Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pasta with Roasted Walnut Pesto

Pasta is not only very easy to make but can also be made from almost any ingredients. After the excesses of holiday cooking I now enjoy very simple dishes that can be made from whatever I have in my kitchen. This pasta is a perfect example of what I mean. It is made with walnuts, which are easy to store and I always have in my pantry. Walnuts are one of the most healthy nuts, a source of omega-9 fatty acids, zinc, selenium and antioxidants. My kids do not appreciate walnuts so I made this pasta to smuggle walnuts into their menu.

The recipe is my own combination of different walnut sauces which I tried from various Italian cookbooks. It can be made similarly to a traditional pesto sauce with just an oil, or it can be enriched with a little bit of cream. It is best served with spiral type of pasta which gets nicely coated in pesto.

Pasta with Roasted Walnut Pesto

1 box of fusilli or rotini pasta,
1 cup of roasted walnuts pieces,
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs,
1/3 cup fresh parsley,
1-2 garlic cloves,
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
2-3 tbsp warm water or table cream,
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan,plus extra for serving,
a pinch of grated nutmeg,
salt, pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta in plenty of water.
2. Roast walnuts in the oven or on the frying pan until light brown. Rub between hands to remove dried skins.

3. Place walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, and oil in a bowl of a small food processor.

4. Run the engine until the content of the bowl turns almost into a smooth sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add either water or cream, until the sauce reminds a thick cream.
5. Season the pesto with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
6. Pour over the hot pasta, toss, and finish with shredded Parmesan on top.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Nuts and Persimmon Couscous

There are many recipes for couscous dishes in the Mediterranean cuisine. Some are savory, with vegetables, and some are sweet, with nuts, fruits, or raisins. Today, here is my version of a traditional nut couscous dish. It is spicy but also almost sweet. It can be served with grilled meats, vegetables, or as a dish on its own. I like it on its own the most, because it is very pure and this way you can taste better its rich ingredients: the butter and the saffron, and better appreciate the flavor of the nuts in the couscous.

This type of couscous is also made with dried fruits, besides nuts. But instead of dried fruits I decided to use fresh persimmons, which are now in season. Because persimmons can be very sweet at the peak of the season, to contrast their sweetness, I added preserved lemons to the salad. Here it is a very simple yet flavorful dish.

Nuts and Persimmon Couscous

1 cup couscous,
1 cup hot water,
1/4 tsp salt,
1/2 cup blanched almonds,
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios,
4 dried seedless dates chopped (optional, if persimmons are very sweet),
a pinch of saffron threads,
1/4 tsp ground cumin,
1/4 tsp cinnamon,
1/4 tsp ground cloves,
1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds,
a pinch of cayenne pepper,
1 persimmon, peeled,
4 slices of preserved lemons, cut into small cubes,
2 tbsp olive oil,
2 tbsp butter,
fresh mint to garnish.

1. In a small pot bring to boil water with olive oil and salt. Take off the heat, add couscous, mix, cover, and set aside for about 10 minutes.
2. Heat the butter in a medium-sized frying pot. Add saffron and nuts and fry stirring until the nuts are brown.
3. Add dried spices to the nuts and cook for about a minute. Toss in the couscous and heat everything together for two minutes.
4. Cut persimmon into quarters and then in halves, and mix with the couscous.
5. Add preserved lemon cubes and mix everything together. Garnish with chopped mint.

Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Easy Apple Cake

Apple cakes are one of my favorite fall desserts. Easy and seasonal they are always appreciated. I have recently tried a recipe for a traditional Italian apple cake. The cake was so easy that I managed to make it quickly on a Saturday morning to be ready for a morning coffee.

I used local Golden apples but a more sour type would work better as the base of the cake is quite sweet. Besides the apples the recipe calls for golden raisins and pine nuts. Raisins were a nice addition to the cake but I think that, instead of the pine nuts, I would prefer it with almonds, because they are more crunchy.

Easy Apple Cake

3-4 Golden apples, peeled, cored and sliced into thick slices,
3/4 cup all purpose flour,
1 cup sugar,
2 tbsp pine nuts or slivered almonds,
1/4 cup golden raisins,
6 tbsp unsalted, melted butter,
3 eggs,
1/2 cup milk,
1 lemon,
1 tsp baking powder,
1 tbsp butter for the form,
1 extra tbsp flour to dust the baking form with.

1. Grease a 10-inch baking form with butter and dust with flour.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Soak the raisins in a warm water for about 10 minutes until soft.
4. Break the eggs in a bowl of a standing mixer. Add sugar and beat them until they are mousse like.
5. Pour in milk and cooled butter, then add shaved lemon peel and flour mixed with baking powder. Mix briefly until smooth with a mixer.
6. Add the drained raisins and nuts and mix with a spatula. Transfer the batter to a baking form.
7. Arrange the quarters of apples on top of the cake and bake it for about 45 minutes.

Let it cool down and serve.