This might be one of my favorite recipes. It’s ridiculously delicious, simple to make, freezes beautifully, and most importantly uses up bits and pieces of cheese that you might have otherwise thrown out. I discovered it back in the early 2000s and have been making it about once or twice a year ever since. It’s from Jacques Pepin, who adopted it from his own father’s recipe. My father, who recently died in January, loved to gift us with wedges of cheese when he would come over to our house several times a week for dinner. While we loved the cheese, sometimes we just didn’t get around to eating it all. As a result, a couple of times a year I would gather all the “old” cheese and whip up a batch. Moldy cheese? Don’t worry, as my mom used to always say “Just cut off the mold. It’s still good!” when I would pull out a hunk of cheese that was past its prime.
If you’re cooking and adding beans to everything these days like minestrone, soup, stews, etc., this is a great way to use up the extras. If you don’t have tahini, just use a tiny bit more olive oil. The fat from the olive oil and/or tahini is what makes the dip a little more decadent. Specific quantities are listed below, but just adjust to what you have on hand and your taste. FYI: this also works with canned beans.
Although some in my family guard this recipe like the Crown Jewels, the truth is that my grandmother, Carrie Lee Mathers Schwartz, found it on the back of a bag of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate chips likely sometime in the 1950s. Carrie Lee was a formidable woman from the Texas Panhandle who often was stern and controlling, but luckily happened to have an intense love of sweets. She made this every time we visited her in her adopted state of Colorado. And from an early age, I secretly thought of this chocolate sauce as my prize for enduring often painful, tense, mostly quiet, dare I say, utterly WASPy, family meals. It’s not fancy or refined, but it is most definitely the essence of sweet comfort food. So, while we are all “sheltering in place” and perhaps some of us are indulging in a little emotional eating (no judgment!), I thought that this “prize” of mine might be worth sharing. The only thing I have changed in the recipe is adding a pinch of salt which I believe just makes the sauce all the better.
I admit that I’m a little late to the make-your-own-oat-milk party, so for the twelve people who don’t know this yet: oat milk is crazy easy to make. Not only is it far cheaper than store-bought, but you also avoid one more container in the trash/recycling bin, and it tastes so much better. You need oats, water, a sweetener (I use a date, but some people like sugar or maple syrup), vanilla and a bit of salt.
Unlike 99% of the other blogs out there, I’m not going to bombard you with twenty-two photos of how to make oat milk. You get one photo: the one of the milk straining in my favorite fine mesh strainer.
Even if it tastes the same there is nothing appetizing about brown oxidized pesto. I used to find it so annoying when I would go to all the trouble and time to make a fresh batch of pesto and within minutes it would go from bright green to muddy brown. Bleh. But now thanks to Maria Rodale’s cookbook, Scratch, I finally learned the trick to keep pesto bright green: blanch the basil leaves. So simple! Below is my version of her recipe — it doesn’t have cheese (not that I’m opposed, I just like it better sprinkled on top not mixed in), uses walnuts instead of pine nuts, and less olive oil. The amount below will make enough pesto for a full pound of pasta.
During the harvest season I make as much pesto as possible and freeze in small 4oz. little jars. I used to freeze batches of pesto an ice cube tray, but I found that unless I wrapped each little cube in plastic wrap, they would freezer burn way too quickly. So now I just put in a little jar with a layer of parchment paper cut to size over the pesto and freeze.
My state of origin is Missouri/Misery — one of the increasing number of states where women are now considered chattel (sorry/not sorry to bring up politics). But I was lucky enough to have: 1. A grandmother who was a Master Gardener and 2. Lived in Laguna Niguel, California. Long before we had access to anything “exotic” at our local grocer she would send us boxes of Meyer lemons and artichokes fresh from her back garden. The photo above is a scene from the very beginning of my love affair with my favorite vegetable.
Nearly five decades later the opening of a Trader Joe’s in Boulder introduced 12-ounce bags of frozen artichoke hearts in the freezer section for $3.29. And suddenly, the ways in which I could express my love for the vegetable — a member of the thistle family — multiplied.
Yes, yes, YES – I get it. It’s totally not the same thing as a fresh artichoke and yes, I know they are not organic. And this does give me great pause. But when I asked a certain local chain to source frozen artichoke hearts for me back in 2010 the only ones they could find where $18 for 12 oz. Gulp. So I take my chances and hope that an article I read about one of the biggest growers in California switching to more organic methods is actually the case with these ‘chokes.