Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arugula Pesto

Anyone who has spent time on this blog knows that I am stinkin' crazy over arugula. I can never get enough of that peppery lettuce. I also love pesto, so it was twice the joy to discover "Simply Fresh Cooking's" recipe for Arugula Pesto.

The beauty of pesto is that it is so incredibly versatile. So first I'm going to give you the arugula pesto recipe, then I'm going to share a bunch of different ways to put it to good use!

2 cups fresh arugula, packed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, packed 
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast pine nuts until aromatic and lightly browned; about 2 -3 minutes.  
  2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add garlic and process on high for about 3 seconds.  Add pine nuts, parmesan cheese, mixed greens, basil, and blend while slowly adding the olive oil, stopping once to scrape down sides of container. 
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.  
  4. Use immediately, refrigerate (up to 1 week) or freeze until ready to use. 

My Favorite Uses for Arugula Pesto
  • Pasta with Arugula Pesto: Prepare 16 ounces of your favorite pasta and toss with 1/2 cup of arugula pesto and a little bit of pasta water.
  • Arugula Pesto Tuna Salad: Toss 2 cans drained tuna, 5 chopped radishes, 1/4 cup each chopped parsley, red onion and roasted red peppers, 3 tablespoons arugula pesto and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.
  • Steak Sandwich with Arugula Pesto Spread: Grill up a steak, slice thinly. Place on bread topped with thinly sliced onions and arugula. Coat top piece of bread with arugula pesto and serve.
  • Arugula Pesto Steak: Mix 1/4 cup pesto, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon hot water. Grill or broil 1 1/4 pounds skirt steak; brush with the pesto mixture and serve.
  • Arugula Pesto Salad: Whisk 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar and 1/4 cup pesto. Toss with baby greens and serve with baguette toasts spread with goat cheese.
  • Arugula Pesto Shrimp: Marinate 1 pound shrimp in 2 tablespoons each arugula pesto and olive oil; add 1 lemon (cut into wedges) and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Grill about 3 minutes per side. Season with salt. 
  • Italian BLT: Spread arugula pesto on toasted bread; fill with crisp pancetta, sliced tomato and arugula.

    Wine pairings: For lighter dishes that seem to go better with a white wine, I would choose a Sauvignon Blanc. For dishes that align with reds, I would choose a Pinot Noir (Italian BLT) or Cabernet Sauvignon (steak dishes).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Slow Cooker Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic spread on fresh French bread is one of life's greatest pleasures. Today I stumbled across this fabulous recipe from Dorothy Reinhold on how to roast garlic in your slow cooker. This is great for warm summer days, as you can roast the heads of garlic in a very efficient slow cooker instead of heating up the oven and your the entire kitchen.

4 to 6 heads garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh French baguette


  1. Using a serrated knife, slice off 1/4 of the top of the garlic heads. This will expose the tops of the individual cloves. Place garlic, cut side up, in the slow cooker.  Pour in olive oil to come about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the garlic heads.
  2. Put lid on and cook on high for 5 hours. Turn off slow cooker and cool the garlic in the oil.
  3. To serve, place the whole garlic bulb in the center of a rimmed plate, with some garlic oil around it. Pass the bread, and squeeze the cloves of garlic onto the bread. Dip in oil, eat and enjoy! Save the leftover garlic infused oil for later.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spicy Thai Mint Beef

So here's my dilemma. Yesterday I was shopping day at Costco and they had a great price on flank steak...just $3.99 a pound. They also great pricing on Acetum wine vinegar, but that's another story (

The source of my dilemma is Mother Nature. I had fully intended to grill up those flank steaks over lump hardwood charcoal, but it is pouring rain here in Minnesota. It's going to rain all day today. All night, too. And all day tomorrow. So no grilling for me. What to do with my flank steak? Giada De Laurentis says I should make up a nice Thai stir fry on my stove top.

I'm a huge fan of Giada's, so that's exactly what I am going to do. Her recipe will serve four. While she recommends serving this dish over sticky rice, I would opt for basmati rice.

3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Thai chiles, such as prik kee noo, or 3 serrano chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 pound flank steak, very thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
1/4 cup fish sauce (Red Boat preferred)
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons black soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili paste in soy bean oil
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup whole fresh mint leaves

  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chiles and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. 
  2. Add the steak and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the shallots and bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. 
  3. Add the fish sauce, sweet soy sauce, black soy sauce and chili paste. Bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook, stirring frequently until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the basil and mint until wilted. Serve.

Wine pairing:  Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spanish Pork Kabobs

Last night was a rite of passage for my oldest son, Sean. Senior prom. He looked pretty dashing in his white tux. After the prom the party moved to our house, where they lasted until about 4:30 in the morning. So this morning it was Lumberjack Breakfast for 10: bacon, sausage and hash browns. Rib-sticking good.

It's prime grilling season here in Minnesota. Well, maybe not so much in the northern part where the ice is still on the lakes. But last night was a perfect night in Minneapolis for cooking over charcoal,  which is exactly what I did.  If you are looking for a little break from the usual steaks, brats and burgers, this Spanish Kabob recipe from Jamie Purviance is terrific. Pair this up with some Spanish rice and a nice bottle of Rioja...and you've got an inexpensive night in Madrid while never leaving your back yard. This serves six to eight.


For the Kabobs 
2 pork tenderloins, each about 1 lb, trimmed of silver skin and fat, cut into 1¼-inch cubes
2 large bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, cut into 1¼-inch squares
Metal skewers

For the Marinade
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves and tender stems
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt


  1. Combine and whisk the marinade ingredients. Put the pork cubes in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, place in a bowl, and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours, turning occasionally. 
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
  3. Remove the pork from the bag and discard the marinade. Thread the pork and bell pepper squares alternately onto skewers. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the skewers over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the pork is barely pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from the grill and season with salt. Serve warm. 

Wine pairing: Rioja

Monday, May 6, 2013

Thai Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

If you follow my blog, you know I typically feature a complete recipe. Not this time. Today I am going to just talk about a vinaigrette. But this is not just any vinaigrette. This vinaigrette recipe is a gift from the gods. It is the best Thai vinaigrette that I have ever tasted. It is so delicious that I find myself drinking it before I even use it in a recipe.

It's incredibly versatile. It's obvious that it makes a great dressing for a salad. But I also use it on roasted brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower or as a dipping sauce for grilled or roasted meats. Truth be told, this goes with any vegetable or any meat you can think of...and it will boost the flavor of whatever you use it on by a power of ten.

The key to this vinaigrette is the fish sauce. Hands down, the finest fish sauce in the world is Red Boat. I've been raving about it for years. If you don't have any Red Boat in your pantry, go here:

The recipe will give you about a cup of vinaigrette. I would encourage you to double or triple the recipe...because you will start drinking it direct from the bowl before you ever get to use it.

1/2 cup Red Boat Fish Sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup sugar
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeds and stem removed and finely minced


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until sugar has dissolved.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Apple Cider Slaw

This entails a little bit of work in the prep department. But it's easy prep work as you are essentially just combining ingredients. For those cooks out there who can both read and measure, you are home free. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

There are four basic parts to this recipe. The sandwich itself, the sauce, the rub and the slaw. It's a fabulous recipe from Weber, but be advised that I have substituted olive oil for mayonnaise in the slaw recipe because I would rather have a colonoscopy than eat mayonnaise. If you prefer to eat mayonnaise  over having things up your butt, by all means, switch out the ingredients.

If you are a perfectionist, you will follow this recipe exactly and precisely. This means that you will have to break out your grill and burn some charcoal. But not everyone likes cooking as much as I do. If you fall into that camp, I'm going to give you a little Sandra Dee-like shortcut (oh, the horror). Buy yourself a rotisserie chicken for five bucks at Costco. Skip the rub part of this recipe and simply shred enough rotisserie chicken (about 40 ounces) to toss into the sauce. Use the dark meat first and then add whatever white meat you need to get up to 40 ounces.

The recipe serves six.


For the Sandwich
4 whole chicken legs, 10 to 12 ounces each
6 hamburger buns

For the Sauce
2 cups apple cider 
1/2 cup ketchup
tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Rub
teaspoons paprika
teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the Slaw
4 cups shredded coleslaw blend 
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 tablespoons cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon granulated sugar 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F). 
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the apple cider to a boil and boil until it has reduced to 3/4 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and continue simmering the sauce until it is slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine the rub ingredients. Stir in the oil to make a wet rub. Brush the chicken legs evenly on both sides with the wet rub. Allow the chicken legs to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before grilling. 
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the slaw ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
  5. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chicken legs over indirect medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink at the bone, 50 minutes to 1 hour, turning once. Remove the chicken legs from the grill, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Toast the buns, cut side down, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, for about 1 minute.
  6. Using two forks or your fingers, pull the chicken apart into shreds. Add the chicken to the saucepan with the sauce and heat over medium heat until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Pile the chicken on the buns and top with coleslaw. Serve.

Pairing: If you are a white wine lover, pair these sandwiches with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If you like your wine red, choose a fruity Zinfandel. But my first choice with a BBQ sandwich like this would be an ice-cold Pilsner.