Pesto Pronto by Brandy Fernow

As a chef instructor, people always ask me “do you cook like this at home every night?” And my answer is a swift “nope!” Yes, I am a chef, but I am also a busy mom of two active 1st and 2nd grade boys. That means I’m running all week from school, to sports, to cub scouts, volunteering, doing homework, playdates, cleaning, cooking, and of course teaching classes at Marcels!

So no, I don’t cook every night and it’s certainly not a gourmet meal every night either. We do eat at home every night and I have learned to cook smart. Cook one night, then turn that into 2 more meals that I can make in 15 minutes or less.

One of my favorite go-to’s for this technique is a simple pesto sauce. What probably comes to mind is the traditional basil, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. I certainly make this version to toss over pasta or accompany chicken, but I also use the same fundamentals to make a dozen other “pestos” which to me is generally an herb, nut, cheese and oil – whipped together in seconds with the help of my food processor.

Now – to make this a million other ways, you just swap the herb, nut and cheese combos. For example, Mexican night – use cilantro, pepitas, queso or cotija cheese, and a dash of red pepper flake. Or sweeten it up a bit by swapping arugula for basil, pecans for pine nuts, adding 2 tablespoons of honey and ½ cup ricotta. Or try parsley, almonds, and asiago.

This way you can pour over ANYTHING! Pesto variations are great poured over steak pork, chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, quinoa or favorite grain, drizzled over roasted veggies, you name it.

Bonus – you can freeze in portions and re-use. Why haul out that food processor more than once? Make big batches of a few kinds and freeze in portions. Pull out and enjoy on that frenzied night you’re trying to get something fresh, but fast on the table.
I’m featuring this favorite pesto technique in a private event this month at Marcels for a group of moms looking to cook once, eat twice. We are serving the pesto over flank steak, then recycling it to a pasta for the next meal. If you have a group that is looking to learn something specific or want to have a good time with your friends, let Marcels know and they can customize your own private event!

Fresh Basil Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  2. ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  3. Zest and juice of a lemon
  4. Handful of fresh parmesan
Instructions
  1. Add all to a food processor and add olive oil until you have you preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoon Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning mix
  3. 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  4. 1 medium onion
  5. 1 zucchini
  6. 1 red pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together oil and seasoning mix. Add chicken cut into chunks. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks and toss with some more olive oil and TOSA mix to coat.
  4. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Grill until chicken is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender.
  5. Serve with saffron rice.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

One Pan Farro and Tomatoes

One Pan Farro and Tomatoes
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 cup farro
  3. ½ large onion (use white for mildness)
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 9 oz. grape or cherry tomatoes
  6. 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  7. ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less to taste)
  8. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  9. Few basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  10. Grated parmesan, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (5-10 minutes is enough) while you prepare the other ingredients. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well. Halve or quarter tomatoes. Add salt and pepper and set a timer for 30 min.
  2. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, though, cook for additional 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a wide serving bowl. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with parmesan and basil.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pasta Fresca (Fresh Tomato Sauce)

Pasta Fresca (Fresh Tomato Sauce)
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups chopped tomatoes
  2. 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  3. 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  6. 1 lb. fusilli, bow-tie or penne pasta
  7. 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  8. grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Set aside 1 cup of the chopped tomatoes and 2 of the basil leaves. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining tomatoes and basil with the garlic and olive oil until smooth. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  2. When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in the pasta, re-cover the pot, and return to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cut the reserved basil leaves into thin strips.
  3. Drain the cooked pasta and toss it immediately with the mozzarella cubes. Add the sauce and mix well. Top with the reserved tomatoes and basil, and grated cheese if desired.
  4. Serve immediately.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Spiced Chicken and Grape Skewers

Spiced Chicken and Grape Skewers
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  9. 8 (10-inch) skewers
  10. 1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes
  11. Cooking spray
  12. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  13. 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, soak the skewers in water, if wooden.
  2. Thread 4 pieces of the chicken and 4 grapes onto the skewers, alternating them. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over a medium-high heat, or prepare an outdoor grill. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with mint and serve with lemon wedges.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

No Oven, No Problem by Julie Busteed

Somehow it seems to happen that whenever we have out of town guests, something breaks, or clogs, or freezes. Think plumbers on Christmas Eve, or a dozen guests enjoying the warmth of the fireplace – because the power has gone out. This visit was no different, the day before company arrived our ovens decided to quit working. Not a total disaster since the stovetop still functioned, but I needed to alter my menus none the less.   

It has been several years since we’ve owned a grill and we’ve been planning to get one. As luck would have it, we were gifted a Kamado Joe! Yes, they were those kind of out of town guests, and yes, they probably figured it was their best shot at eating a home cooked meal. 

To be clear, the Kamado Joe is to “grill” as Ferrari is to a riding mower. This thing is on another level. The heat is enclosed entirely in a thick, ceramic shell, making common recipes that say “Bring the temperature to 700 degrees.” My ovens don’t go to 700 degrees…even when they’re working. The delivery crew shows up to assemble the unit dressed like they were going to a wedding… Which they were.  (Thanks Jill and Bob…)  And, like Ferrari, most of the Kamado Joes are red. Think of Marcel’s as the showroom, with free delivery and setup. 

I’ve had to skip over “grill” recipes for many years, and now here was my chance to dive back in. So far, we’ve seared steaks, grilled shrimp, warmed bread, grilled romaine and even baked banana bread. The surprising one was grilling salmon.  I had adapted this salmon recipe for the oven and it had proven quite tasty, but now I was actually able to grill it and wow, what a difference!

 

Asian Grilled Salmon
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Ingredients
  1. 1 side fresh salmon, boned but skin on (about 3 pounds)
  2. 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  3. 3 tablespoons good soy sauce
  4. 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Instructions
  1. While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits.
  3. Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
  4. Grilling with high heat is a little like learning a new language. There’s a bit of a transition, but once you have the basics, a lot of exciting culinary adventures become available. And the flavors that will appear are astounding. Plus, it’s a great option to have when your appliances go on the fritz.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

No Bake Granola Bars

No Bake Granola Bars
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Ingredients
  1. 1 heaping cup packed dates, pitted
  2. 1/4 cup maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey
  3. 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
  4. 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
  5. 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  6. 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  7. optional additions: chocolate chips, dried fruit (Jill used dried cranberries), vanilla, etc.
Instructions
  1. Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency.
  2. Toast your oats (and almonds if raw) in a 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
  3. Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl - set aside.
  4. Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
  5. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8x8-inch baking dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
  6. Press down firmly until uniformly flattened - use something flat, like a drinking glass, to press down and really pack the bars, which helps them hold together better.
  7. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let firm up in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars (or 9 squares). Store in an airtight container for up to a few days.
Notes
  1. Can store in freezer
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

A New Year and a New Focus in the Kitchen by Paul Lindemuth

The holiday decorations are taken down and packed away. The last of the Christmas cookies are eaten. And now I’m finally able to move forward to the first weekend that does not involve the responsibility of entertaining or being entertained! It was a very busy season of holiday cooking and baking with so many lists that needed checking and re-checking with a work-related event on the calendar nearly every day.

If you’re like me, a New Year brings a new focus to so many aspects of everyday life and it’s a good time to bring that focus to our homes and kitchens. Here are some thoughts (OK….resolutions) that I’m bringing into our kitchen and home in 2017:

BRIGHTEN UP YOUR KITCHEN

You’ve spent so much time in the kitchen and looked at the same four walls and all the surfaces for hours on end. January is a great time to give your kitchen a good cleaning from top to bottom. And when you’ve finished that chore, create a new focal point with a planter of bright green herbs on the counter or a new food photo hung on the wall or a new cookbook displayed in a book holder.

GET ORGANIZED

This is a great time to open all the cabinets and drawers and take control of the clutter. Kitchen tools are often thrown into a drawer in haste when you’re busy, so pull everything out to clean up and organize. The same holds true for cabinets and drawers with ingredients and spices that may be past their prime. Toss that stuff out and get a fresh start.

EAT MORE HEALTHILY

 Begin with small goals that are easily achievable on an everyday basis. Start packing a healthy lunch to take to work. Grab an apple for your snack to ease into eating more nutritiously. Once you’ve conquered the small steps add more healthy habits like cutting back on bad carbs and sugar until you’re eating more healthily regularly.


MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY

I think we’ve all had our fill of office parties, holiday feasting and revelry. Before the New Year gets too busy, make sure to set aside time for family. Block off some time that’s reserved just for activities at home. Eating together around the dining table is a great way to bring focus back to home and family.  Please enjoy this beautiful and vibrant recipe around the table together!

Baked Whitefish with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. canola oil spray
  2. four 6-ounce whitefish fillets
  3. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 1/2 cup light reduced-fat coconut milk
  5. 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  6. 1 teaspoon peeled chopped fresh ginger
  7. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  8. 2 garlic cloves
  9. 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  10. fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with canola oil spray. Sprinkle the fish with the salt and place it in the pan.
  2. In the jar of a blender combine the coconut milk, cilantro, ginger, garam masala, garlic and jalapeño. Pulse until fairly smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture over the fish. Bake until the fish is just opaque in the center, about 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the fish to heated plates. Garnish with more cilantro and serve right away.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Delicata Squash & Black Bean Tacos

Delicata Squash & Black Bean Tacos
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into 1/4” slices (skin can stay on)
  2. olive oil
  3. kosher salt
  4. freshly ground black pepper
  5. ground cumin
  6. 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  7. 4 ounces fresh ricotta
  8. cilantro, chopped
  9. 8 street taco sized tortillas (4”)
  10. pico de gallo (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Use convection heat.
  2. Toss squash slices with olive oil, a generous sprinkle of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and cumin to taste (1/2 teaspoon is a good place to start). Spread onto a baking sheet - do not overlap pieces. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until starting to caramelize.
  3. Toss black beans with a touch of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and cumin to taste.
  4. Mix fresh ricotta in a small bowl with kosher salt, pepper and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
  5. Heat tortillas for a few minutes in oven until warm.
  6. Spread each tortilla with the ricotta mixture, top with black beans, squash and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with pico de gallo if desired.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound green beans
  2. 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  3. 1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained
  4. 1 large shallot
  5. 3 T. red wine vinegar
  6. salt
  7. freshly ground pepper
  8. ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  9. basil or other herb, optional
Instructions
  1. Trim green beans and parboil them in salted water until tender. Drain and immediately spread them to cool. Cut tomatoes in half. These steps can be done in advance.
  2. For the vinaigrette, peel and dice the shallot finely and put it in a bowl with the vinegar and salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Taste and adjust the balance with more vinegar, oil, or salt, as needed. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the vinaigrette; this can sit awhile.
  3. Do not add green beans or cannellini beans until just before serving or they will discolor from the acid in the vinaigrette. Garnish with basil or another herb.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/