Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Having guests over for dinner reminds me that I really like having people over for dinner.  We hadn’t entertained in a while, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Only now that I have this lovely little food blog, taking pictures of my dishes in larger company takes a little explaining.  Like yesterday, when I arranged my plate full of food, tweaked the positioning of some items, then picked up the entire place setting and transported it back into the kitchen for better light.

Thankfully Luke explained why I was leaving the table so abruptly, and I didn’t feel too embarrassed.

On a random side note, there was a point in the dinner, closing in on Izzy’s dinner time, that I peered around the corner of the dining room to spy on her, only to find her sitting at the closest end of the pen glaring at me.  I think she was trying to send me rabbit-hypno vibes.  It was kind of creepy but cute at the same time.  Also, we have a family of rabbits living in a bush near the back of our apartment.  Now I get to watch two sets of rabbits!!

While I make bread of course.  I had some leftover pesto from the chili recipe I posted about earlier this week, and wanted to do something different with it.  Different meaning not smother pasta with it.  So I smothered some dough with it.  Then I topped the pesto smothering with a layer of queso fresco.

Totally delicious, though I suppose you can make the queso fresco optional.  Or sub in feta or goat cheese.  Either which way, if you are a pesto lover, you will unequivocally enjoy this bread.

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Adapted from Mmm is for Mommy

Makes one 9×5” loaf

¼ cup warm water
1 package dry active yeast
¾ cup buttermilk, lukewarm
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup pesto

1 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until it starts to foam.  Add in the buttermilk, oil, flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix for about a minute until the dough starts to form.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour if dough is too wet or water if dough is too dry.  Knead for 3-5 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, spray a large bowl with non-stick spray or olive oil, put the dough in the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.

When doubled, remove dough and place on floured board and roll into a rectangle approximately 9 x 13 inches.  Brush with pesto, then sprinkle the cheese over the pesto layer and roll up like a jellyroll, pinching seam and ends firmly to close (roll the shorter side, the roll should be the right size to fit in your loaf pan).   Place into a greased 9 x 5” loaf pan and cover with towel and let rise for another 1 ½ hours.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Let cool on wire rack completely before slicing.


Turkey Chili with Pesto

I got three packages yesterday.  Is it strange/sad/weird that this made me ecstatically happy?  I have always loved getting mail.  As a kid, I’d run out to the mailbox to retrieve those precious letters even though most of them were bills and/or addressed to my parents.

That’s another bonus of being an adult, most of the mail is for me!!  Except it’s mostly bills and junk mail…but they’re my bills and junk mail.  With my name on it.  So there’s a little nugget of insight into what makes me unconscionably happy; mail with my name on it and bunny yawns.

How old am I again?  Old enough to make chili experiments and be targeted by credit card solicitations.  But let’s focus on the former of those points.

Pesto is a fabulous summery spread, made fifty times better when you can use the fresh produce becoming available as the season pushes forward.  Putting it in a chili might not be the first thing that comes to mind, and I’ll admit that I was slightly skeptical as to how pesto would lend its flavors to this dish.

But it worked, and pretty well at that.  The original recipe called for chicken breast cut into tiny pieces, but that seemed like a lot of work to me, so I used ground turkey instead.  It also seemed to be a more appropriate meat to use in a chili.

I love when odd combinations turn out well.

Turkey Chili with Pesto

Adapted from Cooking Light: Annual Recipes 2003

Makes 4-6 servings

2 tsp olive oil (or other neutral veg oil)

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 tsp oregano

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

one 16oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

14 oz chicken stock

¼ cup pesto

 Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onion and turkey and sauté for 5 minutes, breaking up clumps in the ground meat.  Add carrots and sauté for another 4 minutes.  Add the spices (including salt and pepper), beans and stock, and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  You can take the lid off for the last 10-15 minutes if you like your chili on the thicker side (like me).  Turn off the heat, stir in pesto and serve!

Pesto & Scallion Mac n’ Cheese

Sometimes you just need some comfort food.

Because you stubbed your toe on that stupid raised step into the kitchen that you know is there, but nevertheless you always seem to forget to pick up your foot that extra two inches.

Or maybe because it’s dark and rainy out, and that’s just a good reason in itself to do anything in the kitchen.

Or perhaps you whipped up an awesome batch of cupcakes, and wanted to top them with an equally awesome brown sugar marshmallow frosting.  Except no matter how long you hovered over your hand mixer churning away, the frosting never gets past the consistency of fluff, and so you give up and eat your cupcakes, slightly unsatisfied.

That’s reason enough for me to throw a nice, bubbly pan of mac n’ cheese in the oven.  And if scallions and pesto are added to the mix, my sad cupcake blues just melt away with each bite that feels like a hug in my mouth.  Excuse me, I have some more cheesy pasta to eat.

Pesto & Scallion Mac n’ Cheese

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes 4-6 servings

4 cups pasta (smallish pasta works best, like elbow noodles, penne, rotini)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

10 oz grated cheddar cheese, and more for topping

pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup pesto

½ cup scallions, chopped (optional)

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta according to directions.  Make sure to cook it a few minutes short as it will cook again in the oven.

While pasta is cooking, heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once sizzling, add flour and whisk until smooth to create a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden and has a nutty aroma. Add milk and cream, bring to a boil while constantly whisking. Reduce heat to low and add cheese, then cook for a few minutes while stirring until cheese is melted and mixture thickens. Add nutmeg, then taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Add pasta to a baking dish (I used an 8X8″) and pour cheese sauce over top. Stir to distribute sauce, then stir in pesto and scallions. Top with additional grated cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly.

Green Pea Pesto Ravioli

I’m taking a rightful detour away from my pumpkin and apple route to a path more suited to the current season.

Are peas springy?  Maybe?  Yes.  Let’s pretend they’re fresh and I shelled them with my grandma while sitting out on our rocking chairs on the porch.  That’s a nice spring dream, right?

This pesto is my spring dream.  Smooth and rich, perfect on a piece of toasted bread with a dollop of ricotta.  Or on microwave softened bread with a spoonful of hummus.  We don’t actually own a toaster oven…it’s on our registry.  Please help me toast my bread people.

So that I can have toasty garlic bread with this pesto ravioli.

By the way, I used the leftover wontons wrappers from my mushroom ravioli to make these.  Imagine eating them together.  Except I already did, and it was amazing.  Seriously, mouthgasmic.

Green Pea Pesto Ravioli

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 4 servings

1 16-ounce bag frozen peas

1-2 small cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp diced shallots, or onion

1 Tbsp lemon zest

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

 Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add a bit of salt.  Boil the frozen peas for about 3 minutes, until just warmed through.  Drain and set aside.

In a food processor, combine, peas, garlic, shallots, lemon zest and juice, parsley, bread crumbs, and cheese.  Pulse until peas are broken down and the mixture is well incorporated.  With food processor on, drizzle in the olive oil until you have a thick and glossy pesto.  Remove from food processor and place in a bowl.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the ravioli you’ll need the wonton wrappers, the bowl of the pesto, a small spoon, and a small bowl of water.

Place a square in front of you so that it shapes a diamond.  Place a generous teaspoon of pea pesto in the middle.

Dip your finger in water and run it along the edges of the wrapper.

Fold the top half of the diamond over the pesto dollop.   Use your fingers to press the triangle edges together.  Make sure that the triangle is not filled with air, and well sealed at the edges.  To ensure sealing, crimp with a fork.

Grab the two farthest points and bring them together in the center.  Pinch them together with your wet fingers. Set ravioli in a single layer on a plate.

The ravioli can be cooked immediately in boiling, salted water, for 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through.  Drain and serve with favorite pasta toppings.

The ravioli can also be placed in the freezer, in a single layer until frozen.  Once frozen, they can be sealed well in a plastic bag until ready to cook and serve.  Cook in boiling, salted water for about 5-7 minutes, or until warmed through.

Chive Parsley Pesto

It’s Wednesday already, and you know what that means.  Hop Day with Izzy!  Don’t you wish you were sprawled out like this bunny?!!  During the mini-heat wave last week, Izzy was stretched out a lot, probably trying to keep cool in our un-air-conditioned apartment.  She was cool, and I got some fantastic photos; win win.

Luke thinks we should dress her up somehow for Easter.  How does one make their bunny festive for such an occasion?  I mean, she’s already a bunny.  When I googled “dress up rabbit for Easter” I mostly got images of cats and dogs with bunny ears on.  Maybe she’s already as dressed up as she can be.

With April just around the corner, I decided to go in a very green direction with the last of my chives.  Not feeling another chive-y dinner, I decided to go with something that would preserve that chive flavor for later.

Oh pesto.  So vibrant and tasty on just about everything, and so versatile.  This version features chives and parsley and is currently being stored in my freezer in mini tupperwares for a rainy day.

On a side note, my dear friend KA is coming to visit today!!!  I’m so excited to share my kitchen with her and cook up some memories.

Chive Parsley Pesto

Adapted from Swallowing the Seasons

Makes about 1 cup

4 cups chives, minced

1 cup parsley, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until all ingredients are finely chopped and well incorporated, pausing once or twice to scrape the sides of the bowl and test for desired consistency.  Add a drizzle or two more olive oil if it is too thick for you. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Store in the fridge, or transfer to Tupperware for freezing.  You can also freeze pesto in an ice cube tray, then transfer to a ziploc or tupperware once it is fully frozen.