foodie friday: homemade pesto

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We have an out of control basil plant in our backyard. It’s pretty impressive because I generally kill every plant in sight. But the basil, greek oregano, and mint…oh they are thriving. The other day we noticed that the basil was going to seed and, well, the plant was about 18″ to 24″ tall. It was time to hack away at the plant and whip up two pints of pesto. A 20 minute project later and we got two pints of pesto out of it, one for the fridge and one for the freezer, so great!

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Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes
taken from Simply Recipes

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese**
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Special equipment needed: A food processor (if you’re in DC, I may loan you mine)

1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

**note: if you are planning to freeze the pesto, leave out the cheese as it doesn’t freeze well. You can add it in before use.

foodie friday: ricotta cheese

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In my great attempts to emulate both Little House on the Prairie and every cooking blog alive, I decided to make my own ricotta cheese (because going to the grocery store sounded difficult). But to answer all the questions of “is it really that different?” the answer is yes. I’m now obsessed. It it smooth and creamy and wonderful. And it also went really well on toast with my strawberry jam. Success.

Homemade Ricotta
from Jennie Perillo care of Food52

Makes 2 cups
4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Add the ingredients to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a very gentle boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, line a sieve or fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a deep bowl or pot.

Once the curds begin to separate from the whey (you’ll see little specks of white bob to the surface), stir gently and set heat to the lowest setting (see NOTE). Cook for 2 more minutes, then remove pot from heat and set on an unlit back burner for at least 30 minutes, and up to one hour. (this will help the curds further develop).

Gently ladle the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer (this helps produce a fluffier, creamier curd, than pouring it into the strainer). When all the curds have been spooned into the bowl, pull the cheesecloth up the sides to loosely cover the ricotta in the strainer.

Let sit for 10 minutes to drain (this will yield a very moist ricotta. If using for a cake recipe, you may want to let it drain longer for a drier consistency).

Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

NOTE from Jennie: After making one to two pots of ricotta for a year, I’ve learned it likes to be left alone to produce the highest yield, so resist the temptation to stir it frequently once the curds begin to separate from the whey. One stir is enough, and if you’re curious, you can dip the spoon in the pot once or twice to see how the curds are developing.

foodie friday: strawberry jam

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Some days I channel my inner Little House on the Prairie spirit. I want a cow, I think about churning butter and making maple syrup candies on fresh plates of snow. Doesn’t everyone think that way? Don’t answer that.

So a few weeks ago, with a carton of sad looking strawberries in the fridge, several weck canning jars, and the internet to google recipes, I set out to make a pectin-free strawberry jam, not because I’m opposed to pectin, I just didn’t want to go to the store again. And oh heavens, the results were great. They were a tad bit soupier then I expected, but the flavor was amazing. And on my toast in the morning, even better. I can’t imagine how yummy it would be on a biscuit.

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STRAWBERRY JAM
taken from Goddess of Bakedom, the blog of Sarabeth Levine
Makes 10 half-pints

8 pints strawberries, hulled, rinsed, drained and cut into smaller pieces (you will have about 12 cups after cutting)
5 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)

1. Combine the strawberries and lemon juice in a nonreactive large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, cooked for about 10 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a low boil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook stirring often, until the juices begin to thicken into a light bodied syrup, about 25 minutes. During the last few minutes, skim the foam from the surface of the jam.

3. Fill the clean jars and attach the lids. Process the jars for 10 minutes.

foodie friday: blood orange margaritas

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I love “punch,” many know this. Now is the time to really admit that I love mixed drinks and somehow putting it in a punch bowl makes it less troubling in my mind. Please, I’ve said it before and I will say it forever, a signature drink at a party is essential.

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So when I saw this recipe on White On Rice Couple, I knew I needed to make it. And almost two years later, it’s finally happened and oh heavens, if it wouldn’t be a problem to make them daily I would.

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Lightly Sweet, tart, citrus, and tequila. How could it be bad.

Blood Orange Margarita Recipe
adapted from White on Rice Couple

3 oz fresh Blood Orange Juice
1.5 oz Tequila (I used the Herradura Reposado)
1 oz Triple Sec (From the liquor store guy: use Patron Orange, a touch classier)
splash of agave nectar syrup

1. Rub the rim of an old fashioned glass (or whatever similar vessel you prefer) with an edge of a blood orange slice. Swirl the rim through a small pile of kosher or sea salt to salt the rim.
2. Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake for 15 seconds.
3. Put a few cubes of ice in your glass. Strain the cocktail into the glass and enjoy.