Monday, October 29, 2012

Pesto Pasta - A Taste of Italy

I distinctly remember the first time I tried pesto. It's amazing how some dishes can bring to mind entire experiences.  

I grew up in more of a meat and potatoes family, so pesto never found itself on our dinner menu. Instead, spaghetti and lasagna were my main experiences with Italian food. The opportunity to expand my palette came when I first traveled to mainland Europe. It was when we stopped at the Cinque Terre, a region known to be the birthplace of pesto, that I had my first taste of the sauce at a little family owned cafe in Vernazza, Italy. 

I am now so excited to be making my own pesto with basil from our garden! Our plants grew so well, we were able to freeze multiple batches. I can't wait to enjoy homemade pesto through the winter!

You can't go wrong with most of the pesto recipes you'll find online. I used one from Simply Recipes. For the pasta dish, combine your favorite cooked pasta noodle, pesto sauce, parmesan cheese, and Italian sausage (Trader Joe's has a delicious sweet Italian style chicken sausage). Pour yourself a glass of white wine and your meal is complete! Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Restaurants are great places to experience a "night off." For as much as I like to cook, I don't enjoy cooking every night. But restaurants are also excellent places to become inspired. I love trying new flavors or combinations at a restaurant that I can then try at home, like this Butternut Squash Ravioli. It's a seasonal dish that I've seen at a few restaurants, but don't let it's presence on the menu intimidate you. It's easy enough to make at home.

I had won ton wrappers leftover from the very delicious Swiss Chard Potstickers I made a couple of weeks ago, so I used the rest to wrap up the equally delicious butternut squash filling. Next time I make these, though, I would like to make the pasta from scratch.

Although this dish was not hard to make, there are a lot of steps involved, so it might be a better weekend meal if you don't have a lot of time after work. Of course, you could always split up the steps - roast and puree the squash and make the filling the day before. Whenever you decide to make it, pour a glass of Chardonnay. Like Chef Jacques P├ępin, I think you should always cook with a glass of wine! (Note: not a rule I always follow, but it is nice when I do).

What menu items have you been inspired to make at home?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Places to Visit: St. Louis

Top row: succulents at Missouri Botanical Garden, Saturday morning pancakes, Betsy and me in front of a sequoia tree.
Middle row: the vespa, herb garden, chicken coop.
Bottom row: pancake breakfast, greenhouse at Missouri Botanical Garden, butterfly.

A few weeks ago I went to St. Louis to visit my good friend Betsy. Above are some pictures of the great time we had - a pancake breakfast outside in Betsy's garden and a trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens on the vespa. The greenhouse above is now on my wish list - wouldn't it be great for starting seedlings in the spring and throwing dinner parties in the fall?

Betsy also took me to some pretty awesome eateries and shared plates so that we could try more dishes than just our own - my preferred way to dine. We went to The Vine for a delicious Mediterranean lunch - must try the lentil soup, fresh squeezed juices, falafel sandwich, really I'm sure anything there is good! For dinner, she brought me to Local Harvest, another meal filled with great dishes - lasagna, salad, cabbage rolls, carrot cake and Boston cream pie. Oh, and I definitely should not forget the Thai spring rolls and rice we got from Lona's Lil Eats in the Soulard Farmer's Market. The spring rolls came with peanut dipping sauce which was amazing! I want to try and re-create these rolls and sauce at home - wish me luck!

Good food, beautiful gardens, great friendship - and I haven't even mentioned the terrific finds at a neighborhood rummage sale - it was a great weekend! Thanks, Betsy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Best Time of the Week

Do you have a favorite time of the week? Or, perhaps you have a weekly activity you look forward to?

I've come to really enjoy Saturday mornings. Whether it's sleeping in, perusing blogs and magazines, or having a delicious breakfast; I always try to "reserve" that time for something that will truly refresh me after the week. With that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of my recent Saturday mornings...

For a visit with Lindsay and Tim, we had almond pancakes a la Giada; a frittata made with onion, a variety of peppers, and fontina cheese; and bacon from Goose the Market, a specialty food market local to Indy. Of course Karl made some delicious lattes as well!  

Another lovely Saturday morning, I made buttermilk scones for the first time! I previously had only made scones with cream or sour cream. I was glad to find the recipe in a random collection that I've saved throughout the years. These raspberry scones (below left) were delicious accompanied by a spot of Harney and Sons Paris tea!

Not wanting to waste a ripe banana, this week I made the ever classic banana muffin (above right). You can never go wrong with those - especially when you have a great magazine to read!
Whatever it is that truly refreshes and inspires you, I hope that you are able to intentionally set aside time to do it!