Tag Archives: pesto

Grilled Portobello with Asparagus Pesto and Poached Egg

16 Sep

Grilled Portobello Poached Egg Asparagus Pesto

Once in a while, I’ll get an idea for a new dish. I’ll be going about my day, editing, or writing, or doing laundry, when a lightbulb goes on in my brain. Sometimes it’ll be an image of a finished dish. Sometimes it’ll be a thought that ingredient A might taste good mixed with ingredient B. On rare occasions, an image of a finished dish will invade my brain and I’ll also be able to imagine what that finished dish tastes like. I had one of those moments this week, where I could picture a grilled portobello mushroom topped with asparagus pesto and a poached egg, and I instantly knew it would be a tasty combination of earthy mushroom, fresh asparagus and creamy eggs.

After a trip to the St. Lawrence Market this past weekend to pick up some fresh portobello mushrooms, asparagus and free-range eggs, I set about transforming my mental image into reality. I’m happy to say that this both looked and tasted exactly as I imagined. Jenny agreed, calling the dish one of the best vegetarian meals I’ve made (not exactly high praise, considering 99.8 percent of my kitchen creations contain meat… but I knew she was being sincere). And while I’m pretty much the opposite of a vegetarian, a great thing about this dish is how much it resembles steak and eggs in taste and texture, with the meaty, smoky portobello being reminiscent of grilled beef. If we ever decide to make Meatless Monday a regular feature in our house, this ‘vegetarian steak and eggs’ is definitely going into my regular rotation.

Grilled Portobello with Asparagus Pesto and Poached Egg

For the asparagus pesto:

1 large bunch of asparagus (2 small if thinner stalks), woody stems removed and the ‘good’ part snapped in half
1 shallot cut in half lengthwise
20 basil leaves, chopped
1/4 C grated grana padano or parmesan cheese
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C water
1/4 C of pine nuts (toasted or not)
Zest of half a lemon

Steam asparagus and shallots briefly, just a couple of minutes until tender but not soft. (Steaming the shallot is optional; I chose to do so because I wanted the flavour to be milder). Add steamed asparagus, shallots, and all other ingredients except water to a blender or food processor. Pulse several times until ingredients are chopped and desired consistency is achieved. Add water as neccessary and blend longer for a smoother consistency. This recipe makes enough pesto to generously coat two large portobello mushrooms, plus leave some leftover to mix with pasta (which was also delicious, by the way).

For grilled portobello mushrooms:

Preheat BBQ until it reaches a temperature of about 400 C.

Wipe portobellos with a damp paper towel to remove any loose dirt. Brush both sides of portobellos with olive oil, and grill for 5-6 minutes per side.

For poached eggs:

As much as I love cooking, cooking eggs is another story. While I’ve nearly mastered slow-cooked scrambled eggs, poaching them is always an adventure for me (fortunately, they turned out this time!). Instead of taking my advice, check out this link for tips on the standard approach to perfect poached eggs, or this post for an innovative poaching method I’m definitely going to try next time.

To assemble the dish, lay a grilled portobello on each plate, top-side down. cover inside of portobello with a generous amount of asparagus pesto. Top with a poached egg. Grate grana padano or parmesan on top, and hit it with a grind of pepper.

Poached egg yolk

Freezing Summer with Garlic Scape Pesto

20 Aug

garlic scapes

As a wedding gift, one of our good friends signed us up to receive organic produce box deliveries from Mama Earth Organics. It’s been great over the spring and summer months, as once a week we receive a box full of fresh, mostly local fruits and vegetables. While we’ve received our share of carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and other familiar items, the service has also introduced us to some things we might not have otherwise tried – garlic scapes, for one.

Garlic scapes are the green stalks that grow out of the heads of hardneck garlic. They are removed early in the growing season to ensure nutrients are focused toward the garlic bulbs, allowing them to grow larger. They’re also edible. Raw scapes have a flavour that isn’t as overpowering as raw garlic, and the flavour becomes even milder when the scapes are cooked. Jenny and I got garlic scapes in a few of our basket deliveries this summer, and an earlier post I wrote talked about the first recipe I used them in.

Of course, now that I’ve got all you fellow garlic scape virgins excited about trying them, I should add that since the scapes are harvested early in the garlic growing season, they’re difficult if not downright impossible to track down at this point in the summer. Nonetheless, I’m going to fill you in on what I decided to do with the growing collection of garlic scapes I had in my fridge a couple weeks ago. Not wanting to let the garlic scapes go to waste but realizing there was no way we could consume them all before they went bad, I decided that garlic scape pesto was in order. The great thing about pesto is that you can combine a bunch of herbs and other tasty things together, blend it up, and then freeze or jar the results to use even after growing season ends.

Google “garlic scape pesto” and hundreds of useful recipes come up, including this one from food writer Dorie Greenspan which served as my blueprint. While Dorie’s recipe called for almonds, I decided to go nut-free. I also decided to add some basil, since the plant we received in an earlier Mama Earth Organics delivery had yielded some leaves begging to be used.

I was impressed with the results of this recipe, though garlic scape newbies should note that the garlic scape flavour of this pesto, while more nuanced than straight raw garlic, is still pretty strong. In hindsight, the next time I make a batch of garlic scape pesto I might throw in a couple handfuls of raw spinach or arugula, to balance the flavour a bit more.

garlic scape pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe:

10-12 garlic scapes, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
A handful of chopped basil leaves (a cup or two should be fine)
1/2 cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Add chopped garlic scapes and basil leaves, parmesan, a bit of salt and pepper, and half the olive oil to a food processor. Blend until scapes are finely chopped, then stop the machine and taste. Add more salt or pepper if needed, and more olive oil if you’d prefer a smoother texture. Blend again, and you’re done.

I let the pesto sit in my fridge for a day, then decided to freeze it for two reasons 1) it keeps longer, and 2) the smell of the pesto in my fridge was proving a tad overpowering. To freeze, I simply fill an ice cube tray with pesto, let it freeze overnight, then popped out the cubes into a tupperware to put back into my freezer. I can now use the frozen cubes quickly and easily in pasta sauces over the coming months, as I did in the quick pasta shown below.

pasta with chicken and pesto

We threw this together by sauteeing some chopped chicken breast, and adding in two of the frozen pesto cubes, chopped yellow pepper, grape tomatoes, arugula, a couple spoonfuls of ricotta and some lemon zest. It was quick and easy, and the sharpness of the garlic scape pesto was nicely balanced out by the other ingredients.

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