Parsley-Oregano Pesto

>> Friday, July 29, 2011

Our herb crop has matured faster than any other year, so we're trying a new kind of pesto. This is a fresher, lemony version of our usual pesto. Each year we put away quite a bit of pesto from our herb garden, and in the middle of winter, when we're out of dinner ideas, we always seem to come across one more package of frozen pesto.


1 cup fresh parsley, stems removed
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
3 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt


      Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor, until thick and creamy. Freeze in 1/4 cup portions in small freezer bags. To cook, heat and toss with cooked pasta.


Scallop and Snow Pea Stir Fry

>> Sunday, July 17, 2011

Scallop and Snow Pea Stir Fry
Sometimes we just need dinner to be simple and easy, especially on a Friday night when we have big plans after dinner. This easy stir fry can be on the table 25 minutes after you walk into the kitchen, and it's low fat and veggie rich as well.

When we make a stir-fry, we like to chop all the ingredients ahead of time and set them next to the wok in the order that we will add them to the pan. These dishes cook so quickly that it's nice to have everything ready to throw in when it's time. The shellfish remains tender, while the veggies stay crisp, just the way it should be.

Scallop and Snow Pea Stir Fry


2 cups white rice
4 cups water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 green onions, chopped
10 oz. fresh scallops (we used bay scallops here)
8 oz. snow peas
2 tbsp rice wine (saki or Shaoxing) or vermouth
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp chicken broth


Pour rice and water into a pan and heat to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Heat oil in a wok until shimmering. add the garlic, onions, and ginger and stir-fry for two minutes. Add the scallops and snow peas and stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until the scallops are white and just done.

Whisk together the wine, soy sauce, and broth. Pour over the scallops and heat through. Serve over the rice.

Serves 4


MegaBeans (Mixed Baked Beans)

>> Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thanks, Lee Coursey, for taking this picture for me.
The lady who originally gave me this recipe called these "MegaBeans", and I can't think of a better description. Sweet, smoky, tangy...these beans are perfect for a potluck or picnic, and everyone raves about them afterwards. Best of all, you can put them in a crock pot and let them cook all day. If you make this the day before, the flavors will blend even better when you reheat it, or try serving it cold.


6 slices bacon
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (16 ounce) can great Northern beans, drained
1 (28 ounce) can butter beans, drained
1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Dice bacon, then cook until evenly brown and crisp. Place in the crock pot or regular pot.

Cook the onion and garlic in the bacon drippings until onion is tender; drain the grease and add it to the pot. 

Pour in all cans of well-drained beans. Stir in ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and black pepper. Mix well.  Cook on low heat for at least 4 hours, or in a crock pot at least 6 hours, until the beans are in a thick, rich sauce.


Dill Pickle Relish

>> Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chicago is home of the famous Chicago dog, which isn't complete without the neon-green sweet relish. We're not sweet relish fans ourselves, so when the garden starts overproducing cukes, peppers, and dill, we start making our dill pickle relish. This recipe is featured in Angela's book, "The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food."


5 lbs. of pickling cucumbers
1 cup red bell pepper
1 cup yellow onions
5 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3 tsp. dill seed
1 tsp. celery seed
6 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tbsp. Kosher salt


1. Sterilize canning jars.

2. Wash cucumbers and peppers well. Cut off the ends of cucumbers and onions and dice them. Chop in a food processor or blender — using about three to four short pulses on “chop” setting — to yield pieces about ¼ inch in size.

3. After washing the peppers, remove the stems, seeds and white membranes. Cut into 1 inch pieces or slices and then chop in a food processor — using about three to four pulses on the “chop” setting — to yield pieces about 1/4 inch in size. Combine chopped cucumbers and bell peppers and set aside.

4. In a large kettle or Dutch oven, stir together the cider vinegar, dill seed, celery seed, minced garlic, and pickling salt until the salt dissolves. Add chopped vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ten minutes.

5. Spoon the hot relish into the pint jars, leaving half an inch of headspace. Slide a knife or spatula inside the jar to remove air bubbles; adjust headspace if necessary. Dampen a kitchen towel and wipe around the rims of the canning jars. Screw the canning lids onto the jar just until finger-tight. Process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes.

Yield: About 7 pint jars

The Complete Guide to Food Preservation
This recipe was featured in my book, The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food


Mama Nona's Arracheras (Mexican Beef Barbeque)

>> Monday, July 4, 2011

Arracheras (Mexican Beef Barbeque)

Some people would call this a Tex-Mex fajitas-style barbeque, but in the central ranching area of Mexico, this is a staple recipe that uses the rather tough skirt steak or flank steak beef cut. Angela learned this recipe from her Mexican ex-MIL, and anywhere you find people from the state of Guanajuato grilling, they may just have this on the coals.

We made this on Jenn's request for her high school graduation, and our midwestern family had never seen or tasted soft corn tortillas before. In the Chicagoland area, we prefer El Milagro brand corn tortillas, made right in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. Flour tortillas also work, if you can't find or prefer to eat flour instead of corn.

Arracheras - grilled skirt steak


2 1- to 1 1/4-lb. skirt steaks, trimmed of membrane and excess fat
1 12-oz. bottle or can beer
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 to 3 tbsp. Mexican hot sauce
3-4 cloves minced garlic
12 corn tortillas (8 in. each), warmed until they are soft and pliable
 Lime wedges
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped white onion
Fresh red or green salsa, hot sauce, or pico de gallo
1 cup chopped tomatoes 
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled

Joe grilling marinated skirt steak


If you get the meat from a Latino butcher, ask them to put the meat "En la machina", or in a mechanical meat tenderizer. Otherwise, pound the meat flat with a meat tenderizer mallet. 

Cut meat into 4-5" wide sections. Put the meat in a large resealable plastic bag or on a platter. Stir together beer, lime juice, hot sauce, and garlic, then pour over steaks. Cover and refrigerate 1-4 hours.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for medium-high heat. Drain meat, then grill it  3 to 4 minutes per side, turning often, till crispy on the edges and fully cooked. Spray flare-ups with water.

Warm tortillas on a hot dry griddle, turning frequently, until soft and pliable. Watch your fingers!

Slice or pull apart meat into 1-2" sections. Build arrachera tacos with meat, chopped cilantro, onions, salsa, tomatoes, cheese, and a squirt of lime, as desired.
Serves 4-6

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