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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Trofie Pasta with grilled shrimp, Cauliflower and Pesto

trofie pasta with pesto and shrimp

Trofie is a twisted pasta shape originating in Liguria, I love it because when you use it with pesto, basically any type of pesto, the sauce just clings to the shape and gets into all the grooves. I’ve used it with my parsley walnut pesto, kale and almond pesto and of course traditional basil pesto, and it’s all so good!

trofie pasta with pesto and shrimp ingredients

In the warmer months and with grilling season underway you can create a beautiful pasta dish with just a few ingredients and a pesto of your choice. I added grilled shrimp, grilled cauliflower and some fresh cherry tomatoes to mine.  If you have a source to buy a good quality pesto you can even do that, but I encourage you to make your own.trofie pasta

Cook pasta according to the package directions and reserve a little pasta water to loosen up the pesto a bit. Toss the pasta into a bowl and add some fresh sliced tomatoes, no need to cook them.

trofie pasta with pesto and shrimp

Start adding in your pesto, I start with a quarter of a cup at a time, tossing gently and coating the trofie pasta using the reserved water if needed.

Just to give you an idea, I used a pound of pasta, a pound of shrimp and a little over a half a cup of basil pesto loosened up a bit.Transfer everything to a pretty platter and top it off with the grilled shrimp and grilled cauliflower.trofie pasta with pesto and shrimp

A five ingredient meal that’s fresh, light and delicious!

(Proud Italian Cook is now on Instagram, follow along with me to see what I’m cooking up daily.)

 

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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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ANTIPASTI

Spring has definitely sprung here in Chicago! finally!! So long winter! See ya! Ba Bye! Arrivederci! Ciao!!

Time to open up the windows, crank up the grill, clean off the lawn furniture, and enjoy the sunshine! And thats just what we did!

Heres a couple of appetizers we enjoyed over the weekend. CAPRESE EGGPLANT TOWER

Grilled eggplant
Fresh mozzarella
Ripe and juicy tomatoes
Red onion
Fresh basil
Brush eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill. You can either grill the red onion slice or just keep it raw. Stack in any order you want.

Drizzle everything with your best extra virgin olive oil, and don’t forget a couple slices of good bread. I like the holes you get with a chiabatta, it’s not doughy at all. Oh, and don’t forget to open up your favorite bottle of wine to enjoy with this.

GRILLED ZUCCINI WITH PESTO AND PINENUTS

Grill your zuccini, and spread on your favorite pesto! so simple, so good!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! 🙂

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GRILLED PESTO SHRIMP WITH ROASTED TOMATO SPAGHETTI

I love pesto! or for that fact, anything with basil, so it’s no wonder that I always keep a jar of it stocked in my pantry,or in my freezer when I make it homemade. I think it enhances a lot of dishes and it’s a way to add a lot of flavor. Pesto is exceptionally good when brushed on shrimp, and oh so easy to prepare!


I decided to grill my shrimp inside because A, it’s too cold outside!!, and B, I wanted a good excuse to use my new Le Creuset grill pan!! I love the size of it, not too big, and not too small, fits perfectly on one burner, and great for grilling shrimp. But of course any indoor grill pan will do.

Another thing I always have in my house, are those sweet little Campari tomatoes, I always have a bowl of them sitting on my counter. To make this sauce, I just slit the top and bottom of each tomato, put them on a cookie sheet with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Roast them at 400 Degrees till they pop open a little, and the juices start to run. Pour everything over some hot pasta, oil and all,, and mix in some fresh basil!

If you don’t feel like having pasta, the shrimp certainly stands alone by itself, I usually marinate them for about an hour in a ziplock bag with just some crushed garlic, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When they’re on the grill, then I brush them all over with the pesto.

BUON APPETITO!!

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HOME MADE PESTO

After successfully growing tons of Basil this year, and before the first frost comes, I new I needed to get busy and make some pesto. Last year I made it for the 1st time and after a day, it turned a dark green, not to appetizing! So this year I did a little research and found that if I just blanch the basil in boiling water for 15 seconds, then immediately take it out, and put it in an ice bath it stays a vibrant green!! Then all you have to do is squeeze it out, throw it in a food processor, with 1 lg clove of garlic for every 2 cups of basil, 1/4 cup of walnuts (or pine nuts) salt and pepper, and then stream a little EVOO in there and the result is not only delicious, but 4 days later it is sill as green as ever!! It was so easy and so much more flavorful then store bought!! You must try it sometime!!
For an updated version of my favorite pestos and other sauces please check out my new ebook that was launched in 2013, here’s the link.
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