June 29, 2012

mustard green pesto and prosciutto pizza

It was a warm Texas night, and the trio of musicians I was a part of while we lived in Austin was performing on the patio of a small restaurant in an open air mall. It happens sometimes, but not always, that when you play for an audience there is a collective magic in the air; a kind of flow that you ride for as long as you can until the show is over. This was one of those nights. The exchange between us as players felt effortless; the music that we made just seemed to hover in a perfect sweet spot the entire time we played. But my favorite memory of the evening came when an older couple began to dance the waltz to one of the songs we were playing. The pair moved gracefully, with the ease of experience, dancing all by themselves in an open area near the tables and chairs where most people were seated. For me, their spontaneous waltz was a complement of the kind that is unspoken, but never forgotten.

Like that musical trio, and like the three-quarter time of a waltz, good things often come in threes. The simple trio of pesto, prosciutto, and mozzarella on this pizza are the perfect complement to one another; if you have the pesto already made and the crust pre-baked, then it's practically effortless to put together. The best part, though, is in the sharing of it; like good music, sharing good food creates memories that remain with you long after the moment has passed.



June 22, 2012

pistachio cardamom ice cream



I'm a couple of weeks early for national ice cream month, which officially starts in July, but who needs an official reason to eat ice cream? Continuing on my cardamom binge, I offer you this pistachio cardamom ice cream. I've finally gotten around to trying the ice cream base recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer, and the slightly adapted version I made provides the base for the added flavors of roasted pistachios and ground cardamom. There's a whole science behind Jeni's method to making ice cream, and it's an informative read in the article "Here's the Scoop" by Molly O'Neill, which first appeared in Saveur magazine.

June 15, 2012

peach cardamom smoothie

Peaches are in season here in Texas, and I'm on a bit of a cardamom binge, so this slightly exotic-tasting smoothie is the result of those two circumstances. Anytime I add cardamom to something, it tastes a little exotic to me, but that's probably because I grew up in a home where cinnamon was about as flashy as it got when it came to spices. With a medjool date added to sweeten, this smoothie becomes even more extravagant; a tablespoon of roasted cashew butter brings it all back down to earth. If you love peaches so much that you'd move to the country to eat a lot of peaches, then this is the smoothie for you.



June 8, 2012

mustard green pesto

The mustard greens are now well into their seed-bearing season, with tall, spindly branches, thinner green leaves, and tiny yellow four-petaled flowers that grow in groups on the ends of the branches. Each branch is filled with short needle-like pods that are filled with mustard seeds. "Red Giant," the variety we planted, is from the brassica juncea species of mustard plant, and the seeds, which turn brown once they are dried, can be used to make brown mustard or as a seasoning in other dishes. With those tiny little seeds I can also start the whole cycle once again and harvest greens when the weather turns cold.

With the last of the mustard green leaves, I decided to make a mustard green pesto. Using the basil pesto recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking as a basic template, I used roasted cashews and toasted sesame oil to balance the bite of the leaves, and rounded things out with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic. The result is an earthy, slightly spicy pesto with a warm savory note, and you can use this pesto just as you would other pestos. If you freeze the pesto in ice cube trays, it's another way to keep the bounty from your garden on hand in any season and ready to make another excellent meal.



June 1, 2012

sharing the green



In our garden I've harvested the last of the mustard greens, and with the heat, the spinach is finally giving up the ghost. The cantaloupe and green beans have filled in the gap, and I've begun to pick the green beans little by little every day. Once again, the cilantro bolted before we barely had a chance to make use of it. On the other hand, the rest of the herbs are producing more than I can use, and I've been trying to think of ways to barter, sell, or give them away to people who I know will use them. What do you do with the surplus from a garden, besides freezing and canning, or dehydrating? I've come across a couple of ideas recently that I'm excited about; I hope this information will inspire some solutions for you, too.