Pasta al Pesto Genovese per il Pranzo di Domenica, or Sunday lunch Italian-Style

A few days late, but wanted to share details on Sunday’s yummy lunch, prepared primarily from Saturday’s CSA pick-up. We made a delicious, traditional Pasta al Pesto Genovese. The traditional version is prepared with boiled potatoes and green beans in addition to your standard pesto. You use the same boiled water for the veggies as the pasta, giving the pasta another layer of flavor. I was inspired by a few things:

  • String beans, potatoes and garlic in our CSA stash
  • Basil plant in my garden growing like wild. Growing like wild for Western Massachusetts, not the Mediterranean, meaning it was about 6″ high, bright green and bushy, and in want of a haircut
  • My upcoming trip to the Italian seaside (please don’t hate me)

I’ve only had this dish in restaurants or at someone’s home and never prepared it on my own, so I was excited to give it a whirl. Here’s the final product:

Pasta al Pesto Genovese with local green beans, potatoes and pesto

It did not disappoint. Hubs and I loved it. We used orecchiette pasta (shaped like little ears) because  it would be easier for little Sam to eat than spaghetti, which would be the traditional pasta to use. Ironically, omnivorous Sam wanted nothing to do with the Pasta al Pesto lovingly prepared by his parents. Normally a big fan of pasta, I guess he’s just not that into pesto. His loss. Here’s the recipe for 4 servings

Pasta al Pesto Genovese

  • 2 medium new potatoes, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1/4 – 1/2 pound string beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti (or other long, thin pasta)
  • Pesto. Here is a basic recipe to follow (1/2 a batch should do, and you can keep the rest of the batch for another use)
  • 2-3 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid from the pasta


  • Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Salt generously and add potatoes. Cook until tender. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and set aside Some recipes instruct you to cook the potatoes whole, then slice them after they’ve been boiled. I think it is easier to start with the potatoes sliced so you don’t have to wait for them to cool later
  • Add string beans to the same pot of water. Cook until tender (not overcooked), and remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Add pasta to water and cook according to directions on package. Test for doneness and reserve a few tablespoons of the cooking water when you drain the pasta.
  • Toss the pasta in a serving bowl with the pesto, potatoes, string beans and cooking liquid (as needed). Serve immediately.

Back to Project Blueberry: The deets

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Hubs and I have a 3 step plan for growing blueberries that we will implement this year for the 2013 season. 2013 will be our 5th season and 5th attempt at growing blueberries. The irony is that the Highbush Blueberry is native to our area and should be a piece of cake, right? Not so fast…

  1. Select sunny spot for blueberry patch. Seems obvious, I know, but we made a common mistake in year 1 of our new home and garden. We didn’t observe the amount of light in different areas of the garden, and how it changes during the season. We were also optimistic when the plant tags read ‘partial sun to full sun.’ So, after 2 different garden locations, we are planning for a spot with full sun and maximum sun exposure.
  2. Use optimal soil and measure pH. Our first year we planted the blueberries in the as-is reddish clay soil. We didn’t enrich it with compost or peat moss, or anything, and we didn’t measure the pH of the soil, which we deemed too fussy as blueberries are natives. Well, we should have and will do this next year.
  3. Protect your investment. We will use netting and make it look pretty like our neighbors (see picture below). This year’s blueberry bushes were planted in a somewhat sunny spot in decent soil, but left unprotected.

Additional tips and suggestions welcome…

Protect your investment: Install blueberry netting to protect them from predators

Go USA! Sunday Night Dinner featuring Red, White and Blue

Hubs and I had a simple summer dinner tonight featuring our locally sourced goodies.

  • Early Corn Chowder served cold to start  the meal (left over from last night’s dinner). Tastes even better on day 2T
  • Arugula salad with Shaved Parmiggiano and Cherry Tomatoes, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette. The arugula was a treat from our friend Steve’s farm, Berkshire Bounty Farm, tomatoes from yesterday’s CSA pick-up
  • Finished off with Macerated Strawberries and Blueberries, pictured below. The strawberries were grown in our friend Nash’s greenhouse and the blueberries were local, though not certified organic. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it’s heaven
  • Red, White and Blue: strawberries, blueberries and vanilla ice cream

    GO USA!!!

Grilled Trout with Tarragon

This grilled marinated trout recipe is so tasty and yummy, even carnivores find it irresistible. I found it in this handy cookbook that my in-laws Steve and Dorothy gave us a few years ago during a summer visit. It’s called the Big Book of Barbecuing and Grilling. There are some easy and worth-repeating recipe in this book by Hilaire Walden, and the spiral-bound format is also handy. The one critique I would give it is that the author feels compelled to present recipes about grilling anything and everything (as the title would suggest), but grilling is not the most convenient or suitable method for grilling anything and everything.

Big Book of Barbecuing and

GrillingTrout with Tarragon

  • 2 whole trout, about 12 oz each
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp soy sauce


  1. Make marinade by mixing all ingredients except trout together in bowl. Let sit for at least 30 min so that flavors can combine
  2. Rinse and pat dry the trout. Make 3 slashes on exterior of each side of the trout using the sharp point of a paring knife. Brush or rub the marinade liberally on the inside and outside of the trout, also into the slits. Place in a non-reactive dish, cover and allow to marinade for 1-2 hours.
  3. Prepare grill and make sure it is well oiled so fish will not stick. You can grill the trout directly on the grill, or in an oiled hinged basket [we grill directly on charcoal grill]. Wipe off excess marinade from fish and place on grill once very hot. Grill for about 6 min on each side, testing for doneness with a thin knife (should meet no resistance)
  4. Remove from grill and transfer to plates. Serve with lemon wedge and extra plate for guests to remove head and tail from fish.

We started Saturday night dinner with my Early Corn Chowder, followed by the Trout and mustard-y coleslaw on the side. The Chowder turned out great, too. And it tastes even better on day 2

Extreme Weather and Corn

Ever heard of “Early Drought Corn”? Well, that’s what we picked up today at the Farm. Unfamiliar phrase to me as well, but the result of all the intense heat and sun combined with below average rainfall means that the first corn cobs of the season are small, not super flavorful and even kind of ugly.

We had our first of the season local corn on the cob last night purchased from the Amenia Farmers Market in Dutchess County, NY. We soaked the ears, grilled them and then slathered them with butter, salt and pepper. They were good, not great.

Prepping for the grill: soaking the corn on the cob, silks removed

Fresh off the grill, grilled corn on the cob still wearing their husks

Finished product: slathered in butter, salt and pepper and ready to go

Today’s haul of 8 ears from Wolfe Spring Farm had a similarly undernourished look to last night’s, so we decided better to cook with them than feature them in all their glory ‘naked’ on the cob. I decided on a corn chowder and combined 2 recipes to make my own: this recipe from Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column and this recipe from the Red Cat Cookbook. I like Bittman’s recipe because he makes a rustic ‘broth’ from the corn cobs and I like the Red Cat’s recipe because they add a little heat. Here’s my adaptation.

Early Corn Chowder

  • 6-8 ears corn
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot [I used this because we have them from today’s CSA pick-up, but not necessary]
  • 4 medium new potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 cubes
  • 2 dried peppers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 small tomatoes cored and seeds removed, optional [I used them as I had tomatoes in my pick-up, but not necessary]
  • 1 cup milk
  • handful of fresh chives, optional


1. Shuck the corn and use a paring knife to strip the kernels into a bowl. Put the cobs in a pot with 6-8 cups water; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10-20 minutes.

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or soup pot and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the onion and shallots, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes; then add the potatoes and saute another 5 minutes; add the tomatoes if you’re using them and cook, stirring, for another minute or two. Add the dried peppers, crushing them if you like more heat.

3. After the corn cobs have cooked for at least 10 minutes, strain the liquid into the onion-potato mixture. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. When the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, add the corn kernels and milk and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature or chilled. If you like a creamier soup, you can puree the soup partially with a stick blender, and/or use 1/2 cup of heavy cream in place of 1/2 cup of the milk. Garnish with the chives, and serve.

It’s still early days for the corn season. Please share your favorite recipes, too.

American Classics: CSA Pick-up 7/28/12

This veritable bounty will be transformed into:
– Tangy mustard coleslaw – use cabbage
Corn chowder use corn, potatoes, tomatoes, shallots
Spaghetti al pesto genovese (ok, this isn’t an American Classic. Realized that after I published. Oops) – use string beans, potatoes, garlic and basil (from our garden and Wolfe Spring)

And more…stay tuned


Lobster and Friends

Had a fun dinner out last night with Hubs and dear friend Luiz Biagiotti visiting from Sao Paolo. In the midst of a thunderstorm, we waited and waited for a table at the John Dory Oyster Bar. Happening spot, but the no reservations policy can be a drag. Apart from the great company, the highlight of the meal was this eye catching Lobster Thermidor.

Lobster Thermidor at John Dory Oyster Bar

I had never tried this dish before, so I was excited to find a willing partner in crime with Luiz. Lobster Thermidor has such a great old school ring to it – feels like a dish one would eat on a Pullman car back in the day when rail travel was civilized and elegant. Apart from being easy on the eyes, this dish was rich and very flavorful. The lobster meat from the tail had previously been removed, sauteed with a cream sauce, then replaced and sprinkled with bread crumbs and broiled. According to Wikepedia, the traditional French preparation also includes melted Gruyere cheese on top, so I guess this was a “lighter” version.

My thoughts: The lobster meat from the tail was very tasty – cream and bread crumbs added to already sumptuous lobster meat, how could you go wrong?? And I loved the  veggies in the skillet. They prepared fresh English peas and white green beans in a tasty butter sauce. The one critique I’d give is that the lobster meat itself was a tad overcooked. When we cracked open the claws to get to the rest of the good stuff, the lobster was rubbery and not worth the effort. The staff at theJohn Dory also neglected to give us tiny forks to scoop out the claw meat. Maybe they knew…Sorry, John Dory. Nonetheless, it was a festive departure from your standard boiled lobster.

By the way, did you know there is an overstock of lobster this season? It’s selling for $3.99/lb in Maine, perhaps less even now.

More on Growing Blueberries – Hopefully NOT for the Birds

This is my favorite time of year for fruit. Blueberries are just coming into season and local peaches and various stone fruit are all in abundance in the northeast. Yes, we can purchase these year-round, but the local peaches, plums, nectarines all taste so much better than the ones that come out of cold storage. And blueberries can be downright watery at other times of the year, too. So, knowing they are local and seasonal makes me feel better on a morale level and smug on an intellectual level. But let’s be honest, I just prefer the taste.

Local Peaches Purchased July 26, 2012

I visited a greenmarket this morning and the farm stand had plums in every color under the sun – from varying shades of the traditional purple, to yellow to red to pink.  These 2 lonely fellows are all that remain from 2 pounds of mixed plums and peaches purchased this morning,. Here they are in all their glory – small, uneven in shape and even a little bruised. As you can see, they look nothing like the perfect specimens (in appearance only!) available year-round at the market, and thankfully don’t resemble them in taste either. Yum!

So, let’s talk about growing blueberries. Hubs and I have made 4 attempts so far in 4 years to grow blueberries on our own. And 4 failures. Kinda sad for a bush and fruit that are native to our region, don’t you think?  We were lulled into thinking they didn’t need much sun because they’re natives (wrong), we were careless in the soil we planted them in, and most recently, we had signs of success, but then failed to protect. Back in May we had little green berries growing beautifully on our 2 humble bushes. But they proved to be irresistible for the bird population and were gone before they had a chance to turn from green to red to pink to blue. Foiled again. But now we’ve got a 3 step plan and gosh darnit, 2013 will be our year for backyard blueberries. I hope…

I snapped this picture at the 2012 New Marlborough Garden tour last weekend. The Gays live in New Marlborough and have a beautiful property in the foothills of East Mountain State Forest, which they kindly opened up to neighbors during the tour. They’ve created a delightful garden in a wooded setting featuring shade-loving plants, a stone pond loaded with Koi goldfish and many stone sculptures crafted from stones on their property. I loved exploring their veggie patch and came across a creative way to protect blueberries pictured below. You must put up netting to keep away the birds, and this can often be unsightly. Here they’ve created tents using skinny tree branches and it looks almost natural. Ingenious and aesthetically pleasing. So, Hubs will be trying this next year (step 3 of Project Blueberry). I’ll write about steps 1 & 2 later. Non-linear, I know.

Blueberry bushes under netting at the Gays’ garden in New Marlborough, MA


Sure Beats Steaming…

What a great surprise! Check out this gorgeous glass jar of pickled haricot verts that I received as a gift from my neighbor Dan Doern. Dan mixed the haricot verts from our 7/14/12 CSA pick up with vinegar, sliced lemons, peppercorns, garlic cloves, epazote (from his own garden) and jalapeno peppers to make a super tasty quick pickle.

The last time I used epazote was during a cooking class in Oaxaca, Mexico. Color me impressed…

Dan nuked everything for a minute and then stored it in this airtight glass container. Stored in the fridge, this tasty treat should last a few weeks.

And what flavor! The haricot verts are spicy, savory, tangy and citrus-y sweet all at the same time. Dan recommends adding to bloody marys for additional savoriness. We snacked on them with cocktails before dinner. Puts my steamed green beans to shame!

Dan, chime in on what I’m missing re: the recipe or instructions. And thank you again!