Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Mama, there's dirt in my sugar"...

It is a very early 3am, and it would seem the cold I have been dodging thus far has caught up with me. I have had a hot shower, a hot drink and still I am wide awake...the perfect time to catch up on a few posts I had good intentions for, but didn't follow through on.
A doubling up of the "What's Cook'n" series...vanilla sugar and homemade pesto. Not together, cause...y'know, that would be gross. I think the Neo-Citran is kicking in, so I will attempt to get this post done before it all goes sideways and I start talking gibberish.

First up - Vanilla Sugar. So easy to make, and although Shep insists his sugar is now "dirty", I think it looks pretty. 

You will need one or two vanilla bean pods. You can find them in most grocery stores or health food stores. 

With a sharp knife split the pod in half and open. With the point of the knife scrape the soft insides out (it will kind of look like chunks of tar, or dirt).

Add these chunks to the sugar and you can dump the whole mix into a food processor (which is much easier) and pulse to break up the vanilla. Or, if you are me (the dummy who can't find all the pieces to her food processor), you can break up the vanilla chunks with the edge of a wooden spoon, mixing constantly. More time consuming, but it works too.

The end result should look like sugar with flecks of dark brown mixed in.

Put the whole mess in a container, I like the big shaker option...

Perfect for adding a little sparkle to pancakes. 

Next up - homemade pesto...

We used our own home grown basil for this session. You can get big bunches of basil in your local grocery store, or if you were clever, from the potted basil you remembered to bring in before the first frost. Always wash the basil thoroughly, especially store bought (it is quite often covered in a fine sand). No one wants that peanut butter sandwich at the beach feeling when eating a plate of your pasta. 

You will also need garlic. I use about two heads per batch, great for flu season (well, except this one). Peel the skin off and set aside to throw in as you go.

Toss a few handfuls of basil, some garlic cloves, a few glugs of olive oil, some salt and pepper into a food processor or blender, and start  blending. I do not use a specific recipe for this, I just taste as I go along. Go easy on the salt, you can always add more later, but taking it back out - not so much. Most recipes call for pine nuts, I use walnuts. Walnuts are much less expensive and have all sorts of great health benefits. They also give the pesto a hardier texture. 
I blend in small batches, adding more basil, garlic etc as I go.

Then I dump it all in a large bowl and hand blend. I add shredded Romano cheese to taste, more salt and pepper if needed.

I then separated the pesto in portion sizes using small Ziploc bags.

Within ten minutes the bags all split along the sides and we had pesto everywhere. To make matters worse Paul had predicted this would happen and that we should use ice cube trays. Not wanting to dirty my ice cube trays, and thinking I was much more clever, I disagreed.

After much clean up and cussing I divided the remaining pesto into said ice cube trays...and whaddya know, it worked! Nice, neat portion sized homemade pesto. Just pop a few into a pan and SHAZAM...dinner is served.

I just said shazam, obviously time for bed. 

1 comment:

  1. everything looks like I want it now. a little something about the vanilla sugar thoughö... from my chef husband: you can use empty vanilla pods instead. no need for the whole package. next time you'll need fresh vanilla, simply stick the rest into a glass with sugar. it can stay there for ages and will sentence tons of sugar. love from berlin!