Friday, July 15, 2011

A birthday cake

I made this cake last weekend for my aunt's birthday.  I was pretty proud of myself, considering my pastry bags and decorator tips have been put away since the memorial day cupcakes.

The cake is a classic white cake that I made during my cake class.  If you've never made not-from-a-box cake before, it's a great starting point.  It's not difficult, is moist and perfect.  

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

Okay, I know, this looks similar to the pesto pasta salad.  Trust me, it's not!  This is hot... and creamy!  It was really good, and I will be making more with the rest of my heavy cream.  Yes, heavy cream.  Heavy cream and butter make the pesto sauce soooo good.  I'm afraid to go back to pesto sauce without heavy cream... the kind you eat when you don't want to gain two pounds just from dinner.

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce
• 3/4 - 1 cup pesto
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan
• 1 box pasta (cavitappi (pictured), fusili, etc.)
• 2 whole Diced tomatoes (or grape tomatoes, halved)

1.  Cook pasta according to box, until al dente.  Meanwhile, heat cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add pesto and stir.

2.  Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl.  Pour pesto cream over the top.  Toss to combine.  Add diced tomatoes and toss.  Serve immediately.

Source: The Pioneer Woman blog

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

When I decided I was going to cut my basil way back and make pesto the other day I was researching pesto recipes.  I thought this would be a good side dish, a little different from normal pasta salad.  We enjoyed it.  I liked the tomatoes, peas, and pine nuts in it.

Pesto Pasta Salad
• 1 box spiral pasta
• 1/4 cup pine nuts
• 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted 
• 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
• Several fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• Mozzarella cheese (or substitute with cheese of your choice)
(You can add other vegetables if you want!)

1.  Cook pasta according to box.  Remove from heat and strain when pasta is cooked, but still firm (al dente).  Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until they begin to brown (no longer than 8 minutes).

2.  Put pasta in a large bowl.  Mix in pesto and pine nuts.  Gently mix in cherry tomatoes, peas, fresh basil leaves, olive oil, and cheese.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Chill or serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Basil Pesto

And here beings a small pesto series.  This is just the basic pesto recipe.
To follow are 2 pasta dishes that I made this weekend with basil.

A few weeks ago I checked out the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook from the Library.  I have not yet returned it.  I've renewed twice (and have 2 renewals left!).  It's so fun to pick up and read one recipe.  They write this big thing before the recipe about their goals.  For example, "Our goals when testing pesto were simple-heighten the flavor of the basil, mellow the punch of the garlic, and figure out how to handle the nuts." (The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, p. 14)  They then go on to tell about what happened when they used different kind of nuts, what was the best way to tone down the garlic flavor a bit, etc.

I used the recipe in the cookbook and multiplied it by 4 because I had tons of basil.  This is the original recipe.

This was also the first time I ever blanched garlic, which was their way of taming down the garlic taste a little bit.  It's really not difficult and doesn't take very long.

Basil Pesto
• 1/4 cup pine nuts (can substitute walnuts or almonds)
• 3 medium cloves garlic, threaded on skewer
• 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)
• 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• salt
• 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan

1.  Toast nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Lower whole cloves of unpeeled, skewered garlic into water and boil for 45 seconds.  Remove and immediately run under cold water.  Remove from skewer and peel.

3.  Bruise your basil to release flavor.  Place it in a ziploc bag and use the flat side of a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to smash it.

4.  Place nuts, garlic, basil, oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in food processor fitted with steel blade.  Process until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of bowl.  Trasnfer mixture to small bowl, stir in cheese, and adjust salt.

Surface of pesto can be covered with sheet of plastic wrap or thin film of oil and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

It can also be frozen.  You can freeze in ice cube trays, pop them out and keep them in a freezer bag for easy keep and defrost.

Use on pasta, sandwiches, etc.!

If you have any great pesto recipes, share them with me!  I have tons to use!

Source:  America's Test Kitchens Cookbook