Penne with Pesto, Zucchini & Mushrooms

February 6, 2012 § 9 Comments

I think pasta is one of the most enjoyable foods to cook. I can’t really explain it, but I have a lot of fun with pasta. Part of that is because it is such a broad category with almost endless variations – you can really throw just about anything into a pasta and have it turn out well. You just have to exercise some restraint. The secret is to not overwhelm the pasta with sauce or other ingredients. Despite the endless variations, however, there are certain pastas I find myself making again and again. This is recipe for penne with pesto, zucchini and mushrooms is of them.

During the summer months, when Kitt’s garden is really taking off, we end up with a lot of basil and a lot of zucchini. This pasta is a great way to use both of these ingredients. I always enjoy pairing zucchini with cremini mushrooms because they not only taste great together, they also cook at the same rate. And one of the easiest ways to take advantage of lots of basil is to make pesto. We make huge batches in the summer, and then freeze several portions of it to thaw throughout the year – which is why I’m posting this in winter! For this recipe, you can use store bought pesto or make your own. « Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Make a Sachet

January 3, 2012 § 3 Comments

As you will no doubt here me say over and over again, fresh herbs make everything better. If there’s a way to use them, use them. Use a lot of them! After all, they’re free flavor! In the spring and summer, when our herb garden is out of control, I can’t use them fast enough. Additionally, hearty herbs such as rosemary and thyme can last well in to the winter. As we all know, winter is soup making time, and these herbs make a great addition to almost any soup.

As great as herbs in soup are, fishing loose stems of thyme out of your soup or picking those tiny, tiny leaves off those delicate little stems both suck. So, what do you do? You make a sachet. Here’s my simple step-by-step guide to making a sachet: « Read the rest of this entry »

Free Flavor

December 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

Everybody knows that one of the easiest ways to enhance the flavor of a dish is to add butter, cream, stock, or cheese. Our brains are designed to reward us with positive messages when we eat fatty foods. You could call it an evolutionary holdover from more austere times, when we as a species did not have the reliable food sources we now take for granted. And while it is sometimes fun to go crazy, making a rich, decadent meal for you and your friends, on a day to day basis, this kind of cooking is incredibly unhealthy and can get to be very expensive.

So, where do you turn when you want food that is full of flavor, but not unhealthy? You turn to herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables, that’s where. I like to call this assortment of ingredients “free flavor.” Free flavor means seasonings that you can add freely to food to make it delicious, without it being unhealthy or expensive. Herbs and spices are so low in calories that their contribution to an over-all calorie count is negligible, and most contain no fats or sugars. Don’t believe me? Look it up for yourself! « Read the rest of this entry »

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