Pesto needs no introduction in any Mediterranean kitchen. It is definitely a staple in my pantry as it is so easy to whip up a quick meal when you in a hurry.
I usually grow basil in a pot just so I could place it in my bay window and have it be easy to access while cooking. I find that it would get root bound too fast this way and start turning yellow in a matter of weeks, so this year I decided to grow them in between my rose bushes and let them grow freely. And wow, did they like this so much more!!
There are many ways to make pesto…with cheese, without cheese, with pine nuts or walnuts, with basil or parsley…so use whatever you have and adjust or substitute to your taste.
2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine the basil and the pine nuts and pulse a few times in a food processor.
Add the garlic and cheese and pulse a few times more.
Slowly add the olive oil in constant stream while the processor is on. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with pasta, baked potato or spread on your favourite sandwich.
This year I went a little bit crazy buying tomato plants. Over the past few years I’ve tried planting eggplants and I’ve tried zucchini and cucumbers…but always had a measly return for my efforts making me feel like a green failure. Tomatoes on the other hand, grow like a weed and produce exceptional fruit! So this year, I filled every bit of soil with Early Girl tomato plants and a couple of cherry tomato plants.
And now…a few months later, I have tomatoes coming out of my ears, and have been trying out numerous recipes to use them. So far I’ve canned whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. I’ve tried tomato jam with great results. And of course I’ve had hobz biz-zejt u t-tadam (bread with tomatoes and olive oil)…which is my ultimate favourite summer food!!
Then last week, my friend Terrie whom I have known since our school days, posted photos of her oven dried tomatoes and I could not stop drooling!! So here it is…all the way from Holland…Terrie’s Oven Dried Tomato recipe.
Like every maltese cook, Terrie’s recipe went something like this…
“Bit of this and a pinch of that”
You get the picture…so I’m going to try my best and give you the quantities, but please feel free to add or omit and adjust to your heart’s content.
3 lbs tomatoes cut in half and deseeded salt
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil 2-3 cloves garlic 1 tbsp fresh basil 1 tsp mint 1 tsp fresh thyme 1 tsp oregano salt and pepper
enough oil to pack the tomatoes
Cut the tomatoes in half and deseed. Sprinkle some salt on each half and place them face down on paper towels in a dish and leave them there for about half an hour to absorb some of the juices.
In the meantime, mince the garlic and place in a small bowl along with the rest of the chopped up herbs and salt and pepper.
Quarter the tomatoes and brush them with oil mixture. Place in a prepared dish about half an inch apart. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Bake in 250 degree oven for about 3-4 hours depending on your oven. Mine took longer so keep checking them until they’re done.
Let cool and place in sterilised jar. Pour enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Store in refrigerator.
After ten years of moving from one rental house to another, we finally stopped kidding ourselves that we would ever go back to live in Europe…not to England…not to Malta…or to the South of France which is still one of Kevin’s many dreams! We were only supposed to come to the States on a working visa for one year…and every year after that, every June to be exact, Kevin and I would sit down and go through the pros and cons of staying in the US or going back “home” wherever that was.
So in June of 2004, the week before we were set to leave the US, our dear friends Jane and Richard, and Gina and Tom, threw us a Bon Voyage Party. We had already packed everything and told our landlord we were leaving. Kevin had handed in his resignation, and both kids’ schools were notified. But best of all, we had four one way tickets to England.
As we’re sadly saying goodbye to all our friends at our Bon Voyage Party, one friend walked over to Kevin and me and whispered a few magical words in our ears that I will never forget…
“You know you can still get a refund on your tickets right?”…
Kevin and I just looked at each other and without even uttering another word, knew that that was exactly what we had to do! I still don’t know, even to this day, if Michelle has any idea how her words changed the course of our lives. Could’ve been the beer, could’ve been the wine…but the clouds lifted as did our hearts. At that point, we realised that we only had a week in our lease left and had to find a new house to live…and the big question was…do we rent yet again, or do we buy? Luckily we already had everything packed so all we had to do was find a house.
By now I was done with rentals and wanted to feel like we belonged and maybe some space to plant a rose bush or two. And that is when Kevin promised me a Rose Garden which he delivered most graciously.
And this recipe was born! I’ve been making it since we moved to this house and every year right about now, when we get our first burst of roses, I go and pick the freshest and most beautiful blooms on the bush.
Before you start, make sure you have all the ingredients ready to use. Clean and sterilize your jars and have them ready close by. Choose your most fragrant and vibrant rose petals you can find in your garden, this way you’ll end up with the tastiest and most gorgeous coloured jam.
This jam will yield about 3 small jars
Rose Petal Jam
1 cup fresh rose petals (must not have been sprayed with any chemicals)
3/4 cup water
juice of one lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 package powder pectin
3/4 cups water
Puree rose petals, 3/4 cup water and lemon juice in a blender until smooth.
Slowly add sugar.
Blend until all sugar has dissolved.
Leave in Blender.
Stir one package pectin into 3/4 cup water.
Bring to a boil and boil hard for one minute.
Pour mixture into the blender that contains the rose petal mixture until well blended.
Do this very quickly as it sets up really fast.
Pour into prepared jars. Let set six hours until firm.
Will keep one month in the refrigerator, but I’ve kept mine much longer with no problems.
This jam with scones and some clotted cream is a match made in heaven and guaranteed to make any mother happy on Mother’s Day!
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much blossom in my garden. When we first moved into this house, I knew close to nothing about gardening and I hope that now, eight years later, I’ve learned to at least recognise weed from plants. After living in apartments and town homes for such a long time, I was so excited to have my own garden, that I could not wait to dig in and dig out what I did not like.
No I did not listen to Kevin when he urged me not to touch anything for a whole year and to just to see what the garden had to offer. Instead, I got my nice shiny new shovel and started digging out multiple agapanthus plants which I really disliked and threw them out!
Lucky for me, that day my friend Kalpana came by to visit and saw my huge clump of green waste ready for Friday’s Pick Up and asked me why I was getting rid of so many Amaryllis!! Aaaagh…what…amaryllis?? What had I done? I LOVE AMARYLLIS!! So I frantically went head first in the garden bin and picked up and replanted each and every one like the garden fool that I was. That was my first lesson in gardening. Listen to Kevin!
Oh apple tree!! The first year you gave us an abundance of the most delicious apples I’d ever tasted. I had no idea how to take care of you though. In my eyes, it looked like you needed a good prune so I grabbed my clippers and prune I did!! I pruned you so hard that you didn’t give us any apples for the next FOUR years!!
Oh baby fig tree…I wanted to espalier you like I see at the garden centres. How hard could that be? My lovely husband even built me a sturdy frame to train you against the fence but I pulled so hard at those delicate limbs of yours that they snapped right into my hands. So now you have been retrained into a standard tree and I must say you look very straight and proud, no thanks to me. I’m still waiting for that first fig though but I think you might be punishing me for being so mean to you.
Oh grapevine! How many times did I threaten to dig you up because of the way you tend to vine and cling to everything that comes your way like something out of a horror movie. You have Kevin to thank for that you know and I have to say he was right not to give in to me because you give out the most delicious grapes ever. Even the birds think so.
So when I came out to the garden this morning, I was totally overjoyed to see so many blossoms. It feels like my garden has finally forgiven me!
Yes I made plenty of mistakes in my garden…and I still do occasionally but hopefully not as drastic. Luckily, trees are very hardy and laugh at people like me. They seem to have an endless supply of leaves and fruit…how awesome nature is!
Now that my baby hummingbirds are no more and I don’t have to tip toe around my lemon tree anymore, I have been thinking of ways that I can use up the numerous lemons it still has left on it.
Lemon Marmalade Truffles~Check
Lemon Olive Oil~Check
Endless Amounts of Lemonade~Check
I have a few lemon cake recipes that are a staple in my collection but I’m always on the look out for new ones that may come my way. So when my friend Karen graciously shared some of her lemon cake with me last week, my eyes lit up. And when she shared her recipe…well!! I then quickly picked some lemons and got started.
I was blown away with the tanginess and moistness of this cake. I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit…and I think if you like a strong lemon taste in cakes and baked goods, then you can’t go wrong with this one!
2oz sour cream
8oz self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
about half a cup of lemon juice (according to taste)
zest of one lemon
Cream butter, sour cream and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time.
Slowly add in flour, baking powder and salt. Then add lemon juice and zest of one lemon.
Butter and flour a pan of your choice and pour the batter in the pan. You can make into cupcakes or use a Bundt pan. I divided my batter into three five inch cake pans.
Place in a cold oven. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for one hour if putting in a Bundt pan. Check after 45 mins. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a cake platter.
juice of a lemon
In a small bowl, combine the juice of one lemon and ½ cup sugar.
While still warm, drizzle the cake with the lemon glaze and let cool.
Kevin just reminded me that the best way to use meyer lemons is squeezed into a glass of gin…Cin Cin Kevin!!
And since we’re on the subject of Anniversaries and Weddings and all that mushy stuff, I thought I’d share with you our Wedding Song. Never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Very Special Time and Very Special Memories! To 20 Wonderful Years!
Oh potato gnocchi!! You don’t bring me the good memory that you should…but it is a memory…and kind of funny too although it didn’t seem to be at the time!
Kevin and I had just gotten married and moved in Mr Daniel’s flat where we just had the essentials…couple of pots and pans, a kettle, two plates and two mugs! It was all we needed. We ate out the first few nights…but then I wanted to show my new husband what I could do.
I remembered an Italian friend had made these delicious gnocchi for a group of us once. He was like the maestro on one side ofthe table, with a bunch of girls surrounding him, watching him orchestrate this magnificent dish. It looked so easy…but then so does gymnastics and ice skating.
So that was it…that’s what I’d make for our first dinner I thought, as I set about this joyful task! I worked and slaved all day long in the kitchen while my new husband was slaving away at his job. And then the moment of truth! I boiled the gnocchi I’d made, but no amount of sauce could hide the mess underneath! I was in tears!
My lovely husband sat down and got ready for his meal and just like the trooper he’s always been and still is, he put that first bite in his mouth and with a smile told me how good it was!! He never did make it to the second bite though because I snatched it from his hand, and took the plate from the table and with a whoosh, and a few sobs, they ended down the toilet! He still does not know what he had said to get that reaction from me and still insists to this day, that they were jolly good gnocchi…but wouldn’t you say that to your new wife?
So it’s been 20 yrs since that fateful day!! I never made them again and still get the shivers when I hear the word GNOCCHI!! But since I have a blog, and since it’s our 20th Wedding Anniversary today, I think it’s about time I gave it another go, this time with the help of foodnetwork.
1 pound russet potatoes (two medium sized potatoes)
3 to 4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon gray salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven 425 degrees. Bake the potatoes for about 45 mins.
When cool enough to handle, take off the skins and grate the potatoes in a bowl. You should have about two cups.
Add the rest of the ingredients and form into a ball. Let rest for half an hour.
Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. Roll each piece into a ball.
Using the back of a grater, roll each piece down the back. This creates a rough surface for the sauce to cling to. Do this with each piece. Place on a well floured (or well sprinkled with semolina).
At this point you can freeze them.
Or if you want to cook on the same day, you need to let dry for about half an hour under a fan. Turn each one and let dry for another half an hour.
When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and serve as desired.
Delicious with tomato sauce and I’m sure it’s just as nice with just butter and cheese and some herbs of your liking.
This time, I must say, the gnocchi got two thumbs up. Not just from Kevin…but also from me:) I wish I hadn’t waited 20 years to try these again. I will sure not wait another 20!! Happy Anniversary my qalbi…here’s to many many more!! Love you with all my heart!
Went to check on Peter and Paul today and found the nest on the floor. I’d like to think that they flew away on their own but I doubt they were old enough. So here are the last photos from the last couple of days.