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/

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/

Chicken with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

Chicken with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters - Spicy Thai Peanut Butter
  2. 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  3. ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  4. 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  5. 1 ½ cups warm water
  6. Optional: ½ to 1 tablespoon of sambal oelek for additional spiciness
  7. 4 oz. rice noodles (fettucini style)
  8. 1 small bunch broccoli, cut into small florets, stalks sliced ¼ inch thick
  9. 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  10. ½ red pepper, small dice
  11. ½ pound chicken, cooked and diced or shredded (1 ½ cups)
  12. 1/4 cup peanuts, broken into large pieces
  13. 1 green onion, white and green parts, sliced thin
Instructions
  1. Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin, water (and sambal oelek, if using) together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Soak the rice noodles in hot tap water for about 30 minutes.
  3. Steam the broccoli, carrots, and red pepper until the broccoli is bright green and barely tender. Drain the water from the pan. Add sauce, chicken, and noodles to pan. Heat gently until noodles meld with the sauce, and the sauce has thickened a bit.
  4. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with peanuts and green onions.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pressure Cooker Penne with Butternut Squash and Ricotta

Pressure Cooker Penne with Butternut Squash and Ricotta
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Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
  2. 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  3. 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  4. 3 cups chicken broth
  5. 1 teaspoon salt (omit if using salty broth)
  6. 12 ounces penne or other short cut pasta that normally cooks in 9 to 13 minutes
  7. 1 cup ricotta
  8. 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground sage
  9. 2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  10. 1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more to pass at the table
  11. 1 cup toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Cut half the squash into 3/4 inch chunks and the remaining squash into 2 inch pieces. Set aside.
  2. Heat the butter in a 6-quart or larger cooker. Stir in the onions, chicken broth, salt (if using), and smaller pieces of squash. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. (It’s ok if all of the pasta is not covered with liquid.) Set the remaining squash on top. Lock the lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and quick-release the pressure. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.
  3. Add the ricotta, sage and parsley to taste, and the parmesan. Stir gently until some of the squash breaks up. If the pasta is not uniformly tender, replace the lid during this period and set the cooker over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done. Stir in the toasted nuts.
  4. Serve in large, shallow bowls. Pass additional parmesan at the table.
Adapted from Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker by Lorna Sass
Adapted from Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker by Lorna Sass
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pasta Shells with Artichoke Cream and Smoked Chicken

Pasta Shells with Artichoke Cream and Smoked Chicken
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Ingredients
  1. One 8-ounce jar oil-packed artichokes, drained*
  2. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  3. 2 cups heavy cream
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  5. 1/2 pound medium pasta shells
  6. 3/4 pound skinless smoked chicken breast**, cut into strips
  7. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  8. 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, season the artichokes with salt and pepper and simmer them in the cream over moderately low heat until very tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer the artichokes and cream to a blender and purée. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the shells and return them to the pan. Add the artichoke cream, smoked chicken, tomatoes and chives; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowls and serve.
Notes
  1. *Or use frozen artichokes. Do not use the tangy marinated artichokes.
  2. **Make your own smoked chicken breast using Cameron's Stovetop Smoker.
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Weeknight Bolognese

Weeknight Bolognese
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
  2. 1 pound lean ground sirloin
  3. 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  4. 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  5. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  6. 1¼ cups dry red wine, divided
  7. 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  8. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  9. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  10. 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette
  11. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  12. 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  13. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  14. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1½ teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
  3. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining ¼ cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Making the Sale by Kelly Montgomery

Without a doubt Marcel’s is a great place to work. It offers fun co-workers, customers who become friends, the smell of bacon frying or onions caramelizing back in the kitchen, and so much more. But this job is not without its occupational hazards. Being continually and relentlessly exposed to terrific cooking tools and beautiful home accents can lead to overspending, marital strain and insufficient cabinet space.

As you might imagine, I’ve got quite a collection of kitchen stuff and exquisite tableware. Brock, my husband, has developed a certain look when he sees me coming in with a Marcel’s bag. It’s a look that says, “Is it necessary to have four different machines to make coffee?” (Um….kind of! They’re all different! And anyway we have 5 not 4. Just saying.). It asks “Don’t we already have way too many plates?” (Well, technically yes, but look at how gorgeous these are and how great they look with all our other Juliska plates!!)

It begins innocently enough. I’m having a discussion about the wonderful features of a product with a customer and next thing I know I’m the one who’s standing at the counter purchasing it. I’ve literally sold it to myself!! It was in this exact way that I recently became the owner of a Fagor Lux Multi-Cooker. I think selling that machine to me may have been the best sale I’ve ever made.

So I brought it home. And when, as expected, I got “the look”. I countered, “But it’s a pressure cooker and a slow cooker and a rice cooker and an egg cooker and a steamer! It browns and simmers and keeps food warm until you’re ready to eat it! It makes yogurt for crying out loud!  It even does the dishes!”  (Wait. No. But you can brown things and then finish them in the same pan so it basically helps with the dishes!)  I sound like an infomercial!!

I’ve owned my Multi-Cooker for about a month and have had so much fun trying new recipes and learning easier and faster ways of doing things.  And when Brock recently wondered aloud  “Where has this thing been all our lives?”, I shot him my look that says “Told ya!”

Stay tuned for my upcoming demo using the Multi Cooker to make Pressure Cooker Penne with Squash and Ricotta.

See you at Marcel’s!

Braised Short Ribs with Orecchiette

Braised Short Ribs with Orecchiette
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 pounds beef short ribs
  2. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  3. 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  5. 1 carrot, finely chopped
  6. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  7. 1/2 cup red wine
  8. 3/4 cup stock - beef or chicken
  9. kosher salt
  10. freshly ground black pepper
  11. 1 cup tomato purée
  12. Parmesan cheese
  13. heavy cream, to taste
  14. parsley or celery leaves, chopped
  15. 1/2 pound Orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente
Instructions
  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a stovetop pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add short ribs and brown on all sides. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened. Stir in tomato paste. Add wine and reduce by half. Add stock. Bring to high pressure and pressure cook for 1 hour. Naturally release pressure. Remove bones and skim fat*. With a fork, shred the short ribs.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add short ribs with its cooking liquid and tomato purée. Simmer over medium heat. Add a touch of cream and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Season to taste.
  3. Serve with Orecchiette pasta and garnish with herbs and Parmesan.
Notes
  1. Fat is easy to remove if made in advance and chilled.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ounces unsalted butter (one half stick)
  2. 4 tablespoons flour
  3. 1 teaspoon each; dry mustard, white pepper, chile powder, and salt
  4. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  5. 32 ounces whole milk
  6. ½-1 pound cheese of choice, grated (I like to combine cheeses and grate myself; soft cheeses work best)
  7. 1 pound dry pasta
Instructions
  1. In a large Dutch oven, melt butter and then add flour to make a roux. Allow the roux to cook for 3-4 minutes to cook the flour taste out and for the mixture to darken a bit. Season with dry mustard, white pepper, chile powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add milk in slowly, whisking as you go. Over medium high heat, gently stir the béchamel sauce until it begins to thicken. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Once the sauce has thickened, slowly whisk in grated cheese a handful at a time, whisking after each addition so cheese can be completely absorbed (you have now created a Mornay sauce from the béchamel base)
  3. Taste sauce and adjust with spices used earlier (dry mustard, white pepper, and salt)
  4. Turn sauce to simmer and prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and retain the pasta water.
  5. Combine pasta and sauce, at first you may not need all the sauce but as the mixture sits, the pasta will absorb more and more of the sauce. Add more as the sauce gets absorbed to achieve your desired consistency. If the sauce is too thick, thin with pasta water.
  6. Serve with breadcrumbs, bacon bits, sun-dried tomatoes, or any number of accompaniments if desired.
Notes
  1. At Ladies Night Out, Kelly used Rigatoni and equal parts Vermont White Cheddar, Baby Swiss, and Monterey Jack.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pasta with Tomato-Blue Cheese Sauce

Pasta with Tomato-Blue Cheese Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ pounds pasta (angel hair or thin spaghetti)
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  5. dash of sugar
  6. salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  7. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  8. 3/4 cups crumbled blue cheese
  9. 3/4 cups heavy cream
  10. 4 cups baby spinach
  11. half and half, for thinning
  12. extra blue cheese crumbles, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. When hot, add minced garlic and cook for a minute. Pour in drained tomatoes. Add sugar, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Stir in crumbled blue cheese. Add cream and stir, then a little splash of half-and-half if sauce is too thick. Cook for a minute or two, tasting and adding more seasonings as needed.
  3. At the very, very, very last minute. toss in spinach. Immediately toss in the cooked and drained pasta. Serve immediately!
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/