Tag Archives: pesto

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

I hardly ever make appetizers since I don’t entertain much and I just don’t think to make appetizers for everyday meals. But when the opportunity presents itself, I love to make little bites of deliciousness. I made these little tomato bites last time I hosted my book club. So simple, so yummy. They didn’t last long!

Obviously making these at the height of summer when the tomatoes and basil are ripe in the garden is the optimal situation. But luckily, cherry tomatoes and basil are available in the store year round and even in the winter, the cherry tomatoes are pretty tasty! I make my own pesto, but any store-bought variety would work as well in a pinch.

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Basil pesto (click here for my recipe or you can use whatever pesto floats your boat)
Cherry tomatoes

Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the tomato guts and discard them. Spoon or pipe in pesto (a ziplock bag with the corner cut off works great for this if you don’t have a piping bag).

And that’s it! You can chill these or leave at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers if you have any.


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Pesto Potatoes with Poached Eggs & Spinach

Any meal that is centered around potatoes is going to be a winner in my book. There is no better way to get me to eat a whole bunch of spinach than to pile some wonderful potatoes on top of it.

I’ve been known to make this particular meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner (sometimes more than once in a day if I have leftovers). Not only that but the potatoes used in this regularly show up as a side dish for dinner or breakfast as well.  Now that summer is approaching, I already have one pot of basil growing with more to join it soon, which means pesto in my fridge ALL SUMMER LONG!

If you have your favorite pesto recipe or store brand, feel free to use that. For my fresh basil pesto, click here. Or for something slightly different, try my recipe for hazelnut pesto.

Pesto Potato Masterpiece!

Pesto Potato Masterpiece!

Pesto Potatoes with Poached Eggs & Spinach
(Serves 2-3)

2-3 cups red potatoes, quartered
2-3 tbsp. basil pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
Eggs (1-2 per person)
3 cups spinach
Handful of kalamata olives, pitted

For sauce:
1 tbsp. mayonnaise (or olive oil if you don’t like it creamy)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. pesto

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook about 10 minutes until fork tender (but not mushy). Drain potatoes. In a bowl, whisk together 2-3 tbsp. pesto, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt & pepper. Add potatoes and toss to coat.

Divide spinach between two plates.




Top with potatoes.

Then potatoes. Mmm.

Then potatoes. Mmm.

Bring a small pan of water with 1/2 tsp. of vinegar to a boil. Gently break eggs into the pan (1-2 per person). Turn heat down to simmer. Cook 3 minutes until whites are set. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay on top of potatoes.

Perfectly poached eggs on top. If you prefer your eggs a different way, do your own thing here.

Perfectly poached eggs on top. If you prefer your eggs a different way, do your own thing here.

Mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Scatter a few olives on top of the eggs & potatoes. Drizzle everything with sauce, add a grind or two of fresh pepper and eat!

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Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Heirloom tomatoes are pretty cool.  All sorts of varieties that you never see in the store.  Normally I only find them at farmer’s markets and they are just about irresistible.  But this time I spied some heirloom cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe’s and just had to snatch them up.  What didn’t go directly into my mouth ended up in this delicious pasta dish.

I make about a million versions of this particular dish depending on what’s in season and what’s in my fridge at any given moment.  This version included a double bump of basil since I had leftover pesto I had made a day or two before and then I also threw in some freshly picked pesto leaves from my garden as well.  The veggies are barely cooked, just warmed really to release the juices and get warm.  It’s absolutely bursting with summer flavors.

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes (or the regular ones will do), halved
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup basil pesto (click here for my recipe or use your favorite)
2-3 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes or strips
Handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
1 pound pasta (I really like some sort of corkscrew shape for this to catch all the little yummy bits)

Get everything chopped before you start cooking, because this all comes together very quickly.

All ready to meet their destiny!  Love the pretty colors.

All ready to meet their destiny! Love the pretty colors.

Boil pasta until tender.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook about a minute until fragrant but not browned.  Add onion and saute a bit until slightly tender.  When the pasta is just about done, add tomatoes, olives and pesto.  Cook and stir just a couple of minutes to heat through.  I prefer the veggies barely cooked so they still have that garden fresh flavor.  Toss in some fresh basil, mozzarella and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Drain pasta and add to pan with veggies and cheese.  Toss to combine and serve immediately.  Top with a sprinkle of parmesan if desired.

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Perfect Pesto

I’ve written entries that involve pesto before, but I don’t think I’ve ever done one JUST for pesto.  But I just made a fresh batch and thought it was blog-worthy all by its lonesome.

Maybe you’ve bought pesto at the store.  If you have you know it can be a little on the spendy side, and sometimes it’s not that wonderful either.  Much more economical to make it yourself, and you can’t beat the taste.

Welcome to my basil patch. I’m normally a pretty lousy gardner, but halfway through summer these are looking pretty great, huh?  Although I kill many plants, I usually do well with basil.  Here I have purple basil, Thai basil, and sweet Italian basil (probably your most common variety).

My basil patch.  Pay no attention to the accompanying weed patch.

My basil patch. Pay no attention to the accompanying weed patch.

I bought my basil plants for $2.50 each at farmer’s market, but you can find them all over the place this time of year. If you keep pinching the little flowers off the tops, they will keep growing for most of the summer, especially if you harvest fairly frequently.  I’m about ready to chop another bunch off of these.

I keep the other ingredients for pesto on hand most of the time, so whipping up a batch is super fast, which is good because I love this stuff.  Sandwich spread, pizza topping, tossed with pasta, spread over fish or chicken, mixed into salad dressing, beaten into scrambled eggs…it’s delicious just about any way you can think to eat it.

Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves (remove any large stems)
2-3 tbsp. walnuts
2-3 tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper
Olive oil (around 1/2 cup)

Put all ingredients except oil into a food processor.

All ready to whirl up.

All ready to whirl up.

Pulse until ingredients are finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated.  (Pulsing instead of puréeing is better since it doesn’t mangle the basil as much, which will result in brighter pesto color!) Drizzle olive oil in a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency you like.  I prefer it to be spreadable, but not soupy.  Taste for seasoning, add salt & pepper if needed.

Be sure to add the oil slowly so it can incorporate as it blends.  That way you can really control the thickness.

Be sure to add the oil slowly so it can incorporate as it blends. That way you can really control the thickness.

Store in an airtight container with a lid.  After putting the pesto in the container, drizzle with a layer of olive oil or cover with plastic wrap (set right on top of the pesto).  This will help keep it from turning brown.  It will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  It also freezes well.  I usually store mine in smallish containers so I can have one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer to dole out as needed.

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Roasted Beet and Pear Salad

I have been absolutely loving farmer’s market this year!  This week I bought red and golden beets, blueberries, pears and goat cheese.  Since I couldn’t decide what to eat first, I decided to throw it all together into a yummy salad, perfect for a warm summer evening.

My first big bunch of basil was ready to harvest so I whipped up a batch of pesto this week.  It made the perfect vinaigrette to complement a summery salad. Along with the goat cheese and walnuts, it balances the flavors and keeps it all from being too sweet.

Roasted Beet and Pear Salad

Roasted Beet and Pear Salad

Roasted Beet and Pear Salad

*Note: adjust the quantities of the ingredients for your own tastes.  I used one pear and 2-3 beets for each salad.

Beets – red or golden or a mixture of both
Pears, peeled and sliced
Goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Scrub beets and place on a roasting pan.  Roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender (this will depend on the size of your beets, check them after 20).  Peel and slice beets.  Layer beets and pears.  Sprinkle blueberries, walnuts and goat cheese over the top of the salad.  Serve with pesto vinaigrette (see below).

Pesto Vinaigrette:

1 tbsp. basil pesto
2 tbsp. minced red onion
2-3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper

Whisk together all ingredients.

Pesto Vinaigrette.  Drizzle over the top of the salad (or on anything!) or serve on the side.

Pesto Vinaigrette. Drizzle over the top of the salad (or on anything!) or serve on the side.

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Cherry Tomato & Pesto Pasta

Popping a cherry tomato in my mouth instantly transports me to a perfect childhood moment.  I close my eyes, revel in the bright, sunny taste and the lovely “pop” of the tomato bursting in my mouth and for a split second, I’m a kid again, standing in the sunshine, raiding somebody’s cherry tomato plant while their back is turned.

I am an ungifted gardener to say the least, but I always plant a cherry tomato plant, just to have a few moments like these throughout my summer.  I also always plant basil, since it’s the one thing I actually have had consistent success with.  Not to mention, pesto is just about the most perfect condiment for well…anything.

I have discovered through my farmer’s market travels this summer that while the early bird may get the best choices, the fat, lazy bird who likes to sleep in gets the best prices.  I scored two overflowing pints of cherry tomatoes last week for less than half of what I would have paid in the grocery store.  On the ripe side, these babies needed to be used right away, so into my pasta they flew.  Add some freshly made pesto and there was magic.  Tasty, tasty magic.

Cherry Tomato & Pesto Pasta

1 pkg. pasta
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half and divided
1/2 cup – or more – pesto (see below for my recipe or use your favorite)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan for the top (optional)

Cook pasta until tender, but still firm to the bite.  Prep all of your ingredients ahead of time because this dish comes together very quickly.

All ingredients prepped and ready to go. Beautiful!

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and about half of the tomatoes to the pan.  Cook one or two minutes.  Add pesto and continue to cook another minute or two.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan.  Add the rest of the tomatoes and the mozzarella.  Toss well to combine.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper if needed. Serve immediately and top with parmesan cheese if desired.

Basil & Walnut Pesto

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt & pepper
Handful of walnuts (or any other nut you like)
1/4 cup of fresh parmesan
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for oil in a food processor or blender.

Loading up the food processor to make pesto.

Whirl it up until finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice.  Add olive oil in a slow stream until the pesto is the consistency you like.  You can adjust this to your preference.  It can be coarsely chopped or a fine puree, it can be thicker or thinner, whatever you like best.  For my pasta recipe I wanted it a little chunkier; for a spread on a sandwich, I would probably blend it a little more.  Any leftovers can be stored in a sealed container for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or frozen.  Drizzle with olive oil to keep it from turning brown.

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Brunch Is Dinner

Everybody likes brunch.  I love brunch.  The only thing I don’t like about brunch is that it’s so late in the morning you’re starving from skipping breakfast.  My solution?  I just eat brunch for dinner.  Because brunch food is great, but waiting for it is not so great, in my opinion.

My favorite brunch food, hands down, is Eggs Benedict.  But I’ve been doing Weight Watchers lately, and it turns out Hollandaise sauce is evil.  That’s probably why it’s so incredibly good.  But it’s also why I rarely indulge in that heavenly substance these days.  Instead I have a couple tasty alternatives.  One of my favorites is a quickie pesto sauce.  As far as being healthy, it’s not too bad, somewhere in between Hollandaise and no sauce.  With this dish, you’re eliminating the bread, which I think gives you leeway for sauce.  And I’d trade bread for sauce any day.  By the way, if you love bread, or want to make the dish a little more hearty, you can go ahead and put a piece of toast underneath this.

If you go to a culinary class or watch videos of how to poach an egg, they use a big pot, and vinegar and slotted spoons.  I don’t do it that way.  For one thing, I don’t like washing big pots.  For another, I’m lazy.  I want to cook everything in one pan if possible.  I prefer to use a skillet, and a small amount of water, and I think it works great.  Is it technically poaching?  Maybe, I don’t really know.  Does it matter?  Not to me.

Eggs Asparagus with Pesto Sauce

Eggs Asparagus with Pesto Sauce

2 eggs
8-10 stalks of asparagus (or as much as you feel like eating)
1 tsp. pesto
1 tsp. mayonnaise
1 wedge of lemon
Salt & pepper

In a medium skillet, add 1/4 – 1/2 inch of water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Add asparagus and eggs.  Don’t worry if they aren’t completely submerged.  Immediately turn heat down to medium and cover with a lid.  Set your timer for 3 minutes.  If you like your eggs more done in the middle you may want to cook a bit longer, but this is usually about perfect for a slightly yolky middle.

You can put these in separate pans if you want, but I don’t like to wash dishes, so this works just fine for me.

While the eggs and asparagus cook, in a small bowl mix pesto and mayonnaise.  Squeeze the wedge of lemon into the mixture, add a bit of salt and pepper and mix well.  With tongs, remove asparagus from pan and drain on paper towels.  Transfer to a plate.  Use a slotted spatula to gently remove eggs and lay on top of the asparagus.  Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Eat!

WW Points – 6 / Calories – 237

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The Cure For What Ails You

Rough day?  Head Cold?  Bad mood?  Bad weather?  Obviously, you need some chicken soup.  According to my grandma and old wives everywhere, it will cure what ails you.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that when I’m not feeling well, or when it’s rainy outside I like to eat chicken soup and it makes me feel better. Of course, it’s also pretty tasty when you’re feeling just fine.

I usually start with a pretty basic chicken soup recipe, and then I tend to play with it.  Sometimes I go a little Italian, with tomatoes and herbs, sometimes it’s more of a Thai theme, with coconut milk and chiles.  For today, I wanted simple, but rich and creamy.  And that’s just what I got.

Creamy Pesto Chicken Noodle Soup

Creamy Pesto Chicken Noodle Soup

2 chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced or chopped carrots
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 oz. small shaped pasta, like shells
1/3 cup basil pesto
3/4 cup heavy cream

Combine chicken broth, chicken breasts, onion, celery, bay leaf and carrots in a soup pot and bring to a boil.   Reduce heat to a barely boil and cook for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.  Remove chicken and let it cool a bit, then shred by pulling it apart with two forks.  Add salt & pepper and shredded chicken to pot and bring soup back to a boil.  Add pasta.  Cook 5 minutes.  Stir in pesto and cream and cook another 5-10 minutes until pasta is tender.  Taste for seasoning; adjust salt & pepper if needed.  Makes 6-8 servings.

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Pesto Spaghetti

If you’ve eaten dinner at my house a few times, chances are good you’ve been fed Pesto Spaghetti.  It’s one of my favorite recipes and I’ve been making it for years and years.  A friend taught me her version of this during my college days, back before I knew what pesto was, and it’s evolved ever since.  I love making it for company because it’s quick to throw together and requires very little time in the kitchen so I actually get to visit with my guests instead of cooking the whole time.  It’s also mindless enough that I can visit while I’m cooking and not risk screwing it up.

This is one of the most versatile pasta dishes I make.  You can use any kind of pesto, fresh or packaged, you can use any fresh veggies, or substitute frozen veggies if that’s more convenient.  You can make it with meat or no meat.  You can use any kind of noodle.  And it is wonderful left over the next day.  I’ve even used the leftovers as a base for a frittata the next morning.

A big bunch of fresh asparagus and some baby sweet peppers worked beautifully in this.  I still had Hazelnut Pesto left from a recipe I made last week so I used that as well and it was absolutely lovely.

Pesto Spaghetti

Pesto Spaghetti

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional – leave out if you don’t like the extra heat)
1 bunch of fresh asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped red or orange bell peppers
1/2 cup or more of basil pesto
1 can (15 oz.) of diced tomatoes with juice
1 package of thin spaghetti (or any other pasta)
Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup to mix in and more for sprinkling on top)
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about a minute.  Add chopped veggies.  Stir and cook for about a minute.  Add pesto and tomatoes and stir to combine.  Turn down heat a bit and cook until pasta is done, stirring occasionally.  Drain pasta and add to pan.  Add 1/2 cup parmesan and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with additional parmesan to sprinkle on top.

Close up of Noodle-icious Pesto Spaghetti


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Project Veggie: Day 22 – Steelhead with Hazelnut Pesto and Lemon Potatoes

I love hazelnuts.  When I lived in the midwest I could never find them, and it was always a treat to come home to Oregon, where they are available everywhere.  Turns out in the U.S. they are only grown in Washington and Oregon, so that explains that mystery.

Pesto is one of my favorite condiments.  Basil is one of the only things I can grow well, so in the summer I grow a lot of it and fill my freezer with pesto for the winter.  Sadly, last summer was a little (a lot!) rainy here and my basil crop was too wimpy to get me through to summertime.  So I bought some yesterday so I could make pesto.  Which just gave me the opportunity to change it up a bit and see how it tasted with roasted hazelnuts.  Mmmmm.

I was in the mood for salmon.  We hadn’t had fish all week and it sounded good.  At the fish counter the salmon looked a little sad, but next to it…lovely fresh steelhead was calling out to me, and it was on sale too!  Steelhead always reminds me of salmon.  It looks a lot alike, cooks up the same way, and tastes sort of similar too, but steelhead is actually a kind of trout.  In any case, I’ve made this recipe with both fish and it’s terrific either way.

My name is April, and I’m a potatoholic. I know I’ve said this before but this is one of the best potato recipes EVER!  I always make a big batch of lemon potatoes because they are so good left over the next day, either by themselves, or scrambled with eggs, or mixed with a little mayo for a potato salad.  And they go perfectly with fish.  Or anything else for that matter.

Broiled Steelhead with Hazelnut Pesto

Broiled Steelhead with Hazelnut Pesto

1 pound steelhead (or salmon) fillet
1/2 cup basil pesto (see below for hazelnut pesto recipe or you can use store bought pesto)
salt & pepper
lemon slices
olive oil

Heat broiler on oven.  Mash pesto on top of the fish, spreading over the entire top surface of the filet.  Sprinkle with sea salt & fresh ground pepper.  Top with lemon slices and a drizzle of olive oil.   Put under the broiler for 10-12 minutes, until fish easily pulls apart with a fork in the middle.

Hazelnut Pesto

Hazelnut Pesto

1 big bunch fresh basil (I used about 2 cups)
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup fresh parmesan
salt & pepper
4 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whirl everything up in a food processor except olive oil.  Scrape down the sides.  Drizzle olive oil in with the motor running until it’s the consistency you prefer.

Lemon Potatoes - Yum!!!

Lemon Potatoes
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant, Simple Suppers)

1-2 pounds red or yukon gold potatoes, cut into 4 or 6 pieces
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
Salt & pepper
1-2 tbsp. capers
1/4 cup chopped black olives (optional)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add the potatoes.  Cook 10-15 minutes until fork tender.  Meanwhile, zest and juice lemon into a large bowl.  Add capers and olives if using.  Drain potatoes and add to bowl.  Add sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Toss to combine all ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

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