of very fresh, minced, Italian parsley.
Pesto mixture can be made a day ahead, cover and chill.
Though we keep a vegetarian kitchen at Yelton Manor B&B, we always include some meat and fish options on the party appetizer table for friends and family who love it. When considering fish, tuna is always a handy ‘pantry ready’ choice, but on big special occasions I like to mound up a shrimp bowl around a spicy horseradish red sauce, or a side of smoked salmon with fabulous adornments, like capers, boiled egg, small dice red onion and perhaps cream cheese. But everyday tuna (please do splurge on fine quality canned tuna, of course) dresses up a snidge in this simple appetizer that is easy to make and everyone snatches it up happily. It’s a simple comfort food, no shame in that!
Here’s what we love best when we make this: snip the parsley very very fresh from the garden. When it’s full of water and crisp as can be, it adds the perfect crunch to this appetizer. We consider this munchie much diminished with store bought limp parsley, but use it if you have no other options.
1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
thinly sliced celery (preferably the tender heart)
2 can albacore tuna
Finely chopped parsley (and are you in the mood for dill? Maybe.) to taste and color
2 T fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup capers (optional, I only use them when in a salty kind of mood)
Optional ingredients you may want to add: diced sun dried tomato, diced red bell pepper, pickle relish, mustard, garlic, diced black olives, diced pepperoncini, what are you feeling like today?
Combine. Toss with just enough mayo to bind, keep it light. Try not to break up the tuna or beans too much. Serve on small party square breads for hors d’oeuvres, or toasted baguette slices.
For a warm bite, toast quickly, perhaps with a small amount of cheddar cheese. Nice on a toasted whole grain English Muffin too.
For sandwich or pita, or rolled up in a tortilla, add some tomato and red leaf lettuce, perhaps some homemade hummus, top with sprouts.
Since becoming such an avid herb gardener AND a vegetarian in the last decades, I have become quite willing to take on nearly any adventure imaginable that blends a green leafy herb with a you-name-it nut, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. There is no end to it! Freeze it, store it, use it for pasta, pizza, bruschetta, this is the simplest, healthiest, tastiest and most beautiful food! Tonight I improvised this concoction, made affordable in winter with some organic baby arugula as the heft of it, accented with some basil. Arugula has an unexpected and pleasant bitterness, very ooh-la-la when used right. I used a penne pasta, absolutely fabulous, but anything you like will work fine. I double the recipe and freeze 1/2 in ice cube trays and use the individual cubes in forthcoming dinners. And don’t forget breakfast, where pesto of all kinds works beautifully with egg dishes like frittatas!
Penne Pasta with Arugula Pesto
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 cloves garlic
2 cups chopped arugula
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmsan cheese
pinch salt, pinch cayenne
Chop the walnuts and garlic in the food processor. Add arugula and basil until chopped, run the olive oil in a stream until a nice paste forms. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese, salt and cayenne. Use however you please!
My husband and fellow Yelton Manor innkeeper, Robert, is a butter freak. He slathers it on everything. I was never much for butter until we started buying organic, sweet cream butter, sometimes imported from France. There IS a difference, and butter can be very, dangerously good.
Butter can also be a main event at the dinner table when paired with exactly the right herbs.
The recipe is simple: pick an herb or spice and mix it with excellent butter. Serve formally by piping it onto individual dishes, or just in a bowl family style, whatever fits the occasion. If you want pretty slices, simply wrap the herb butter in saran wrap , form into a perfectly round log, chill and then slice.
This is also a great way to use up the remainder of those expensive herb packets that you buy in the winter. Make rosemary butter! Or thyme butter! Sage butter! Try different combinations on meats, vegetables and straight on your bread. Mint is my current fave, can’t get enough of it.
At The Manor we grow 3 kinds of sage, 3 kinds of basil, rosemary, thyme, flat and curly parsley, 3 kinds of mint, 2 kinds of chive, rue, lavender, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, dill, chervil, anise, cilantro, lemon verbena and evn more in pots surrounding the walkways and parking lot.
The heat of the pavement keeps them producing heartily through the season. Growing in pots also keep the invasive herbs from taking over in the perennial garden.
Item for a Lull in Conversation: Herbs are made from leaves and spices are made from seeds.
Spices can also be made from other things like bark (cinnamon) or roots (ginger).