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artichoke pesto

artichoke pestoMaking use of what’s in your cupboard before expiration date always feels good.  I am guilty, at times, of having to throw food out.  According to Second Harvest, Canadians waste $31 billion of food every year of which 47% is wasted in the home.  Over 30% of fruits and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets because they aren’t attractive enough for consumers. The primary contributor to consumer food waste is high expectations—demand for high-quality, aesthetically-pleasing food is a key factor behind the volume of food waste among consumers. I reject ugly-looking fruit or veggies when there are visible signs of spoilage.  I don’t know why I expect my food to last longer.  The refrigerator is meant to prolong the life of fruits and vegetables and perhaps psychologically I have time on my side and, regrettably, that isn’t always the case – mea culpaContinue Reading →

Grilled Garlic Scapes Pesto

grilled garlic scapes pestoIt’s funny how easily I can be distracted when trying to write a post.  I enjoy talking about food but there are times when the energy to write seems to evaporate the longer I sit at my desk looking at the computer screen.  I stare out the window hoping for that aha! moment but my thoughts drift.  Any little distraction and my thoughts wonder.  I notice my plants need some attention, or the lawn needs a bit of water, or the windows I have been meaning to clean now seem so dirty, or simply I can’t be asked.  So I give in and head outdoors to clear the cobwebs, get a bit of vitamin D, and tend to my plants.  Continue Reading →

radish leaf pesto

Radish Leaf Pesto CrostiniPesto derives its name from pestâ which means to pound/crush.  A typical pesto consists of crushed garlic, basil, pine nuts mixed with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.  Pesto was originally used mostly to flavor vegetable soups. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that it was used as a sauce for pasta.  Earlier versions of pesto used parsley or marjoram instead of basil, and did not include the pine nuts. Continue Reading →

Pear and Blue Cheese Pizza

Pear & Blue Cheese PizzaWhat to do with overly ripe pears? A few things come to mind: fruit leather, smoothie, crumble, juice. But it’s Friday night and I’m looking to make pizza so why not incorporate pear and blue cheese.  I’m into the culinary balancing act of sweet and salty and pear is magical with blue cheese.  Continue Reading →

Pepperoni Pesto

pepperoni pesto by The Culinary ChaseWhen I think of pesto my mind immediately sees plump basil leaves, pine nuts, a mound of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and smashed garlic bound together with olive oil.  But when we think ‘outside the box’, a funny thing happens…we tend to experiment.  There are oodles of options out there when rethinking the term pesto.  And to get you thinking along these lines, visit Rachel Sanders 16 Things You Can Turn Into Pesto. She’s right when she says “as long as you have all the basic components that make pesto, the central vegetable can be almost anything you want. And you can even skip the cheese or the nuts if they don’t fit into your personal diet plan”.  As an example, here’s a coriander pesto I served atop sweet potato soup.  Pepperoni pesto is definitely taking old world pesto to new levels of gastronomy.  If you like pepperoni, you’ll find this dish very addictive.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

150g pepperoni, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (more if you like)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

pepperoni pesto ingredients by The Culinary ChaseIn a food processor combine all ingredients until combined. Add olive oil to desired consistency and stir to combine.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Serve this with sliced ciabatta, smear it on chicken, use as a pasta sauce, dip etc.  Increase or decrease the ingredients to suit your palate.  Enjoy!

Homemade Pesto

homemade pesto by The Culinary ChaseAlmost every cuisine on our planet has found an important role for garlic and is among the oldest known horticultural crop. Egyptian and Indian cultures referred to garlic 5000 years ago and by the Chinese 2000 years ago. Pesto hails from the northern region of Liguria and is a Ligurian superstar! Pasta isn’t the only place you can find pesto on. Try it on bruschetta, in a vinaigrette, tossed with vegetables, in soups, polenta, quiche filling, mayonnaise.

Garlic’s good for you. It acts as a warming herb for the digestion and respiratory tract and is an important antibiotic and antiviral remedy for colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other infections. When selecting a head of garlic, look for large, clean, firm bulbs with unbroken, dry skins. Remove any green shoots from cloves because they give a bitter taste that persists when garlic is cooked. Store garlic in a cool, dry place where air can circulate. Refrigerating garlic inhibits flavor and dehydrates the cloves.

pesto recipeThe Culinary Chase’s Note: I prefer to use a pestle and mortar as I like to see the bits of crushed ingredients whereas the food processor tends to make everything smooth. The pestle bruises the basil releasing its perfume into the garlic and pine nuts. Put the basil leaves and garlic in mortar and crush. Add a pinch of sea salt and crush until almost creamy. Add the pine nuts and continue to crush; stir in olive oil.  At this point, you may need to add more salt or any of the other ingredients to your satisfaction.   This makes about 2 cups.  If you have any left over and don’t plan to use right away, place in an ice cube container and freeze for future use.  Enjoy!

Cedar Plank Grilled Mushroom Stacks

cedar plank grilled mushroom stacksJohn and I barbeque all year round and when Spring and Summer arrive, it’s full on.   Our barbeque gets used on a weekly basis so it’s not unusual to see me out on our back deck firing up the barbie.  I love it…less mess for me to clean up!  I’ve been noticing more and more these days that most food places I shop carry planks for grilling – some individual and some in packages carrying an assortment (cedar, birch, hickory or maple).  Plank grilling originates from the Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest who grilled salmon on open fires over cedar and alder.  The concept is by far not new but certainly merits consideration.

Serves 4

4 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
2 medium-sized zucchini, sliced
2 medium-sized yellow summer squash, sliced
pesto
tomatoes, sliced
cedar planks
olive oil

Allow cedar plank to soak in water for at least an hour (longer if possible). If using a stainless steel plank saver then soak the plank for 30 minutes. On medium heat, grill portobello mushrooms gill side down, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside. Lightly brush olive oil onto zucchini and summer squash slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place on grill for up to 5 minutes and turn. You want the slices to show some grill marks and the flesh to be slightly softened.

portobello mushroomsRemove cedar plank from water and pat dry. Place portobello mushroom (gill side up) on the cedar plank. Followed by zucchini slices, yellow summer squash slices, tomato slices, and pesto. Make sure bbq is at 350f and add plank. Cover with bbq lid and cook 10 minutes. Don’t worry if smoke is billowing out of the bbq – this is normal. The cedar smoke will infuse the veggies. Remove from bbq and serve on a plate and drizzle with olive oil.

Note:  After using, rinse the plank off with soap and water and let dry. Reuse the planks two or three times – if there’s wood left, you can use it. Crumble up charred planks over coals to use as smoking chips and choose planks that aren’t chemically treated.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: This was my first attempt at plank grilling and I liked it. I think I’ll experiment with salmon the next time.   Add freshly grated Parmesan to the portobello mushrooms before adding the vegetables.  Enjoy!