Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Your Mama's Pesto

I have an affinity for mason jars...I know I'm not alone because there is a blog out there called "Food in Jars". It think it's better for your health to store food in glass containers, plus it just makes the food look more appealing. Maybe this affection can be traced to my love of reading "Little House on the Prairie books. Last week I made two batches of granola and stored it in jars. I'd like to tell you I shared it with friends, but we ate it so fast, I didn't even have the chance to display it decoratively on my baker's rack. My daughter Lauren got me excited about making it...she had just made a couple yummy combinations with orange zest, dried cranberries and lots of nuts. Once you know a basic formula, you can be creative and use what you have in your pantry. The aroma of the baking granola is heavenly. It's easy and gratifying...because you can say, hey, I made that! You could use this recipe from "Art and Lemons" as a guide. Nikki writes a beautiful blog, great writing and recipes, plus she put her granola in a jar! Wait a minute, I titled this post "Not Your Mama's Pesto", so let's talk about pesto.

The "out of the box pesto" I just made (and put in a cute jar) was from "Shefzilla, Haute cuisine at Home". It's a Cilantro pesto recipe and is definitely not run of the mill. It's bright green color and unique flavor can add interest to many dishes. I made the suggested recipe of Shrimp and Cilantro Pizza and it was a winner!

I didn't have an yeast in the house, so I improvised and didn't make the crust from scratch. Instead I used some Indian Tandoori Naan bread from Traders Joe's. I worked very well, but I'm sure homemade pizza dough would be best. The pesto's flavor has an Asian flair, substituting Toasted Sesame Oil for the traditional olive oil, adding fish sauce and my favorite Sriacha for a kick. Keep this on hand in your refrigerator...think of the possibilities, even on eggs!

Cilantro Pesto
(Shefzilla, Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home)

1 bunch cilantro leaves and stems, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp Sriracha
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
1/4 c. cold water

1. Bring 2 qts. water to a hard boik and add 1 tsp. salt. Blanch cilantro until tender about 30 seconds. Remove from boiling water and rinse under cold tap water until coll, 10 seconds. Squeeze out excess water and roughly chop.

2. Place blanced and chopped cilantro in container of blender and add remaining ingredients (sesame oil through water) Cover and blend on high until smooth about 1 minute. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Shrimp and Cilantro Pizza
(adapted from Shefzilla, Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home)
3 Tap. Cilantro pesto
1 8 oz. pizza dough portion (grilled) (I substitued pre-made naan bread)
8 poached shrimp (sliced in half length-wise)
3 Tbsp. finely grated Grana Padano (I used Parmesan I had on hand)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Spread Cilantro Pesto evenly on the grilled pizza dough. Top with Poached Shrimp, Cheese and red pepper flakes. (At this point, I did put mine into the oven to toast it up a bit) The recipe doesn't call for reheating....your choice.

I learned a few things I didn't know about cilantro. It is very healthy for you. Cilantro is detoxifying and can actually remove heavy metals from your system! Check out this article...very interesting!

If you want to try a more traditional cilantro pesto, here is another version. Enjoy!

Cilantro Pesto

3/4 c. fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients in the food processor. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shefzilla "Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home"

Do I really have to put my flip-flops away? Is the party over? Farmer's Market season is coming to an end here in Minneapolis. One "Last Hurrah", a chance to soak in my favorite newly discovered (by me anyway) Kingfield Farmer's Market on Nicollet Ave. A few weeks ago I made my way to this cozy "Sunday only" market with a goal. My mission was to secure a signed copy of Stewart Woodman's new cookbook "Shefzilla" Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home for my son Dan. We both have admired Stewart's creative food and style in his restaurant, Heidi's, (named after his wife an accomplished chef in her own right) and his food blog, Shefzilla. My mission was accomplished and I got a personalized copy of the book for Dan, instructing him to "Live his dream"...which he is doing in a fine restaurant in Los Angeles. I have yet to send it to him, because I can't put it down. Hopefully I won't get his copy all dog eared and stained before I get it in the mail. Better get my own copy!

Last Christmas when our family was all together in one state, we decided the six of us would enjoy a gift from a favorite Auntie and go out to enjoy some fine dining. We picked Heidi's, had a "lick your plate" meal and had wonderful family time and tried not to be too giddy as we discretely took pictures of our food. Dan went back into the kitchen to give Stewart his regards and praise. So glad we did because the restaurant was destroyed by fire a few months later. There is a happy ending though...this new cookbook was born from this "time off" for the Woodman's and they will be opening the restaurant in a new space on Lyndale Ave. before the first of the year if all goes as planned.

So fun to meet Stewart. I think I stumbled over my struck by chef celebritydom. The book is great, giving the home cook flavors that are unique and will keep your guests wanting more. Perfect if you're looking for that show stopping dish to bring to a holiday party.

The Woodman children were right there at their side as they demonstrated , Seared Salmon Spring Rolls, Simply delicious. The dipping sauce gives it that "give me more" flavor. That's one of the things that makes this cookbook great. He shares many of his sauces, stocks, dips that add that extra pop to the dishes. It inspired me to go to Penzey's Spices to pick up some pink peppercorns, black sesame seeds and a few more interesting spices to add to my repitoire.

The side bars (gold text boxes) also make this book extraordinary. Stewart shares his insight about his he came to this place and how deeply in love he is with his craft. Not just a cookbook, but stories and life's lessons to boot.

Yes, that's me next to Heidi. I was in the crowd and got to help with the demo. LOVED this day.

Everyone got to sample. Last week Stewart also shared this recipe on the morning news. Check the link for a video demo. of the recipe.

Seared Salmon Spring Rolls
Recipe by Chef Stewart Woodman
Shefzilla: Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home

Makes 5–6 rolls

For marinated salmon:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1 pound salmon, cut in 1-inch strips
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. Place first 7 ingredients (soy sauce through celery salt) in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour over salmon and marinate, covered, in refrigerator 2 hours.

2. Preheat sauté pan over high heat, add canola oil, and heat to smoking point. Add salmon to the pan; discard marinade. Cook about 2 minutes, turning salmon occasionally to sear on all sides.

3. Remove salmon and pan juices to plate and let cool to about room temperature. Flake salmon with a fork and set aside with pan juices.

6 (8-inch) spring roll wrappers
About 24 to 30 cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin 3-by-1/4-inch ribbons
About ½ cup Dipping Sauce

Fill large bowl with warm water. Working in batches, soak 1 to 3 spring roll wrappers in water until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove rounds from water and arrange in single layer on work surface. Place 4 to 5 cilantro leaves, 1/8 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, and 2 cucumber ribbons down middle of each round. Place about 1/3 cup flaked salmon filling with juices on each round. Fold one edge of each round over filling. Fold in ends. Roll up rice paper rounds tightly. Transfer to platter. Repeat with remaining rounds. Slice spring rolls in half diagonally. Spoon about 1 tablespoon dipping sauce over each half. Serve immediately.

Dipping Sauce
Makes about 2 ½ cups
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
6 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ cups water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
10 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ cup shredded carrot

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Before I left the market, I was drawn to the Foxy Falafel tent, "Because Chickpeas are Cool". I happened to run into my new friend Crystal, a Twin Cities food writer and fellow "foodie" who writes Cafe Cyan. She was just handed her warm pita filled with crispy goodness and before she got her first bite, I asked if I could take a picture of any good blogger would do.

What makes these falafel so special is that they sprout the chickpeas increasing their nutritional value, plus digestibility...and the SAUCES, did I mention the sauces? Smoky garlicky harissa, cucumber yogurt and the lemony tahini sauce. Plus, these condiments.

Sorry to tease you, but Foxy Falafel is done for the season. You'll have to wait until next Spring. I am working on my own at home falafel recipes (which I will share) in case you can't wait that long. I know Foxy's are hard to sure to try their Beet Falafel...OUTSTANDING, with it's lemony goat cheese sauce. (I'm drooling)

Stay tuned for my next post. We enjoyed Shefzilla's Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Pizza, great flavor...I will share the green delight.

P.S. Did you know cilantro has amazing health properties?
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