Refections on 10 Years of Food Blogging

basil potted plant

 

One of my greatest pleasures during the summer months is to have fresh basil growing all over my backyard, some in planters and pots and some in the ground. Basil is my hands down absolute favorite herb, just the smell of it makes me happy. I often have a big bouquet of it sitting on my kitchen island.

It’s my go-to herb and I use it in too many dishes to mention here. Making fresh basil pesto is another summer pleasure of mine, I’m happy when I know I have a stash packed away in my freezer as well as my fridge, especially when I pull a jar out in the dead of winter.
fresh basil

 

Talking about basil brings me back to the very first post I wrote on this blog written August 15, 2007. Yes, this August will mark my tenth year of Proud Italian Cook, I honestly can’t believe it’s been ten years, where did the time go? One thing I know for sure is that the older I get the faster time flies by.

I didn’t know a thing about starting and maintaining a blog back then I just knew I wanted to do it. I was reading a small group of blogs at the the time and I thought what a fun hobby and a nice visual way to document my own recipes for family. With the help of my daughter we got it up and running then little by little I started to learn the technical aspects, how to actually take pictures, write something and post it. It was a huge challenge for me because my brain has a problem comprehending technical issues, and I made a ton of mistakes.

The first time I hit “publish” I was so stressed out, what was I thinking? I have no clue what I’m doing here, this is way over my head. If anything went wrong behind the scenes I would be in pure panic mode until it was fixed, my poor husband had to deal with me through it all.

Sometimes I look back on older posts of mine and I cringe at my writing and pictures of food where I used my flash. Apparently I use to write with caps quite often, I guess I really wanted to get my point across. The grammar police would have a field day with my writing, I still have issues with commas and exclamation points! (see what I mean).

The best perk of blogging and one I never even thought existed back then was the community of people that I would virtually meet along the way, some even face to face, bloggers and followers who share the same passion as I do. They have been a source of encouragement and support and have inspired me with all they do as well as their positive comments, and for that I am eternally grateful.

It’s fair to say that if I never started my little food blog, my world would be a very different place.

 

making pesto

 

Yes, things are quite different in the blogging world today since the time I first started, it’s not as small and personal as it use to be, social media outlets are rapidly changing. Sometimes I wonder if the blog platform will still be relevant for the next generation, things like snapchatting keeps them very busy. Over the years I have seen blogs come and go, maybe it just wasn’t fun anymore, too much competition or worrying about ranking and SEO, if that’s the case I would agree, quit, the joy is gone.

Having a blog is a major commitment and time consuming and you certainly wouldn’t want to waste your precious time if it felt like a burden. On the flip side if you enjoy it, find your niche, add good content, tell a story and speak in your own true voice, your honesty will shine through and people will connect and want to follow you, and in my case throw in a good recipe every now and then.

 

basil pesto

 

I feel like I’m evolving in my old age, I very recently went from a PC to a Mac which has been like learning a whole new language to me, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone big time so I feel I’m challenged daily now until I get the hang of it, in fact this will be is my first post using my Mac, I hope it turns out when I hit publish!pasta

 

I love being on Instagram, it’s a visual short and sweet tidbit of my daily doings, cooking, family, life, so I’m going to continue with that, and if you care to follow me there just click here.

I’ve also made some short videos on my blog with a 14 year old future computer genius friend of mine, we had fun doing it and learned a ton of things, so I’ll be doing more of that.

I never realized when I started this blog that August 15th was Julia Child’s birthday so maybe it was meant to be, plus I’ve always loved her quote, “People who love to eat are always the best people”.basil pesto pasta

So for now since I’m still having fun I’m just going to slide right into the next decade. To be continued…

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Pesto Stuffed Scallops

pesto stuffed scallops I can honestly say I went a bit overboard in planting basil this year so I’ve been very busy making lots of pesto, but to me nothing tastes better than fresh homemade pesto! Every time I’ve bought pesto from a store I was so disappointed, it’s either way too garlicky or has a weird fake taste, so I prefer to make my own. Homemade pesto is so easy to make yourself and you can whip up a huge batch because it freezes perfectly. Just think how nice it would be to pull out a container of your pesto in the dead of winter and plop a dollop in a nice bowl of hot soup.

I also use it on my eggs, frittatas, grilled veggies, fresh tomatoes, meats, crostini, pastas and I especially love it with fish of all kinds. Have you ever tried smearing pesto on top of a beautiful piece of salmon and then baking it? It’s so flavorful, moist and delicious! I also love it on grilled shrimp and scallops. Here’s my pesto recipe.

I never thought of actually stuffing a scallop with pesto until I came across an article that Mark Bittman wrote which gave me the inspiration to make my own and another good excuse to use my homemade pesto.

pesto stuffed scallops It’s ridiculously simple to do, but you must use the large sea scallops and not the small bay ones. Just take a sharp knife and make a horizontal slit in the middle being very careful not to cut all the way through, you want your scallop butterflied, then put a small teaspoon of pesto inside. Salt and pepper your scallops then place them into a saute pan ( not a non stick)  that’s been heated on medium heat with a little olive oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side being careful when your turning them over. That’s it!

pesto stuffed scallops I placed mine into a pool of warm roasted red pepper sauce, but you could also use a light marinara sauce just as well. The flavor combination is dynamic!

pesto stuffed scallops

I served this as a main course with fresh green beans and summer corn but it would also be wonderful as an appetizer to start off your meal.

It’s simple, healthy, quick to make and the summery basil pesto takes it right over the top! Now pour a glsss of cold Sauvignon Blanc and you’re good to go!

 

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Summer Crostini with Garden Pestos

crostini with garden pestos Now that summer is in full swing there’s usually always something to harvest daily from our veggie garden, some days it’s just a few stalks of kale or swiss chard, a tiny bunch of broccolini or a few cherry tomatoes. Nothing yet to make a huge meal from, but perfect for making small bites!

garden basil One thing I do have an abundance of right now are fresh herbs, the rain just exploded their growth. Basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage and tarragon are growing all over the place and I feel so guilty if I don’t use them all!

garden herbs I was recently gifted with some garlic scapes, (thanks Julie and Ken) so I thought making a few different pestos would be the perfect way to start using up all my bounty.

homemade garden pestos So I made my trusty Basil Pesto, and tried out two new ones, Pea and Mint, and Garlic Scape and Kale Pesto. If you use your food processor you can whip these up in no time! Pesto’s are so versatile you can put them in and on just about anything, pastas, grilled meats, soups, pizzas, veggies, fish, omelettes, I could go on and on, I even throw some in when making egg salad!

crostini with garden pestos Another fun way to eat up your pestos is to slather some on top of  crostini. Crostini are thin slices of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and garnished with  endless possibilities. By adding  in your favorite charcuterie, grilled veggies, various cheeses, good olives, fresh fruit, etc. you can create an elegant antipasti, lunch or dinner, just don’t forget the wine!

crostini with garden pestos I was in love with this recipe the minute I saw it, a crusty piece of bread topped with pea and mint pesto, creamy Burrata cheese and a slice of prosciutto, this is to die for, it’s a meal in itself! The only thing I changed up in the recipe was the cheese, I used grated parmesan for mine.

If you don’t want to use meat try some thinly sliced grilled zucchini to replace it.   Again, I repeat, to die for!

crostini with garden harvest Here are some other ideas for crostini using up whatever you might have growing in your gardens.

crostini with garden harvest Roasted tomato slices topped with basil pesto***** Mascarpone cheese topped with garlic scape and kale pesto, roasted mushrooms, leeks and thyme*****

Ricotta topped with garlic and red pepper sauteed broccolini***** Goat cheese topped with garlic and red pepper sauteed swiss chard*****

crostini with garden harvest It’s all good! Small bites, big flavor, simple and sophisticated!

Garlic Scape and Kale Pesto
 
Ingredients
  • 2 garlic scapes cut in chunks
  • 2 cups kale, stems removed
  • ⅓ cup toasted almonds or walnuts
  • ⅓ cup grated romano cheese
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a food processor add garlic scapes, nuts and kale, pulsing until chopped up fine.
  2. Add in cheese, red pepper and salt and pepper, process until incorporated.
  3. While machine is running, pour olive oil down the tube until you get a loose consistency.
  4. Cover and refrigerate.

 

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Roasted Vegetable Strudel and A Farewell to the Garden

I can’t believe how brave I’m getting with phyllo dough, I used to be so afraid to use it, but after my last post I realized just how forgiving it really is. It’s so easy to patch it up if you make a mistake and you’d never even see your blooper after it’s all baked up.

In my last post I made a “pie so this time I decided to make a “strudel”, a roasted vegetable strudel. It was amazingly easy to make and it tasted phenomenal!

Roast your vegetables ahead of time, I used 2 zucchini, 1 large eggplant, 1 large red pepper, 1 small onion, 3 garlic cloves and a half a bag of frozen artichoke hearts. Dice the veggies, drizzle with olive oil, S&P and roast at 425F until tender and golden.

The most important thing I can say about using phyllo is to keep it covered with a damp cloth as you go layering it. For this recipe I used 6 sheets, I did not drench them in melted butter either, instead I sprayed olive oil over each sheet with my olive oil mister as well as a sprinkling of grated romano cheese on each layer.

When you reach the 6th sheet spread your vegetables all over leaving about a 2″ border all the way around. Scatter your favorite cheese combination on top of the veggies, I used fresh mozzarella, grated fontina, asiago and romano. Fold up the border ends over the vegetables then carefully roll up starting up on the longer side until it becomes into a log.

I sprayed olive oil on top of the log along with grated cheese and black pepper and baked it for around 20 minutes at 400F until golden.

Let it cool down a little before you slice into it. This was so good I can’t wait to make it again! You can really choose any veggies you like as well as cheese. I served a little dipping sauce made of leftover marinara and roasted red peppers that I swirled in my food processor! What a great combination!

Yesterday I went out and grabbed everything that was left in my garden, the last of my tomatoes and the rest of the kale, the weather is definitly changing here dipping down to the 40’s at night.

I gathered all my beloved basil and picked the very best leaves for my pesto, I will miss you!

Buon Appetito!

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Time to Make the Pesto!

Our basil this year was the best ever! It was so nice to have it available whenever I needed it this summer, but now that the nights are getting cooler I thought it was time to cut it down and make some pesto before it shrivels up and that would be just to sad!

As you can see I had my work cut out for me. The bowl was overflowing and this was my first batch!

I personally don’t like when pesto turns dark after a couple of days, I found that by blanching the basil in boiling water for just 15 seconds and then submerging it into an ice bath will keep it the color a vibrant green much longer.

When I buy store bought pesto’s sometimes I find them way too garlicky or just too oily for my taste, but when you make your own you can add or subtract any of the amounts that you put into it. My advice is keep tasting it as you go along to get the right balance for you.

This year I used toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts, I’m sorry but I just can’t bring myself to pay ten dollars for 4 ounces of pine nuts. I don’t know why they’re so high this year!
Actually the walnuts were a perfect substitution, we loved the flavor it added.

This is just a guideline for Basil Pesto, like I said you can add or subtract any of the ingredients or substitute any kind of toasted nut of you like.

After you pick the best leaves off the vines, blanch for 15 seconds in boiling water then submerge into an ice bath and squeeze the basil of all excess water.
For every 2 cups of basil add 1 garlic clove, 1/4 cup of toasted nuts, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil.
In a food processor place nuts first and garlic, then add basil, cheese and stream in as much olive oil as you like. Keep tasting all the way until you get it to your liking.
There’s so many uses for basil pesto but my favorite way is to simply toss it into some warm pasta!
Since I had so much basil, I wanted to try freezing some. On Facebook a few weeks ago I read how Lidia Bastianich does hers, she said, “Pluck the whole leaves and set them in a small paper cup, fill with water until the herb is submerged, then freeze. When frozen solid, pop the block of ice with the embedded herbs out of the paper cup and into a ziplock bag. The herbs, once the ice melts will be fresh and ready to use.”
I filled 3 bags but I’m making more for sure. I hope you will give this a try it was so simple to do and you can pack quite a few leaves into the paper cups as opposed to using ice cube trays.

Thanks Lidia, I can’t wait to pop these into my sunday sauce this winter!
Have a nice week everyone, and Buon Appetito!
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