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[Recipe] Poor (Wo)Man’s Pesto

14 May

My boyfriend has a few things in his life he loves immensely. The first is soccer – playing, watching, discussing – he lives the sport. He loves soccer so much that he agreed to play back-to-back games on a Saturday morning, with the first game starting at the ungodly weekend hour of 8 AM.

The second is pesto. He eats just about everything and in large quantities (case in point: he managed to polish off a 4-pound container of strawberries in just over 24 hours last weekend), but nothing quite gets his heart palpitating like that delicious, basil-green sauce.

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Being the youngest child of an Italian mama, he’s had his fair share of quality Italian food and pesto is no exception. This makes him a bit of a snob and he turns his nose up at any jarred/store-bought varieties of the stuff, declaring it decidedly inferior to the freshly ground sauce made at home, particularly with basil leaves that had been plucked from the plant just moments before.

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We usually make pesto in large batches and freeze it in small Tupperwares for easy access to pesto pasta or pesto cream sauce. We make quite a bit of it, but the last time it happened was at the end of August, so he’s had to go without for a few months now and it was quickly becoming unacceptable.

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After a trip to Costco led us down the nut aisle, he put his foot down and declared that we would spend the rest of the afternoon making pesto. Having no other plans, I agreed and picked up the requisite 5-pound bag of walnuts, but not before contemplating the pignoli sitting just adjacent.

You see, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to food. I am of the opinion that you shouldn’t try to “fake” a recipe and I would much rather plan my daily eats knowing full well that I’ll be indulging in full-fat, dairy ice cream rather than processing a frozen banana and pretending it’s the real thing. I have no problem with people making protein “frosting” or pseudo-cupcakes, but please don’t flood my Instagram saying it “tastes just like the real thing!”

It doesn’t.

But I digress; my original point is that I like to make food the way it’s meant to be made, particularly with Italian cuisine because they are notorious (along with the French) for cooking things just so because that is how it has always been.

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Pesto comes from the Italian region of Liguria, specifically Genova, home of a certain Cristoforo Colombo. The name comes from the Italian word pestare, which means ‘to pound or crush’ in the remote past conjugation (nerd alert). An official recipe for the paste that originated with the ancient Romans was first published in 1863 in  a book titled, La Cuciniera Genovese  by Giovanni Battista Ratto and if you go to the south of France, you’ll find a similar recipe for pistou, though they don’t use nuts.

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The traditionally accepted way to make pesto is using a marble mortar with a wooden pestle (pestle/pesto – get it?). First, garlic and pine nuts are placed in the mortar and reduced to a cream, then basil leaves are added and ground until creamy. The cheese is added at the very end, with some extra-virgin olive oil to help it along the way.

And it is for this reason that I always feel a twinge of guilt when Stefano and I have our pesto parties.

Stefano grating away

Stefano grating away

I am a fake.

That is, my pesto is decidedly not how it is supposed to be made.

Granted, my only real flaw is that I replace pine nuts with walnuts and parmigiano-reggiano with pecorino romano, but they are crucial ingredients and any Italian I know would be insulted that I dare call my impostor sauce ‘pesto’.

Not a mortar and pestle.

Not a mortar and pestle.

However, my dietary choices are dictated more by my bank account than Italian gourmands, so I will have to live with myself knowing that I am a gastronomic phony, a culinary charlatan.

Be that as it may, I will share with you my recipe for Poor (Wo)Man’s Pesto Sauce in the hopes that you can save a few dollars and enjoy this with a bit more piece of mind than I can.

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Poor (Wo)Man’s Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (tightly packed, around 2-3 oz.) fresh basil (if you really wanted to break tradition, you could substitute a peppery arugula *wince*, but whatever you do, don’t use dried basil)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (spring for extra-virgin)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled

Directions:

  1. I always start by sticking the garlic in the food processor and giving it a few pulses, so it gets minced and then adding the nuts to get those chopped up, as well.
  2. Add the basil and get that mixed in before adding the olive oil.
  3. Add the olive oil in a consistent stream as the food processor is going. This ensures that you get a nice, smooth product at the end.
  4. After the mixture is well combined, add the cheese at the very end.
  5. Eat immediately or store in Tupperware in the freezer to use at a later date. I like to add a thin layer of olive oil on top to keep the pesto from turning a brown color. Pro-tip: Freeze pesto in an ice cube tray for easy to use portions!

You can make extra and freeze it in an ice cube tray and then you have individual portions of pesto!

If you’re curious, here is the “official” pesto recipe, as decided by the Genova Pesto World Championships.

Cursed

18 Mar

Okay guys, I know I was joking around on Friday when I joked about the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA race going better for Stef than his last one did…but I think I jinxed it.

After a nice relaxed evening of Trader Joe’s shopping and watching Flight (pretty decent movie, actually), we headed off to bed so we wouldn’t be too exhausted for the 5:30 AM wake-up call.

3:15 AM: Sara wakes up to strange noises coming from the bathrom; realizes Stefano is not in the room.

3:16 AM: Sara goes into bathroom to discover Stefano huddled over toilet, post-vomit.

3:20 AM: Sara and Stefano go back to sleep.

Repeat for hours 4, 5, and 6.

After the final flush of the night morning, it was decided that the chances of Stefano making it to the starting line were slim to none. He finally went back to bed and remained there for the rest of the day. His big move was dragging himself over to the couch to watch Rivalry Weekend for MLS soccer on TV.

Another Rock ‘n’ Roll race gone and Stefano has the t-shirts but not the medals to show for it. Poor guy has the worst luck.

It sounds like it was bunches of fun though, many congratulations to all my fellow bloggers who raced! 13.1 miles is no joke.

After playing nurse for the day, I left Stef parked on the couch with some hot water with lemon and honey and met up with my roommates to go to the FBI vs. Secret Service hockey game.

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Though we showed up right before the game started, we were able to snag seats up front with a really good view of the game. My only knowledge of hockey involves fistfights and time-out boxes so I was eager to see what a real game looked like.

IMG_2236[1]Turns out FBI and S.S. men/women are all about the fights and time-out boxes, too, so they did little to change my opinion of the sport. I think the refs were calling it tighter than usual, but there weren’t any neat brawls where helmets were thrown off and teeth went missing.

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It was fun to watch, though. The FBI ended up losing to the Secret Service 3-6, but everybody was pretty good natured about the whole thing.

IMG_2237[1]I made it back to Stef’s just in time to watch the Sounders play the Portland Timbers – I can’t believe we blew a goal in the last few minutes of the game. Our team is looking pretty solid though, I’m expecting quite a few W’s this season.

Okay folks, it’s getting to be late over here and my alarm is set for an early morning yoga class, so it’s time to hustle my butt to bed. This week I’m recap-ing my time at the NBC Health and Fitness Expo and the amazing night at the Embassy Chef Challenge (I’m still fantasizing about the food!).

How was everybody’s weekend? Is it looking like spring in your neck of the woods yet? It snowed in D.C. today, so I’m gonna go with a big fat ‘NO’ over here.

Have a wonderful night and I’ll catch up with you tomorrow!

xox,

S

 

 

Last Day of WOL + Chocolate Covered Strawberries [recipe]

15 Feb

Good morning, world! It’s Friday and I am so grateful.

Stefano and I had a very nice, low-key Valentine’s day celebration, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

IMG_2040[1]We ended up having southwestern-style stuffed bell peppers (recipe next week) and a big ol’ salad.

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We exchanged cards and had some lovely conversation, but we were basically just waiting until we could get to these:

IMG_2042[1]I decided to try my hand at chocolate covered strawberries because I don’t think I’ve ever even had one and I know I’ve never made them. Luckily, it turned out to be pretty straightforward.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Makes 12 strawberries

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  • 1 dozen strawberries
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, doesn’t matter!)
  • Optional: shredded coconut or other toppings to sprinkle on.
  1. First I washed and dried the strawberries and laid them on a cookie sheet that was covered with parchment paper.
  2. I put a big pot of water on the stove, then made a make-shift double boiler by putting a glass bowl inside and turning the heat up to medium.
  3. After added the chocolate chips to the double boiler, I made sure to stir frequently and keep a close eye on the melting status. Pro-tip: Be sure not to get any water inside the bowl – it will totally ruin the consistency of the chocolate.
  4. As soon as the chocolate was melted through, I turned the heat down to low (make sure you don’t burn the chocolate) and started dipping away.
  5. After placing the chocolate-dipped strawberries on the tray, I sprinkled some shredded coconut on each strawberry (you want to do this while the chocolate is still hot so it will stick!).
  6. Once I finished dipping and topping the strawberries, I popped the whole tray in the fridge and sat down for dinner. By the time we had finished eating, the chocolate had hardened and those little babies were ready to eat!

This is such an easy yet indulgent treat and you can make as few or as many as you want – the recipe is totally flexible.

Since today is Friday, it is the last day of the Week of Love Challenge. Sad days! I was enjoying making the conscious decision to express my love to the people I care about. Today’s challenge is to remind us that we are all connected to each other and it is up to us to care for the people all around us. Therefore, I present to you the Random Act of Kindness Challenge!

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Can’t wait to hear about the wonderful RAKs you do today!

This weekend I have so many things to look forward to. Tonight is a birthday dinner for my friend Ellen at Ardeo Bardeo. I have been there for brunch before, but this will be my first time for dinner. Then on Saturday, I am going to bust a move or two at a Zumba party with Allison! The event is being put on by Vida, one of the gyms in DC and is taking place from 5-7 PM at the U Street Music Hall. DMV-ers, come join the party (and after party)! I’m sure I am going to look ridiculous, but it’s going to be amazing.

On Sunday I have to prepare for the arrival of a special guest. My friend Lars is visiting the US for the very first time from Germany and will be hanging out with me until Wednesday. I am so excited to show him around, but I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure I help give a good impression 🙂 I have plenty of day-time ideas, but if anybody from the area wants to recommend places to go/things to do in the evenings, I am totally open to suggestions.

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? Spill!

Wishing you the happiest of weekends – I love you guys!

WOL Day 4 + A Valentine’s Day Surprise

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m so happy to have all you dear readers in my life, so I want to send you all a huge hug and all my love. 

fbstefFacebook wanted to make sure I was sending my love, too. Has anyone noticed the massive increase in ads on that site recently? It’s getting a little crazy.

IMG_2033[1]Last night I came home to a Valentine’s Day surprise of my own. Somebody had sent me flowers! I was very confused, because I figured if Stef were going to do it then he would just bring them himself and save himself the shipping/delivery costs. However, when I opened up the box, I was so happy to see that they were from my lovely mother and had a very sweet note attached. I just adore her!

IMG_2035[1]They are a perfect way to brighten up the room and all the beautiful colors remind me that spring is just around the corner. Thank you, Mommy!

As you might remember from earlier this week, Valentine’s Day is my very favorite holiday. People go on and on about how you should express your love to the people you care about all year round and not on some designated holiday, but guess what? We’re all human and sometimes life gets in the way and it’s nice to have a reminder that we should appreciate our loved ones a little more. Just call me Sara Hallmark.

SO. Today is the big day, which means there is most definitely a Week of Love Challenge ready for everybody. This one is focused on your significant other, if you have one. If not, no matter! Make this one all about you, because you’re worth it.

WOLThursStefano doesn’t have work tomorrow, so we can actually have a celebration tonight. We don’t usually make a huge deal out of Valentine’s day, seeing as it directly follows Christmas and our anniversary and precedes Stefano’s birthday in March. Usually we’re all gifted out, so we either go out to dinner or stay in and make a nice dinner ourselves. This year will be the latter and I’m looking forward to actually sitting down and having a nice leisurely meal over some good conversation.

This will be our sixth Valentine’s day together and I still remember our very first one. We had only been together for about a month and I remember being extremely nervous – we were still at that stage where any silences were awkward and we were kind of uncomfortable being alone. Stef picked me up from my house and we drove downtown to a fabulous pizzeria (which has since closed). He was so excited to introduce me to “real Italian pizza”. Some of you may know this, but Stefano is half-Italian and has much of his extended family still living in Italy, making him a self-proclaimed pizza expert.

This was my first taste of thin-crusted, Italian pizza and also probably sparked my interest in all things Italian. The dinner itself was enjoyable, but the most memorable part of the evening was getting lost on our way back home. At one point, we were trying to get directions from his dad and he drove down a one-way street in the opposite direction. After nearly driving into an oncoming car and a brief panic attack, we laughed about it the whole way home. It was at that moment I realized that talking to him was as easy as breathing and I had no reason to feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. Since then, silence in conversation is a rare occurrence between the two of us, but when it happens it is comforting rather than awkward.

Even before 2007, Valentine’s Day has always been my favorite. I think it started in elementary school when the day was all about making cards and sharing candy with my classmates. The good valentines were the ones with fun sized candy bars, we always threw away the cards that were just writing – no sweets included. It was so much fun to decorate my valentine “mailbox” and hunt through the fun cartoon cards I would receive. My favorites were the Disney princess-themed cards because I was all about Jasmine.

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I don’t remember ever feeling left out of the day because I didn’t have a boyfriend, because I never really considered the holiday a romantic one. My friends and I shared valentines and ate candy and sent each other flower-grams in high school, so it was all about celebrating love between friends and family.

If you don’t want to celebrate and hate the holiday in general, you could always take a page out of Jessica Biel’s book and throw an anti-Valentine’s Day party.

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I saw let’s spread the love and embrace the fact that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat candy for breakfast. Also, consider it a pre-celebration of how cheap chocolate will be tomorrow. Which is fine because chocolate is good for you, right?

Have a wonderful day, lots of love to you all!

Food for Thought: What are your thoughts on the big V-Day? Love it, hate it, or couldn’t care less?

Adventure in Old Town

15 Jan

For our anniversary, Stef and I wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t visited before. We were originally thinking about going to Mount Vernon and picnicking, but the weather really wasn’t so great for that. Instead, we decided to head over to Old Town Alexandria to do some walking around.

IMG_1845[1]Old Town Alexandria is the eastern/southeastern area of Alexandria on the Potomac river and is one of the last remaining “colonial-style” towns in America and there’s so much history to it! Not only did Robert E. Lee grow up there, there is also a church that used to be attended by him, as well as George Washington (not at the same time, obviously)!

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The market square in town is one of the oldest continuously operating markets in the U.S. – it has been in use since 1753. It used to serve as one of the largest slave markets in America, but now it’s home to the Saturday farmer’s market in town.

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The town itself is very quaint and has a very colonial feel. Having grown up on the West coast, this was all very new and exciting to me and makes me want to travel to Boston even more than I already did! Near the end of King Street (the main drag), there was a busker who was playing Bach with water glasses! It was incredible – he managed to get such rich tones from the glasses.

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Behind him was the stop for the Old Town Trolley – a free bus that goes up towards the King St. metro stop and then back down to the waterfront. We ended up walking all over town, but it was nice that complimentary transportation was available for people who needed it.

IMG_1850[1]We arrived in town around 1:30 and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Since he knows I turn into a majorly cranky girl when I’m hungry, Stef suggested that we grab some lunch before we started exploring in earnest. The restaurants in Old Town can be on the pricey side so, because we already had fancy dinner plans for the evening, we decided on a pretty simple lunch at a sports tavern called Bugsy’s. The restaurant is owned and operated by former NHL player Bryan Watson and his wife Lindy and the space is definitely set up for prime sports viewing.

I ordered the roasted veggie sandwich on focaccia bread and it came with roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms, Provolone cheese with tarragon mayonnaise. I asked them to hold the mayo because, for whatever reason, I can’t stand the taste/sight/smell of it.

IMG_1849[1]It came with a side of sliced Kalamata olives, which I wasn’t expecting, but I put them inside my sandwich and they added a nice, salty kick to it.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon walking all the way up King Street and then back down to our car. The street is so cute and I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful homes and storefronts.

IMG_1851[1]I was tempted to go into the candy store, but I refrained. I couldn’t stop myself from walking into the used bookstore, however. I ended up picking up Ask Me Why I Hurt, Ciao America, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and a James Patterson novel – all for $20! I don’t think I have ever left a used bookstore empty handed.

We had a great time walking through town, window shopping (mostly), and enjoying the change of scenery. We didn’t do any of the historical tours, though my inner Civil War buff is dying to see Robert E. Lee’s house, so we’ve saved that for another trip. Apparently, the town has a big parade and celebration in honor of George Washington’s birthday next month, so hopefully we can make it out there for the festivities.

Though we drove to Alexandria (it was a probably a 20-minute drive from DC), the town is Metro accessible, which makes it even more convenient for a fun day trip. It’s amazing how different the vibe is from DC, even though it is only a few miles away.

One of the things Stef and I are hoping to do during our time in DC is take advantage of its proximity to other cities and explore. Washington State (and the whole West coast, really) is so spread out that it is difficult to travel to other cities with ease. Because the East coast is so much more compact, I hope that means that some trips to Philadelphia, New York, and other places are on the horizon.

Speaking of Washington State, I woke up to some very Seattle weather this morning – lots of grey and mist. The weather hasn’t become too cold yet, though I’ve got my new jacket to keep me warm!

Stay dry and have a happy Tuesday, everybody.

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