Basil Pesto Potato Salad

Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans
Bring a dish to pass!  The idea of taking along the perfect tasty dish to a party to share with other people can be daunting.  I didn’t want to bring just any old potato salad.  We have TONS of bright green basil growing thick and fast at home… enter: the search for an interesting Pesto Potato Salad… this one I came by on my favorite food blog- Smitten Kitchen.  It adds green beans ( also in season!) along with green onion and champagne vinegar- unique and a great idea, plus it keeps the salad this uniform bright green palette!  I altered the recipe to suit what I found at the store ( 3 lb bag of potatoes not 4) and added my own little spin on homemade pesto.  All I can say is this: we didn’t bring home any leftovers…
What is your favorite thing about potato salad? What is your favorite summer produce? 

Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 10

3 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, quartered twice
12 ounces green beans, cut into one-inch segments
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
3 cups loose packed basil
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons (or more to taste) mild vinegar, such as champagne, white wine or a white balsamic
1/4 cup chopped green onions (scallions)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add beans; cook four minutes longer. Drain well and let cool, then transfer potatoes and beans to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, discard the stems from the basil and wash and dry the leaves. Puree them in a food processor with garlic, drizzling in enough olive oil that it gets saucy. Add in toasted almonds and grated cheese, pulse till smooth.  Season the pesto with salt and pepper.
Toss the beans and potatoes with pesto. Stir in vinegar, green onions and season with salt, pepper and/or additional vinegar to taste.
I made this the night before serving, stored in the refrigerator.  It was delightful!

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Cool Red Pepper Soup with homemade Garlicy Croutons

Red Pepper Soup

Tis the season for fantastic Red Peppers!  I know it is summer and technically speaking ‘soup’ is not preferred to keep you cool… but this soup tastes fantastic served COLD.  The simple flavor of red pepper- fresh and in season- is highlighted completely in this very simple fresh recipe.  Crushed red pepper flakes give it a subtle kick, the cool marscopone cheese add a creamy buttery layer and crunchy homemade garlicy croutons give this soup a crunch as well as fill you up.  We used our homemade chicken stock that we keep in the freezer, after making a whole roasted chicken, you can find the recipe here

Red Pepper Soup
Adapted from the New York Times 9/21/05
found here 

Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Salt and white or black pepper
Marscapone for garnish
Thyme sprigs for garnish.

Put oil in large pot. Add onion when oil is hot. Cook onions until they begin to soften and take on color. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add wine and cook down quickly and on high heat, until only one tablespoon is left. Add peppers, stock, thyme and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until peppers are tender, about 30 minutes. In food processor or with an immersion blender, puree mixture in until smooth (if a food processor, in batches). Adjust seasonings to taste.
Soup can be served warm or chilled. Serve in demitasse cups or soup bowls, topped with a dab of marscapone and a tiny sprig of thyme and your homemade croutons.

Do ahead:  cover and chill overnight or for as long as 2 days or freeze (whisk well before serving if thawed).

Homemade Garlic Croutons

8 ounces day old french baguette, cute in to 1 inch cubes
1 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

In a pan over medium heat, add about 2T of the oil.  When hot add in the bread cubse and toss well to coat with oil, add more if necessary- you want eat to have a bit of oil on them without being completely saturated.  Toss in pan for a few minutes then add the garlic, salt and pepper to your liking- toss some more. The bread will start to dry out and get crispy, continue tossing them till they reach your desired toastiness- about 5-8 minutes total.  Serve with the soup

Grilled Pizza with Leeks and Blue Cheese

photo courtesy of: Laura Ruszkowski
Leeks?  Definitely an underused yet fantastic vegetable.  Oniony but savory sweet when cooked and oh so good for you.  We’ve used this Leek Saute recipe on crostini breads based on the original recipe and we loved it SO much, we thought- “next time we do pizzas we MUST try the leeks on it” So we started up the grill, made this simple dough recipe and as they say “boom” an incredible pizza was born.  We’ve found that homemade pizzas are the best kind of pizzas, but the oven doesn’t get as hot as the grill- so ultimately grilling gives them this perfect crispy light chewy to-die-for-good texture, so don’t be afraid!  We used our charcoal Weber 22″ grill and a 12″ pizza stone on top to cook these babies.  Light your charcoal as usual and spread the coals evenly across the bottom, place the grill grate on top and then the stone.  If you don’t have a pizza peel just use a large wooden cutting board with no ridges or grooves, it works just as well. 
Pizza Dough:

adapted from Bobby Flay

2/3 cup lukewarm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 T butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 T olive oil for oiling bag
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal for the peel

In a large bowl stir together 1/3 cup water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/3 cup water, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 3/4 cups flour and salt and blend until the mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth about 5 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a large ziplock bag with oil, add the dough, turn to coat in the oil, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle that is 1/8-inch thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer the dough to a baking sheet, cover each circle of dough with plastic wrap and continue stacking rolled out pieces on top of each other. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill.

Leek Saute for Pizzas with Blue Cheese

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds leeks (about 3 big leeks), lengthwise and white and pale green parts sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 3 generous cups of slices)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (a soft or crumbly goat cheese would also work)

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Add leeks and use your hands to pump them up and down in the water a bit, separating the rings and letting the dirt and grit fall to the bottom. Transfer to a dish or plate for a minute; no need to dry them.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium. Once hot, add butter and olive oil and once they’re fully melted, add the leek slices, still wet. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and cook leeks for 25 minutes, stirring them occasionally. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Sprinkle corn meal on a pizza peel or flat cutting board ( to transfer on to hot grill) place a dough round on top and give it a little shake to make sure it’s mobile.  Divide 1/2 of leeks mixture on pizza dough, sprinkle with cheese.  Transfer on to a pizza stone in your hot grill and cook till crisp and golden, about 7-10 minutes.  Enjoy hot

Fresh Cherry Pancakes

Who doesn’t love a delicious pancake on a slow weekend morning?  Well we love our breakfasts, if you couldn’t tell!  Making pancakes a little healthier for you is easy if you mix 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 regular flour to your regular recipe, this adds fiber and protein to fill you up for a busy day.  Cherries are so good right now, and even though they take a while to pit and cut up, it is worth it!  Here is how we made these:
Ingredients
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped fresh cherries
Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Preheat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over a medium-low flame.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). In another medium bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, non-fat milk, honey and vanilla.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them.  Fold in the cherries. The batter will be somewhat lumpy.
 
Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to ladle the batter onto the griddle or skillet. Flip the pancake when the top is bubbling and it is golden brown on the bottom. Then cook until the other side is golden brown. Hold on an oven proof plate in the oven until the entire batch is ready. When all the pancakes are ready, serve with real maple syrup and more fresh in season berries like strawberries!

delicious and cheap summer white wine

Every once in a while we find out something that surprises us… who knew we’d like white wine??  Well one afternoon after stocking up on the BULK BINS in Whole Foods we went by to check out the cheeses ( of course!) and there was a nice young man sampling wine… why  not!  So we tried this one above and it is only $8.99 and so delicious, crisp and refreshing.  Not too sweet and not to dry it is perfect for the summer heat wave!  On a side note: I know Whole Foods= Whole Paycheck etc. but the bulk bins there are incredible for stocking up on pantry staples and it is CHEAPER then buying it packaged, plus you only have to buy what you want to use.  We fill up or spices jars there for less then a dollar, and dried fruit for recipes like our Fig Muffins can be bought in a 1 cup measurement for $3.00 instead of buying a bag that has more than you need for double the cost, AND they sell all sorts of fun flours ( whole wheat pastry flour, sorghum flour, I could go on) so check it out and give it a try, and then steer clear of the rest of the aisles to stay on your budget… unless you want some cheese which you can get a small sliver cut for you to buy at a reduced cost and of course this great bottle of wine… and a fresh baguette ( 1.49!) yummmm

Left over Lime and Ginger Chicken Salad Wraps

A great way to use up left over chicken as a lunch the next way is to throw it in a wrap.  We happened to have some green onions, dried cherries, parsley and plain yogurt- plus keeping whole wheat pitas and tortillas in your freezer makes it super easy to make lunches in a pinch.  These are super portable, which is why we brought them to the beach!  Yummmmy
Makes 3 FULL wraps
Ingredients
3/4 cup plain non fat yogurt
1.25 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1-2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 tablespoon light mayo
salt and pepper to taste
3 whole wheat wraps ( tortillas)
Method
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl till well mixed.  Divide among wraps and roll up in foil.