IHCC: Green…is the Pesto on my true love’s plate~

5 08 2012

In the past year, I’ve fallen away from most of the cooking groups I was with, or they’ve fallen away…one or the other.  The upshot of this is that I no longer have anything that steers me in any particular direction when putting together weekly menus.  I’ve found I don’t particularly care for that!   “Monthly” groups aren’t quite enough help either…and then I stumbled upon IHCC…scheduled but not overly rigid…enough flex to be creative…I like that!  Since “Green” is the theme of the moment…I chose to make Genovese Pesto as my first dish.

It is said that our sense of smell is closely associated with memory…which explains why when we smell certain things, we are instantly transported in our minds to another place and time…  Basil is a memory trigger of Summer for me.  When I smell Genovese Basil, “summer” comes flooding into my head.  Seeing the tubs of freshly cut basil at the Farmers’ Market yesterday helped me truly understand why there’s this particular association…it’s hot outside…the basil is so aromatic you can smell it two vendor’s stalls away…  It’s been awhile since I’ve made pesto, we were on a mission for the day, so ravioli with pesto sounded like the perfect thing to choose for dinner, and for our Green dish as well!  Truthfully… I had a few candidates….anything in poblano cream…chile rellenos…som tam (seriously, can you eat it too often?)…  However with the beautiful bunches and the scent in the air…I had to cave!

I immediately reached for my Classic Italian Cooking  by Marcella Hazan and read through the familiar recipe…then I reached for How to Cook Italianby her son, Giuliano Hazan.  The recipes are almost identical, calling for the same ingredients in just slightly different quantities…  Both the Hazan family recipes call for fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, romano cheese, parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil.  I was planning to use “olive oil” and realized that this is a fresh sauce, worthy of the EVOO…enter Stonehouse House Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil…which is actually grown in my “neighborhood,” meaning literally grown a few miles from my home.  I confess that I didn’t make the ravioli this time…and I didn’t realize I had some homemade in the freezer.  We selected a fresh Arugula and cheese ravioli from Trader Joe’s, and it really was a great combination.

Giuliano’s pesto recipe made enough for about 4 entree servings of pasta.  Marcella’s would have made 6 servings.  After hearing all the appreciative murmurings coming from the seat next to me during supper, I think this was a hit, and having 2 extra servings of sauce isn’t a bad thing.   Pesto also freezes very well…as long as you top the container with a bit of olive oil to keep the air out… Pesto oxidizes (turns dark) very, very quickly when exposed to the air.   Since I have enough basil to make another full batch, that will be what I do with the 2nd batch…it will be frozen for a meal in the future.

Next week the theme of IHCC will be “Feel the Heat” and be focused on chiles…  I can hardly wait to see where that leads me!  LOL!!  Especially since I just bought a branch of Thai Bird Chiles…she said they weren’t as intense when they’re green….we’ll see about that!!

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Cook for Julia: Supremes de Volaille a Blanc~

5 08 2012

I owe Julia Child a lot when it comes to cooking.  She may have saved my marriage, and certainly my sanity through the years! You see, my husband and I had totally different dining experiences growing up.  Growing up in rural northern California wasn’t like being in the culinary bread basket.  At the time, this was strictly meat and potatoes country.  Meanwhile, my beloved grew up in southern California…land of Mickey Mouse, Los Angeles, Hollywood…and then he topped that off with a few years in the San Francisco area.  I knew I was in trouble the first time we went out to dinner…I didn’t recognize much of anything on the menu, except for the steaks.  I quickly learned to ask him to order for me… Then, fast forward a couple years, and we’re living off the grid, with lots of time on my hands, but virtually no opportunity to go out for a couples night.  Enter Julia Child and The French Chef Cookbook.

The French Chef Cookbook became my text book, and Julia Child, my teacher.  I tackled recipes that took hours to prepare…I tackled recipes that felt obscure to me.  I simply cooked…anything that appealed to us, regardless of the cuisine.  My first Julia Child recipe was Coquilles St. Jacques…complete with crepes whose batter required resting for hours.

The recipe I chose to begin celebrating Julia’s 100th birthday with is Supremes a Volaille a Blanc, which she paired with a risotto in Show 14 of her cooking series.  I substituted a stove-top risotto from Show 62, mostly because it’s August and I don’t use my oven much in August!  The chicken breasts were easy to put together…just a quick sear and finish in the oven (I used my toaster oven).  The risotto was my learning curve.  I’d never done risotto before…though I’ve been more than curious!  The risotto begins with very white rice grains which will simmer gently in hot broth until the grains soften and become somewhat opaque. Between Julia’s instruction and hearing Chef Gordon Ramsay in my head…I think I got this one okay!

Tasting Notes~
Although this plates rather pale and insipid in appearance, it doesn’t taste pale and insipid!  The risotto is tender but not mushy with plenty of flavor from the chicken stock and the vermouth…then there’s also vermouth in the pan sauce…the two dishes tie together nicely.  A dry white wine would have been a nice addition…perhaps a Pinot Grigio or a Viognier.  Add a side of sauteed spinach, or nicely cooked asparagus, and you’ve got a meal.

I hope to be able to visit a few more recipes in my Julia Child cookbooks… When I reviewed the recipes for this celebration I found several recipes I”m anxious to cook.  I hope to drop by a few more times during our  10 day celebration of America’s most celebrated Chef!!