Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quick Fix Greens

Matt and I spent Labor Day weekend up in Moretown, VT in a big ol' house with a group of great friends.  I decided to bring our remaining Boston Organics produce along so that it didn't spoil while we were gone, and I ended up cooking a lot while there (which granted me a merciful 15 handicap points for the play-for-the-dishes post-dinner games of Hearts).

Some of us out in the "backyard" on an evening constitutional

One of the dishes I made was a bit of an experiment.  I had a bunch of kale, and figured that cooking it with some boxed rice would simultaneously steam and flavor it.  And so, at the podunk mini-mart in the "center of town," I picked up two boxes of Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice (actually, Gabi paid for it - thanks for footing the bill, Gams!).  About 20 minutes before dinner was ready - marinated swordfish steaks and grilled zucchini, oh my! - I washed the kale, tore it into pieces, and added it to a pot into which I'd already loaded the rice, seasoning packets, and water.  I cooked it for a few minutes longer than the instructions on the back of the box called for, and it turned out quite well.

The ingredients of choice

I will definitely do this again with greens and rice in the future - it was simple, quick, and completely delicious!

- M

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pesto Gets a Makeover

Early this summer, I planted one Italian basil plant and one Thai basil plant. Both flourished immediately. I use Italian basil all the time - who wouldn't? - but I found myself ignoring the poor Thai basil. It soon sprouted flowers at the top and stopped growing. The stems grew woody and thick.

I thought I had lost the plant, until I purchased a book on city gardening which helpfully informed me that trimming the plant of its flowering top would encourage growth once more. I did so, watered it, and lo and behold - the plant was like new!

My exuberance quickly wore off when I realized I still had to figure out what to do with the stuff. Standing there, looking at each plant, I realized, "Hey - since Italian basil pesto is so delicious, I'm sure there are delicious Thai basil recipes out there, too!"

Man, was I right. I used the first recipe that popped up on Google, which happened to be from Cooking Light, my favorite food magazine! I modified it a bit by adding cilantro (I had about half the amount of Thai basil as the recipe called for), and the result was insanely flavorful and complex. I mixed it with cooked and cooled whole wheat fusilli and halved grape tomatoes. It made for a great take-along to a cookout, as there was no spoil-prone mayonnaise involved.

Give this a try. Make a bunch and freeze some in ice cubes, if you'd like. It'd be a great way to kick up any meal throughout the year.

THAI BASIL PESTO (barely adapted from Cooking Light)

2 cups fresh Thai basil and cilantro
2 tbs dry-roasted peanuts
1 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tbs dark or toasted sesame oil
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or minced fresh chile if you'd like)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the pesto and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Alternatively, freeze in an ice cube tray then transfer the cubes to a freezer-safe bag.

Makes 1/2 cup. Nutritional info per 1 tbs: 45 calories, 3.6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 1.4 g polyunsaturated fat), 0.9 g protein, 2.9 g carbohydrates, 0.6 g fiber, 0.0 mg cholesterol, 0.4 mg iron, 189 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium.

- M