Friday, February 19, 2010


I sometimes make and freeze big batches of pesto in ice cube trays after the kids have gone to bed.  Bella is my late night pesto taste taster. Even if she has had dessert, brushed her teeth, and gotten in bed she is super psyched to run into the kitchen and eat a big spoonful of warm pesto. This week I threw in broccoli, kale, parsley, and walnuts. The crazy thing is that broccoli normally makes Bella gag. She tasted it without knowing the ingredients and pronounced it "way good."

"Just so you know, that pesto is made with broccoli and kale," I admitted. I thought she would get really pissed off.

"Oh," she said and then paused. "Cool." And then she ran back to bed. She said "cool" like a 14-year old. It freaked me out.

Here are just some of the ways we used the Broccoli, Kale, and Walnut Pesto this week:

1. On bucatini pasta. Dash topped it with extra parmesan, olive oil, and balsamic. We tried to say bucatini 10 times fast while eating. It's hard.
 2. On brussels sprouts. The pesto melts into the caramelized vegetables and makes them taste so much better than naked brussels sprouts. I know lots of people love brussels sprouts. I never have. I served Dash and Bella big bowls of this dish for dinner with crispy bacon as a spoon. Something absurdly gratifying about getting kids to eat brussels sprouts that are infused with broccoli and kale. It almost sounds like a form of torture (I guess that's why I threw in the bacon). But guess what? THEY ATE EVERY BITE. 
3. As the filling for individual potato gratins layered with balsamic red onions. I baked some off and froze the rest in the ramekins in ziploc bags. See the olive oil I'm drizzling on the tart? Looks pretty but it's overkill. The pesto is full of oil so you don't need to add any additional fat to these gratins.
4. As the filling for a large potato gratin that I cut into squares and served in the middle of my squash and carrot soup. My husband pronounced it genius. And he is crazy critical of my cooking. In a useful way. I swear.
The word pesto comes from the Italian word pestare (to crush/pound).  The French have something similar called pistou that's usually made with basil, garlic, and olive oil (sometimes cheese is added). Some people say that pesto and pistou must be made slowly and lovingly with a mortar and pestle. Yeah, fine, it's great that way but it's still fabulous when it's made in a food processor or blender.


1. Purée, press, or finely chop the garlic before adding all the other ingredients so that you don't end up with chunks of garlic in the pesto. 
 2. If you're making any kind of green pesto (basil, cilantro, broccoli, arugula, or others), add some lemon juice to help keep it green.
 3. If you're not eating it right away, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top. This will keep the surface from turning brown.

Here are the links to my other pesto recipes plus a few more ideas I'm hoping to try out soon:


    2 cups broccoli, cut into medium-sized florets and trimmed
    2 cups kale, coarsley chopped
    1/3 cup parsley leaves
    big pinch of salt
    2 cloves garlic
    1/2 cup walnuts
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/2 lemon, juice and zest
    3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

    Steam broccoli until tender. Throw kale and parsley in with broccoli for final minute of steaming. Make a paste with the garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle or with a chef's knife on the chopping block. In a food processor or blender, place garlic paste, walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice/zest, parmesan, broccoli, kale, parsley, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, scrape down the sides, pulse again. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe more lemon. Serve right away. Or store in a jar with a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent browning.

    This dish is best room temperature or warm. It's great as a side dish. Or serve it as a main course in a big bowl with 2 strips of bacon over the top.

    2 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half through the stem end
    big pinch of salt
    1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
    1/3 cup white wine
    1/2 cup broccoli, kale, walnut pesto.

    Put butter and olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot that has a lid. Turn heat to high and melt butter. Add brussels sprouts and onion. Add salt and pepper. Cook on high heat stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and brussels sprouts to get quite brown, maybe even to burn a bit. Turn heat to medium, add white wine and cook for one minute. Turn heat to low, put on the lid, and cook until brussels sprouts are tender (about 10 minutes). You don't want them to be raw at all for this recipe because you want the brussels sprouts to absorb a lot of the pesto. Place cooked brussels sprouts in a bowl and top with the pesto. Serve immediately with pesto spooned over the top. If you're serving it later mix the pesto in with the warm brussels sprouts so that they melt together. Warm it up on low heat before serving.

    This gratin tastes great with a salad. You can also serve a square of it in the middle of a bowl of squash and carrot soup topped with yogurt and chives. This gratin is delicious but don't be put off by the color. It can turn a bit greenish purple because of the pesto. I undercooked this twice. Carefully test the center to make sure all the potatoes are tender. Undercooked potatoes are such a bummer.

    1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    1 cup percorino, grated
    4 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    6-8 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes (don't use Idaho for this recipe)
    1 1/2 cups broccoli, kale, walnut pesto

    Preheat oven to 375º F. Butter 1 large casserole dish (about 8x12) or 6 small ones. Combine the grated cheeses. Place shallots in a bowl and pour over the balsamic. Set aside.

    Peel the potatoes and place them in cold water. Warm the pesto in a double boiler if it's not freshly made (to loosen it up). Thinly slice (paper thin) the potatoes with a mandoline, a cuisinart slicer attachment, or by hand. Place half the slices into the pesto and gently mix by hand to coat the slices. Spread one layer of sliced potatoes without the pesto down in the dish, overlapping them. Sprinkle with cheeses, salt, and pepper. Spread out and overlap a layer of potatoes covered with the pesto. Place down another layer of potatoes without the pesto. Sprinkle again with cheeses, salt, and pepper. Alternate pesto, no pesto, pesto, and so on until you reach the top of the dish. Just know that the gratin will sink down a bit so do as many layers as you can and press them down a bit. Make sure the final layer doesn't have pesto. Top the gratin with with the remaining cheeses. Grate more on top if you need to. Scatter balsamic shallots over the top. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown (at least 1 hour and 15 minutes, maybe longer). Turn the oven down or cover the gratin if the top starts to burn. Serve immediately.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010


    "I want more yucky this," Dash says pointing to his plate.
    "You mean yummy?" I ask. I'm confused because he is shoveling it into his mouth.
    "No. No. More yucky."
    "Ohhhhhh. Gnocchi?"
    "Yes. Yucky."

    Bella takes on the job of teaching Dash how to say gnocchi. I overhear this from the other room.
    Bella: "Knee-oh-key. It's Italian."
    Dash: "Knee-oh-kook."
    Bella: "No. Listen to me. Knee-oh-key."
    Dash: "Knee-oh-puppy."
    Bella: "Dashi, you're not even trying!"

    These are not your classic pillowy potato gnocchi. These are Roman-style baked semolina gnocchi that we cut out with a cookie cutter.
    Dash calls them "yucky peoples." Here they are naked, holding hands, and ready to be covered with grated parmesan and bread crumbs.
    You can make them thick (like above) or thin (like below). Here they are broiled, lined up, and ready for the tomato sauce.
    We make them again for my dad's birthday. Dash looks at them and says, "You make yucky kids again? Yummy."

    ROMAN-STYLE BAKED GNOCCHI  printable recipe
     Adapted from a recipe in The New York Times Dining section: "Roman Style Baked Semolina Gnocchi." Serve this as a side dish with a meat ragu OR by itself with tomato sauce or caramelized onions. 
    - butter or olive oil for greasing casserole dish
    - 4 cups whole milk
    - 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    - 1/2 teaspoon salt
    - 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    - 1 1/4 cups semolina flour
    - 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided in half
    - 3 eggs yolks, lightly beaten
    - 1/2 cup bread crumbs

    Grease a large casserole dish (about 9x12 inches for thick gnocchi or even bigger for thin) with olive oil or butter. In a large saucepan, combine milk, nutmeg, salt, and butter. Bring just to the boil and then lower heat. Slowly whisk in semolina flour. Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until it gets so thick that it's hard to stir (2-5 minutes). Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 a cup of the cheese. Then quickly whisk in the egg yolks. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish and even out the surface with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
    Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a large casserole dish (about 9x12 inches) with olive oil or butter.  Use a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass to cut out the gnocchi. Dip cutter in cold water if the gnocchi start to stick. Place cut out gnocchi into the greased casserole dish. You can overlap them or just press them up close to each other. (Freeze scraps and bake another time with bread crumbs and cheese.) Mix bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan in a bowl. Generously sprinkle mixture over the gnocchi. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Serve immediately.