Tag Archives: lemon

Basil Lemon Pesto

This past Friday marked the end of finals week and the beginning of a long, luxurious winter break. The feeling of relief was so deliciously surreal that I spent most of the morning rolling around in bed refusing to get up. My room looked nothing short of a hurricane disaster; clothes flung all over the place, papers strewn everywhere but my desk, my poor, over-worked french press soaking in the sink – all remnants of a hectic quarter gone by.

 As I stood, yawning, I couldn’t help but realize how fast time has flown by since I started grad school. In less than twenty-five days, we’ll be ringing in the new year and, in three months, I’ll be wrapping things up here, heading to who knows where, and doing who knows what. Maybe I’ll be in school, maybe I’ll be looking for jobs, maybe I’ll drop everything and travel the world. But, I’ll save those thoughts for another day.

Now faced with an abundance of free time, I welcomed the opportunity to try an idea that’s been on my mind since I discovered a package of Brazil nuts in my kitchen: to make pesto using Brazil nuts instead of pine nuts. That and I was craving pesto…on a mozzarella tomato panini, on grilled chicken, linguine, three cheese tortellini.. just a small craving..no big deal.

The truth is, I’m not crazy about Brazil nuts. I bought them because I’ve never had them before and the name made them sound all too exotic. Alas they were a bit too dry and bland for my taste, so I wanted to reinvent these suckers into something more delectable. The results? Surprisingly amazing! I personally couldn’t tell the difference using Brazil nuts. The consistency and texture of the pesto itself is comparable to that of a pine nut pesto. It’s one beguiling imposter. And I’m ok with that.

Here’s what you’ll need:

¼ cup raw Brazil nuts

1 large garlic clove

1 ½ cups basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

zest of 1 lemon

5 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp. salt

Step 1. Rough chop the Brazil nuts and add to the food processor.

Step 2. Mince the garlic and add with the Brazil nuts. Pulse the mixture once or twice.

Step 3. Wash the basil leaves, shake off the water, rough chop, and add to the food processor and pulse twice, using a spatula to bring ingredients from the upper sides. Scrape the ingredients from the upper sides closer to the mixture. Do the happy dance because pesto makes the world go ’round.

Step 4. Add the salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Next, slowly drizzle in the olive oil while running the food processor until all the oil is evenly infused. Use the spatula to help bring ingredients together. Normally, pesto doesn’t call for this much lemon but I prefer a bit more citrus to lighten up the olive oil.

Step 5. Remove the pesto from the food processor and mix in the Parmesan cheese until evenly combined. Taste, and add more salt and lemon juice if desired. You deserve it. Mmm chlorophyll. Did I just say that?

Step 6. Pair the pesto. Today, I had chicken in the fridge so I cubed one chicken breast and pan fried them until golden-brown and cooked through. While they cooked, I seasoned with salt and pepper.

Step 7.  To the chicken, I added 1 cup of cooked linguine pasta and mixed in 2-3 tablespoons of pesto sauce. A little bit goes a long way here, folks. You won’t need a heaping amount for your pasta, so add the pesto a little at a time to avoid over-saucing. And, if you’re like me, add an extra squeeze of lemon on top. Voila!

How can you say no to a face like this? Slurrp.

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Weekend Chicken Carbonara

This weekend, I visited my sister in Maryland for a bit of countryside, a breath of fresh air, and because I just missed her so. We spent the day strolling around the quaint little town of St. Michaels, an enchanting little place tucked away by the Chesapeake Bay.

Along the water, we found bed and breakfasts covered in overgrown ivy, snuggled up next to some of the most beautiful Victorian homes I’ve ever seen. The folks seemed all tan and glowing, so carefree, without a care in the world where their next step took them. It was clear people came here to relax and unwind. How could I resist such an invitation?

My sister and I grew up learning how to cook together. As children, we were our dad’s best sous chefs, mincing garlic, chopping tomatoes, whipping eggs into a nice froth, and so forth. Through the years we’ve honed what I like to call a nice cooking harmony in the sense that we just know how each other works in the kitchen and what to do next that it hardly needs verbalization. Needless to say, it gives me absolute joy each and every time we get to cook together. This weekend, we did just that, starting with one of her personal favorites, Chicken Carbonara.

When I arrived at her house, she had already started grating the Parmesan. “We’re using Giada’s recipe by the way”, she says, “..with a bit of my twist to it”. Of course you are! For once, someone telling me what to do in the kitchen. It was a nice change, but don’t get ideas.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 chicken breasts

1/2 lb. ziti pasta

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley

1/4 cup fresh basil

4 egg yolks

4 strips of bacon

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 tsp. minced garlic

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 tbsp. finely grated lemon peel

Adapted from Giada di Laurentiis’ Chicken Carbonara recipe, Food Network

Step 1: Grate the Parmesan Cheese

Step 2: In a separate bowl, add the whipping cream, then add the Parmesan Cheese. Don’t mix just yet.

Step 3: Wash and chop the parsley

Step 4: Wash and chop the basil

My sister’s kitchen has a wealth of colorful bowls and plates and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph them every chance I could. Ah I can’t wait until I get a kitchen of my own, with room for tons of dishes and color, and copper pots.. but I digress. Here’s the chopped parsley.

And the chopped basil. I love this wooden bowl.

Step 5: Add the chopped parsley, chopped basil, and 4 egg yolks to the cream and grated cheese. The fourth one took a dive beneath the surface and the third yolk is barely hanging on! I would too if I was swimming in a pool of yummyness. Mix this thoroughly until everything is evenly combined. Then place the bowl in the fridge while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

Step 6: After you’ve rolled up your bacon to look like flowers, unroll them, stack them on top of each other and slice them into bite size pieces. You can trim off the fat from the bacon and use double the number of bacon strips if you’d like. Set these aside.

Step 7: Begin cooking the ziti pasta. Follow instructions on the box and add salt and a bit of olive oil to the water. When the pasta is done, drain but keep the pasta warm. Their heat will help cook the cream and egg yolks later on.  I love using ziti for this because in some magical way, the carbonara sauce finds its way inside the ziti. I can’t even describe what biting into that is like. Life-changing, I think.

Step 8: In the meantime, while you’re waiting for the water to boil, heat a non-stick frying pan with olive oil on medium heat. Once hot, fry the chicken breasts until they are cooked. Set them aside to cool a bit before you start shredding them by hand. Or you can use two forks and shred them this way while they’re still hot.

Step 9: After the chicken is done, heat a deep pot with olive oil on medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, followed by the bacon. Continue until the bacon is crispy and golden brown. Then take a piece out to taste its done-ness. Then proceed with two or three more pieces. Don’t feel bad about it.

Step 10: Add the shredded chicken to the bacon. Mix, mix, mix. Then turn the heat down to medium-low. At this point, the pasta should be almost done cooking if not already drained and kept warm. Delicious things await.

Step 11: Take out the carbonara sauce mixture from the fridge and gently pour it on top of the chicken and bacon. On top of this, add the warm pasta. Mix and taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Mix some more. Taste some more. Sneak a bite while she’s not looking. Then sneak more bites. Then pass the point of not caring if she catches you. Because it’s just that. good. Oof. Turn off the heat, transfer into a separate bowl and serve.

I know this will continue to be a favorite of ours for a long time to come and I hope you enjoy it too!



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Scallops, Lemon Pepper Pappardelle and Sundried Tomatoes


Let’s make it a date night. I mean it. I have to admit, I absolutely love dressing up and dining al fresco, especially during cool summer nights (but who doesn’t!?). However, there are times when a lovely home-cooked dinner and a movie will suffice. I love those kind of nights too, don’t you? Especially when the beau washes dishes? Absolutely.

At Trader Joe’s the other day, I came across their flavor infused pasta and I thought, hmmm!! Date night material? Possibly! I decided on the lemon pepper and found to my delight, a delicious recipe on the back of the package. Ohhh it was bound to be good, just from the looks of it. Olive oil, a bit of lemon and some parsley? Yes, please!

This has easily become one of my favorite summer dishes. It is light and refreshing as it is rich with flavor. Oh and the possibilities are endless! If you don’t like scallops, you can easily substitute it with prawns, chicken, or leave it vegetarian as it is. Slurp.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 package of Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta

olive oil

non-stick cooking spray

1/2 lb scallops

1/3 cup sundried tomatoes

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt and pepper

1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

Step 1: Cook pasta to al dente then drain and set aside. Season the water with a bit of salt while the pasta cooks. Mix and spray the cooked pasta with a bit of non-stick cooking spray after draining out the water. This will keep them from sticking to each other, which they love to do!

Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan with enough olive oil to cover the surface.  In the meantime, give the scallops a nice wash, pat them dry then season with salt and pepper.

Step 3: When the pan is hot, add about a 1/2 tbsp of butter then add the scallops. Sear on one side for about a minute then flip the scallops on the other side then sear for an additional minute or two. They shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to fully cook. Next, take the scallops out and place them on a separate plate.

Step 4: Add the cooked pappardelle pasta to the same pan the scallops were cooked in. Add the lemon juice, and the sundried tomatoes. Mix until evenly combined. Taste. Add a bit of salt and pepper if needed. Add the scallops. Mix. Taste. Sprinkle in the parsley. Mix. Good enough for your taste? Then it’s done!

I’m dying to try this version with prawns too. And chicken. And possibly just portobello mushrooms. Or all three. OH and can you imagine adding just a sprinkle of fried bacon bits? Oof. Needless to say, many nights of dining-in to come – and I’m perfectly ok with that. Enjoy!

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Avocado & Shrimp Summer Salad

Oh summer, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways…

The advent of summer brings many wonderful things, some of which entail the likes of outdoor festivals, sundresses, warmth, and my absolute favorite, farmer markets. Philadelphia is chock full of local finds and depending on which part of the city you wander off into, you’re bound to find something fresh and homegrown. It tickles my fancy.

It’s not easy being a locavore on a student budget, which is why I look forward to summer markets. Most fruits and veggies are in season and their abundance keeps costs low, allowing me the luxury of making fresh favorites like this.

I love this salad. It’s delightfully fresh and light yet filling. Oh and did I mention it’s super easy to make?

Here’s what you’ll need:

butter lettuce

grape tomatoes

croutons, whichever you prefer (i love cheese garlic)

craisins

sliced almonds

1/2 avocado

3-5 pieces shrimp, cooked

1 lemon

extra virgin olive oil

sesame oil

salt and pepper

Step 1. Wash and chop the butter lettuce. Butter lettuce. Doesn’t that just sound so decadent? It’s one of my absolute favorites, aside from mixed greens. The leaves are creamy and soft (buttery, if you will) yet they don’t wilt as easily when tossed with dressing. Packaged butter lettuce is just as fine! It usually comes mixed with radiccio, which adds a nice crunch.

Step 2. Wash and slice the grape tomatoes. I could eat these suckers all day long. Yum. Have leftovers? They’d be good in shrimp scampi too, ooh.

Step 3. Assemble croutons, craisins and almonds. Contrary to the picture, I don’t measure these out (I don’t own small bowls, so here’s me getting creative, haha). I love craisins, so I tend to put more of those in the mix. These are plain almonds, but roasted and salted almonds are crazy delicious too.

Step 4. Score and scoop out 1/2 an avocado. To be honest, this salad recipe idea started with my ongoing love affair with this buttery fruit. Avocados are the best during warmer months and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to use it in almost anything I make. Fresh guacamole or just drizzled with a bit of honey, I like trying new ways to enjoy this summer star.

Step 5. De-vein and cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes in boiling water. Allow to cool then chop into bite sized pieces. Then eat a few pieces. Then decide you should have cooked more shrimp. Always the case for me, anyway.

Step 6. In a large bowl, mix all salad components together. Add more toppings if you desire. Then eat one more piece of shrimp and promise you won’t eat more till the very. end. Break that promise.

Step 7. Make the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, add the juice of 1 lemon, sans seeds. Measure this, then add exactly the same amount of extra virgin olive oil. It’s a one to one ratio if you will. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper then whisk, whisk, whisk.

Step 8. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking. Finally, add 1-3 drops of sesame oil. I mean it. 1-3 drops only, maybe even less. You want that subtle savory flavor but a drizzle of this will overwhelm your dressing. If it’s your first time making this dressing, add the sesame oil a drop and a taste at a time. You’ll be surprised how much a little goeth a long way.

Step 9. Drizzle the dressing all over the salad then mix, mix, mix. Ahh, summer in my mouth at its finest.

For lunch or for a light dinner, this salad is a favorite, time and again. Make it for your friends, bring it to a picnic, or enjoy it for yourself. Until next time foodies!

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Steaks marinated in Soy, Lemon and Sugar

After a much needed weekend with friends, rest and relaxation took over. The usual Sunday grocery trip took a seat on the back burner. Dinner plans looked bleak. Then a miracle happened. I found some steaks in the freezer. I had bought them last week when the grocery had an excellent sale. Things started to look up.

Don’t let the ingredient list fool you – it’s meant to be short and simple and that’s the best part. It doesn’t skimp on flavor and the sauce is just unbelievably delicious over rice.  Did I mention, there’s no marinating overnight?

For this recipe, you will need the following:

2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
1.0 – 1.5 lbs round chuck steak
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp sugar
2 yellow onions
7-9 cloves garlic


*serves 2 comfortably, perfect for 3, I’d double the recipe for 4

Step 1. Make 2 cups of rice

If you don’t have a rice cooker, a sauce pan will work just fine. For every 1 cup of jasmine rice, use 1 and 1/2 cups water. Bring the rice to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12 more minutes or until rice is cooked.

Step 2. If you’re using a rice cooker, don’t forget to press the “cook” button.

Trust me when I say there is nothing more frustrating than discovering you have left the rice cooker in “warm” mode the whooooole time you’ve been cooking. The rice looks a little yellow in this picture, hmmm. My sturdy little point and shoot is coming up in age and it tends to do this with white objects if I don’t use flash. But I digress..

Step 3. Take out your meat.

I mean the steaks, silly. These slices are round chuck steaks but you can use sirloin too if you’d like.

Step 4. Slice the steaks very thin, against the grain, at an angle, with a sharp knife.

This part is a bit hard to explain in words if you’ve never sliced meat before but I’m sure there are some useful YouTube videos like this to help you along the way.

*Did you know most accidental knife injuries in the kitchen occur with dull knives? So there, go sharpen your knives if you haven’t already.

Step 5. Make the Marinade.

In a bowl, pour 1/2 cup soy sauce. You can use low sodium soy sauce too if you’d like. This ingredient is a main staple in my kitchen. I love it. I buy it by the gallon. I use it all the time.

Step 6. Squeeze out 1/4 cups of fresh lemon juice.

Is the juice worth the squeeze? YES. Don’t even think about using those plastic bottles in the shape of lemons or limes. Take out the seeds before you add the juice to the soy sauce.

Step 7. Spoon out 6 tbsp. of sugar into the mix. Stir until sugar granules are dissolved.

Step 8. Take out a few cloves of garlic. I like to keep a damp paper towel on hand when working with garlic. They can get sticky! Yes, sticky.

Step 9. Crush the cloves with your knife, peel off the paper wrappings and mince!

Step 10. I love garlic so I don’t mind bigger chunks. If you like them in smaller doses, mince away! Add half of the chopped garlic to the marinade mix and save the other half for later.

I could bathe in this.

Step 11. Add the sliced steak to the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes

Step 12. In the meantime, slice the yellow onions into half moons.

How thick or thin you slice them is completely up to you. I like a mix of both. They will eventually caramelize and make your mouth smile.

Step 13. After 30 minutes of marinating, heat a little olive oil in the pan on medium heat. When hot, toss in the other half of the garlic. Saute until “almost” golden brown, meaning you don’t want them to turn brown.

Step 14. With a slotted spoon, add the steak into the pan. Then pour about half the marinade in. Crank the heat up to medium-high. How did I wait so long to make this again? Tsk, unbelievable. Allow the steaks to cook for 13 minutes or until you don’t see red.

Step 15. When most of the red has turned into a nice steak-y brown, add the onions. Combine evenly. Keep the heat on medium-high for 5 more minutes then lower to medium. Add a splash of marinade and allow the sauce to thicken (about 6-7 more minutes).

Step 16. Cook until the steak is tender and onions are caramelized (about 5 more minutes). I can’t even begin to describe how scrumptious this is. Ok, for you veggie lovers out there..if you must must add some veggies, steamed green beans or asparagus would pair nicely.

Step 17. Serve directly on top of rice, spooning a little bit of sauce on top.

Enjoy your carnivorous delight! (That’s for you, Karen)

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