Matthew: After have such success with the mint-lime pesto, I was excited to find a recipe for asparagus pesto on the NYTimes website. It uses all the typical pesto ingredients, substituting basil with asparagus. You first cook the asparagus al dente in water on the stove and then throw all the ingredients in the blender or food processor. It’s pretty simple. I ended up using toasted almonds instead of pine nuts. The pesto was really quite delicious and made a nice meal on soba noodles accompanied by heirloom mini tomatoes. Next, I tried it with some spaetzle and that didn’t really work. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t feel right. I ended up using the rest of it on salads as a dressing, which was delicious. This pesto would really go well in most pasta dishes or vegetable salads.
Matthew: Some days, I just like to try something new and experiment in the kitchen without recipes. I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with the idea to make pesto out of mint and lime juice. There was a lot of mint for sale at the farmer’s market last week and I wanted to try using it in a savory dish. For the pesto, I combined one bunch of mint, a healthy glug of olive oil, lime juice from one lime, 3/4 cup or so of almonds, one large clove of garlic, and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. The resulting puree was refreshing and delicious. Sort of like mojito meets normal pesto. The pesto would have gone well with almost any grain or pasta, but I decided to choose brown rice. I also added some roasted purple asparagus and really nice and sweet cherry tomatoes. It turned out really flavorful and fresh-tasting. It’s very rewarding when experiments lead to tasty dinners!
Katie: One area of cooking that I haven’t had much experience with is fish. I decided to change that and began with this recipe from Cooking Light for Maple-Glazed Salmon. To make it more flavorful, I decided to use smoked paprika. First, I rubbed a mixture of smoked paprika, chile powder, cumin, and brown sugar over the salmon. I cooked the fish on both sides in a grill pan, and drizzled it with maple syrup towards the end. It turned out really good! I couldn’t taste the maple syrup much, so next time I might drizzle it over the fish at the very end.
I decided to try this recipe for Rice Pilaf with Apricots, Chickpeas, and Almonds as a side, taking Mark Bittmann’s suggestion of substituting millet for brown rice. I had picked up a bag of millet in the health food section awhile ago, but hadn’t tried it yet. It’s similar to couscous and could probably be substituted for many grains. Millet is a good source of some important nutrients and “isn’t just for the birds”! The pilaf turned out well and would probably adapt well to other grains, spices, or vegetables. I also served Japanese sweet potatoes roasted with a mixture of sweet paprika, cinnamon, and cumin as a side. Overall, this was a good meal and a good start to my adventures with fish!
Matthew: I’ve been eating a LOT of tomatoes lately and have tried to change things up so that I don’t get tired of them. So far I’ve roasted them, made caprese salad, eaten them with homemade pesto, and put them in salads. I was inspired to try tomato pesto by seeing this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I decided that I wanted the tomatoes to be cooked in my pesto, and to avoid them being too watery, I decided to sun dry them. I halved, seeded, sliced, and salted about 8 roma tomatoes and put them in the oven for ~2 hours at 200 degrees. They weren’t completely dehydrated by the time I pulled them out, but I thought it would be good enough. I then toasted some almonds and combined them in the blender with the tomatoes, a good amount of olive oil, and some parmesan cheese. The resulting pesto was a nice salmon color. Then, to complete my meal, I tossed some cooked pappardelle with the pesto and some roasted green beans, red bell pepper, and onion. The final product was outstanding. The sun dried tomatoes added an intense and complex flavor which paired well with the nuttiness of the almonds, the salty parmesan, and the smooth olive oil. Definitely a do-over!
jill pickle: Yesterday I had to make a dish for our quilt picnic get-together. One of my favorite dishes is Ina Garten’s Curried Couscous. You can make it ahead of time- (it’s actually better when it sits in the frig a while!) and you serve it at room temperature so you don’t have to worry about keeping it cold or hot! It’s fast and easy to make and you can add any ingredients you want! When I made it, I added grated carrots, slivered almonds, shrimp, chives, a small amount of carmelized onions, parsley, and peas. I put the finished dish in my ‘meatball bowl’ (made at the Art Village in Stevens Point) for a lovely presentation!!
jill pickle: Today, to celebrate Father’s Day and to surprise Bill/Dad, I decided to make a breakfast buffet complete with homemade Maple-Nut Granola, Quiche Lorraine and Maple Oat-Pecan Scones. As with all things I plan, it took longer to make than I had anticipated, (plus another trip to the store by the receiver of this breakfast buffet), but it was worth it! The granola is super easy and you can add any nut you like! The quiche was really good with bacon in it!! I used sharp cheddar cheese instead of the swiss. The scones recipe made a lot! They were very tender and flaky and good with the maple glaze and a sprinkling of pecans on top. All-in-all, it was a success but next time it might be better to make some of these dishes ahead of time! We’ll see…….
jill pickle: I needed to make a dessert for a school meeting. Our school meetings tend to be pretty stressful especially when we talk about caseloads and upcoming numbers for next year. So I thought I’d make something with chocolate. This recipe is REALLY easy and had great reviews!!!