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Whole Grain Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

This is my kind of pasta.  If I were living all alone I’d eat like this every day.

For the easy pesto I used unsalted, roasted in the shell pistachios, garlic, parsley, salt, lots of fresh cracked black pepper, and good Parmesan cheese.  You could also use pecorino or romano if you want.  The nutty pesto gets tossed into pasta with olive oil, lemon juice and zest.

 
 It’s very very satisfying and delicious. I’ve done a few other nut pestos and sauces that I’ve loved equally as well—my Sun Dried Tomato and Almond PestoPasta with Walnut Sauce. and my Pasta with Roasted Pine Nuts.  I’ve had such success with these recipes that I’m always on the hunt for new ideas.  This latest is a winner too.

 Whole Grain Pasta with Pistachio Pesto
2 dinner sized or 4 side sized portions
1 cup roasted unsalted pistachio nuts (buy them in their shell, if possible)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 fistful of fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup grated good quality Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
a pinch of sea salt
as much fresh cracked black pepper as you can stand
6 oz whole grain pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 large lemon
a squeeze of lemon juice (don’t overdo it)
parsley and chopped pistachios for garnish

  • Put the first 6 items into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but there is still some texture to them. 
  • Cook the pasta in lots of salted water until is is just al dente.
  • Drain it but don’t drain every last drop of water off of the pasta, leave it dripping wet.  Reserve a little on the side)  Add the oil  to the pasta and toss well.  Grate in the zest of the lemon, and add a squeeze of the juice.  Toss the pasta with 3/4 cup of your pistachio pesto. (You will have some leftover for another batch of pasta, keep it covered in the refrigerator until needed)  If your pasta seems a bit too dry, add in a little extra oil or a little extra pasta water.  Don’t overdo either.  Check the seasonings, if you cooked your pasta in nicely salted water it shouldn’t need more.
  • Serve immediately with some extra parsley and chopped pistachios as garnish. 

Notes:  This recipe makes double the pesto that you’ll need.  Save the extra for another day.  I find that pestos are difficult to serve in large quantities; it’s hard to toss an entire pound of pasta with pesto efficiently.  If you want to double the recipe, I would recommend dividing the past in two before you start tossing it.  Whole grain pasta is a nice compromise between regular and whole wheat.  It’s hearty without the heaviness of whole wheat.  And lastly, try to find the pistachios in their shell, they will be fresher and the flavor is wonderful.  Don’t use salted nuts.

Mason Jar Cherry Crumbles

My ultimate fantasy is to be able to cook whatever I want without ever having to think about recipes at all.  That’s why crisps and crumbles appeal to me so much.  You really don’t even technically have to measure out your ingredients, and once you’ve made a few you can just do it by eye.  Small variations in the mix don’t matter too much, they all come out good. 

I threw these mini crumbles together in small, wide mouth mason jars.  You can even make them ahead and bake them when you need them. It makes for great portion control, and the cuteness factor counts for something, too.

Any summer fruit will work in these jars, just be sure to chop up the fruit in small pieces so it will fit in properly.  I don’t add anything to the fruit but a squeeze of lemon juice, a little cornstarch (for a hint of thickening) and almond extract.

And here’s the perfect topping—mason jar whipped cream—just fill a
pint sized jar halfway with heavy cream, screw the cap on tightly, and
shake for 5 minutes.  You’ll know when it’s done because the ‘sloshing’
noise will stop.

Uncap and enjoy!   I like my whipped cream
plain., but you can add a bit of sugar and vanilla to the cream
in the beginning if you like.

The crumbles bake for about 25 minutes until they’re golden on top and you can see the cherry filling bubbling away down below. 

Mason Jar Cherry Crumbles
makes 4 jars
oven to 350F
1 lb cherries
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 Tbsp old fashioned oats
8 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp packed brown sugar
4 Tbsp sliced almonds
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
pinch of salt

  • Pit the cherries and chop them up into quarters.  Put them in a bowl and add the lemon juice, cornstarch and almond extract.  Stir to combine and set aside.
  • Make the crumble topping:  Put the oats, flour, sugar and almonds in a small bowl.  Add the chilled butter and mix together using your fingertips.  You want to incorporate the butter and create a nice chunky crumbly texture.  Keep mixing until no more dry flour is evident, and the butter has been thoroughly mixed in.
  • Spoon the cherries evenly into 4 wide mouth 8 oz mason jars.  Sprinkle the topping over each one.  Mound the topping over the cherries, it will shrink down as they bake.
  • Set the jars on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden and the cherry filling is bubbling away.
  • Let the jars cool briefly before serving because they will be hot.
  • Serve with whipped cream.

For the Mason Jar Whipped Cream:
fill a pint sized mason jar half full with cold heavy cream.
Add a Tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp of flavoring if you want.
Cap the jar tightly and shake for 5 minutes, or until you hear the ‘sloshing’ sound stop.

I made this recipe easily divisible so you can even make one jar at a time, if you want.
Multiply it for a crowd.

These are great for summer entertaining because you can make the jars ahead of time and bake them during dinner.  Let your guests shake up their own whipped cream!

One year ago today—

Leo

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Spring Vegetable Skewers and Saffron Couscous

At least once a week I try to make a simple, no frills vegetarian dinner.  I clear out the extra veggies that have accumulated in the fridge, and I usually roast them, or stir fry them up and eat them with eggs, or something like that.  But you know what?   This is just as easy, and looks so much more appetizing.  It’s the vegetarian
version of my salmon and cherry tomato skewers from last week.  I’m getting hooked on this
easy way to make a quick meal.  This time I served the skewers on top of a simple saffron couscous.

I used cherry tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms, baby eggplant and zucchini, baby artichokes, some radicchio and red onion.  I think I even put on a couple of leftover stalks of asparagus.  Nothing required any special prep, except maybe the baby artichokes, which I rubbed with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Everything is bite sized, so the skewers take just 15 minutes in a hot oven.  I drizzled them with olive oil and lemon, and gave them a good dose of salt and pepper before they went in. 

There’s nothing earthshaking about these, but, like I said before, it’s nice sometimes to get back in touch with the simple flavors straight from the garden.  A tomato shouldn’t need anything more than some olive oil and a little salt and pepper to make us happy.  But it’s harder and harder to appreciate the taste of foods in their original state because we’re so used to eating out and buying prepared foods, all of which is loaded with other stuff to enhance our ‘enjoyment’ of it.  I’m retraining my taste buds with dinners like this one!

Spring Vegetable Skewers
oven to 450F  
cherry tomatoes
colorful bell peppers
cremini mushrooms
baby zucchini
baby eggplant
baby artichokes
radicchio
red onion
asparagus
olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and fresh cracked pepper

  • Peel the tough outer leaves from the baby artichoke, cut off the stem and halve it.  Rub lemon juice on the cut edges to keep it from browning.
  • Cut the rest of the vegetables in bite sized pieces.  Leave the cherry tomatoes whole.  Thread the veggies onto skewers.
  • Lay out the skewers on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.  This will help with clean-up later.  
  • Drizzle the skewers with olive oil and lemon, then sprinkle liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  • Roast for 10 to 15 minutes until everything is tender and the tomatoes are starting to burst.

Saffron Couscous
serves 4
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp salt

  • Add the olive oil and salt to the water and bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and add the saffron, crumbling the threads with your fingers as you add it.  Stir and let it steep for a few minutes.
  • Bring the water to a boil, add the couscous and stir well.  Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff and serve.