Some Basics

Part of the fun and challenge of loving to cook is deciding each day what to prepare for dinner. Like most people I get stuck in a rut making the same five dishes over and over. My teenage daughters are great about reminding me that I should switch it up. Usually the look of disappointment and the deadpanned “(salmon – chicken – tacos) again?” works. I do, however, rely of some basics to create new dishes. Homemade pesto is one ingredient I never tire of.

As I have mentioned earlier I am allergic to tree nuts. That hasn’t stopped me from creating some wonderful pesto by either eliminating the pine nuts or using sunflower or sesame seeds in their place. I always have basil growing in my garden, but I have also used arugula, parsley and cilantro for the green ingredient. A good amount of olive oil, parmesan cheese and garlic bind it all together for a delicious boost to many dishes. As usual, I don’t use a recipe. I gather as much basil (washed) as can fit into my food processor and pour a generous amount of olive oil to get it started. Toss in a few peeled garlic cloves, a generous grinding of black pepper and sea salt. Then blend away! I add more olive oil until the consistency looks right. Add a handful of grated parmesan cheese, blend again, and you have pesto. Add this to scrambled eggs, meatloaf, risotto, beans and of course pasta.

Tonight I have grabbed the remains of some of that pesto and a hard boiled egg.

Pesto and Egg

Pesto and Egg

I have prepared some al dente spaghetti and have tossed it with the pesto. I have drained and rinsed a can of cannellini beans and quickly sautéed them in some olive oil and chopped garlic.

Cannellini Beans

Cannellini Beans

Place the pesto spaghetti in a bowl, top with the beans, garnish with a half hardboiled egg and a dollop of pesto.

Pesto Spaghetti with Beans and Egg

Pesto Spaghetti with Beans and Egg

Add grated cheese – simple and delicious!

 

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Slowcoast Strawberry Pie

Swanton's Berry Farm

Swanton’s Berry Farm

There is a beautiful stretch of Highway One between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz that has been named, “Slowcoast”. After an early morning foggy trip to San Francisco I decided to take the long way home. I had never traveled along that stretch of road. In addition to the gorgeous views at every turn, there was an artisanal slow food presence that caught me by surprise. After seeing a vintage bright yellow truck with a large strawberry perched in it I pulled into Swanton’s Berry Farm. An Airstream served as a gift shop and a long blue rustic building as the pie shop. What a treat for a wandering western hippie!

The Airstream

The Airstream

I am not sure that it gets any more west coast natural than this. The strawberries in the pie shop were absolutely beautiful and delicious – I bought a three pack. Behind the counter with an honor system till, stood fresh faced pie bakers and shortcake assemblers carefully creating some absolutely wonderful looking berry desserts. I was inspired to take those berries home and make a pie.

Beautiful Local Strawberries

Beautiful Local Strawberries

Because strawberries have so much liquid in them I decided against a crust on the bottom of the pie plate. It would never bake properly and would be mushy. I simply sliced the berries in quarters and grated some orange rind to add the bright taste and hue of citrus.

Strawberries Sliced with Grated Orange Rind

Strawberries Sliced with Grated Orange Rind

I then tossed the strawberries with about 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of “minute” tapioca. The minute tapioca helps to absorb the juice from the berries and gives the filling a thicker consistency.

Tossed with Sugar and "Minute" Tapioca

Tossed with Sugar and “Minute” Tapioca

Roll out one round of pie crust. You can make your own using your favorite recipe – or use the frozen stuff.

Pie Crust - Top Only

Pie Crust – Top Only

Crimp the edges by using your thumb and index finger on your left hand and your index finger on your right hand … like this <-

Crimped and Ready

Crimped and Ready

Preheat the oven to 375 F and bake until the crust is verging on golden. Remove the pie from the oven. Take a pastry brush and a ramekin of milk – brush the surface of the pie with the milk and dust generously with granulated sugar. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden.

Slowcoast Strawberry Pie

Slowcoast Strawberry Pie

Enjoy with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

©All content property of Renee Fields and Farmer’s Market Table