I have a glut of basil this ear. Seriously, I am overrun. The plants come up to my waist and they are thick with delicious basil leaves. There are a number of different sorts, but mostly it is your standard Italian sweet basil. And lots of it.
So what does one do with a glut of basil? Make pesto of course. I have made lots and lots of Pesto alla Genovese (the standard green stuff that one thinks of first when one hears ‘pesto’). It freezes very well so my I am well stocked for a while. So I thought that I would make this Pesto di Noce (Walnut Pesto). It’s not as pretty as it’s Genovese cousin (for starters, it’s brownish, despite 2 cups of basil leaves in it), but it of so amazingly yummy. Pair it with giant ravioli and a few more walnuts and you have an amazing dinner (or lunch, in my case).
So since the earthquake in the Amatricia region of Italy last week, I’ve had Italy on the brain. And while it is somewhat absurd in the middle of a natural disaster, one of the first things that I thought of was Bucatini all’Amatriciana… somehow planted in my brain was this is the signature dish from that area of Italy. It’s very popular, very easy to make and taste amazing.
Ghost Peppers. Jolokia chiles. Hot. Very Hot. Apparently some of the hottest edible chiles around. I’d been talking with someone about a year back so when I saw starter seedlings at the garden shop this spring, I decided to buy some. Thing is though: I now have about 40 ghost peppers. I’ve drying most of them, to grind for chili (it anyone wants some dried, let me know), but I decided to make this BBQ sauce too. It’s not all that hot, balanced by the sweetness of the roasted mangoes, actually. Definitely more of a chicken or veggie glaze than ribs or steak. Very tasty and the spicy kick gets you at the end.
Coq au Vin is my favorite food on earth, hands down. This is also one of the best recipes that I make. A little background: when I started falling in love with cooking again (no, I was not always a recipe junkie, though food has always been an important part of my life), I fell in love with Julia. Yes, that Julia. I think that a lot of women admire her for the fact that she was just an ordinary woman who picked up cooking later in life and became one of the most influential cooks of an entire culture. So I made her Coq au vin recipe. Coq au Vin is a very old concept — like back from the Romans — but her recipe was straight forward. I have made variations on her it for 5 years now, each time changing it until I have come up with what I consider perfection. I have learned a lot about cooking since I started — like knowing you shouldn’t add all the wine at once otherwise all the tanins end up ruining the dish, or by adding ground dried porcini, the umami flavor is boosted (doesn’t make it taste more mushroom-y). Anyway, I love this recipe. Be forewarned: it takes a minimum of 3 hours. You can stop just before the rue-making stage though, if you need to divide the effort over 2 days.
This week, I found myself in possession of a pound and a half of fresh figs. Not sure really how that happened, as figs are expensive and while you can find them a lot of places, certainly less common than say, an apple. Anyway, I absolutely love figs, but there is no chance that I could have eaten all of them (and enjoyed them) in one go, so I decided to make this lovely jam with about 2/3 of the lot. It’s a sweet jam, of course, with notes of honey, thyme and orange, but it pairs really nicely with savory — would go great with pork, and as shown with this cheese (it’s manchego) or even charcuterie. Or mix it into oatmeal or yogurt, or yes, even toast. It’s surprisingly versatile and yummy to boot. Also, it is very easy to make.