Thursday, July 23, 2009

Georgia Terroir

I've been looking for a good (mostly) local alternative to traditional pesto. Inspiration came from the Moosewood Lowfat Cookbook which recommends using tomatoes as a substitute for Parmesan cheese and olive oil. The flavors of basil and tomato are naturally complementary and are naturally growing together right out there in my garden. I added pecans because they are so ubiquitous here in Georgia it's a bit ridiculous. The only time I ever saw a pecan in Minnesota was in the pie at Thanksgiving if we were lucky and went to the neighbors who had more decadant tastes. At the barn where George (the horse) lives, there is a large pecan orchard with trees yielding nuts the size of limes, and the odd twenty or so pecan trees just growing around the place. Pecans litter the ground in the fall. I'm thinking I might go into the business of pecan pressing and start a little cottage industry around pecan oil, which could also replace the olive oil in this recipe--the only thing that isn't local. If you really want to go completely local you could skip the oil. It isn't really necessary, but gives the pesto a luscious mouthfeel. I love the taste of Sun Gold tomatoes (who doesn't?) and think they have the best complementary taste to the peppery bittery bite of basil. Pecans are also sweet and have a delicious caramelized taste and fragrance when lightly toasted. So, this pesto is a bit non-traditional in taste, but heck, we aren't living in Italy. We're living in Georgia, so who cares if it tastes a little bit more like Georgia than Italy?

Sun Gold Pecan Pesto

Yields about 2 1/2 cups of pesto

3 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup Sun Gold tomatoes
3/4 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil (optional)

In a food processor, combine basil, tomatoes, garlic, pecans and salt and puree until smooth.

I regularly have this with sliced Cherokee Purple tomatoes and goat feta with some salad greens. It doesn't need much more than a grind of black pepper and some salt

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Butter Addendum

I made butter again this morning (while getting caffeinated). From my last experience, I learned to have something else to do while waiting for butter to happen. This time, I let the cream settle (maybe, rise?) for a couple days and was rewarded with *heavy* cream, which is lot easier to turn into butter. Duh. This time I also am going to let the buttermilk sour and at some point, maybe for supper, I am going to make blueberry buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberries, blueberry syrup and fresh whipped butter. Oh my god.

Braised Chicken with Thyme and Tomatoes

Two days ago, I had some extra thyme and some very ripe plum tomatoes. There had been a generous yield in the garden and the market take of tomatoes was exceptional last week. Also, now free from work obligations for 6 weeks (for the first time in several years)--I did what most folks would naturally do with some extra free thyme (oh yes, pun intended) on their hands--I cleaned my freezer. While excavating, I found some chicken legs and thighs in the back. Grass-fed chicken (because the bird actually gets some exercise) tends to be a bit chewier than that anemic corn fed stuff called chicken in the grocery store, so it takes a little different kind of treatment, like marinating it in yogurt, garlic and pepper. Normally, this treatment also infuses the already tasty bird with some delicious flavors. I didn't have any yogurt at the moment--it was on the docket for the day and I only had enough left for starter, so I scratched my head (sipped a minty mojito) and looked around for inspiration. Next to my pile of thyme and tomatoes, I had some chicken stock thawing for braising vegetables, and I visualized a delicious mound of eggplant, kale and zucchini holding up a couple of braised chicken thighs and thought YUM! Braising (especially with tomatoes) tenderizes the meat with long, slow cooking, so marinading is not necessary. I made yogurt while this dish cooked. (yes I am the queen of the multi-task).

Thyme and tomato chicken (serves 2)

Oil, butter grease for the pan--2 T
2 of each chicken legs and thighs
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
7-10 plum tomatoes, very ripe
Large handful of thyme sprigs, coarsely chopped

Wash and dry the chicken and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil/grease/butter in the pan and add the chicken. Brown on all sides for several minutes, until the chicken starts releasing its juices (put a cover on the pan to avoid the splattering). Add the chicken stock, garlic, tomatoes and thyme and cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 45 minutes-1 hour, depending on your chicken and your preferences. Enjoy!