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pesto. a summer delicacy. intensely green, intensely satisfying.

i remember my first experience with pesto. i thought it was GROSS. we were living in bexley, ohio, and my idea of a positive italian meal consisted of noodles swimming in butter or oil with a little cheese. naked. really, i loved the pasta, but clearly hadn’t developed a palate that appreciated any sort of sauce–no tomato, no bolognese, and especially no pesto. the color alone put me over the edge. but i remember my mom making it for my dad, and how papa duane crooned over it. i gave a very typical look of disgust and continued to shovel in the bland, bare noodles.

i am so glad my tastes have changed.

i came home from work last week with a bounty of basil and kale. and the kale keeps multiplying as i’m picking more from our garden outside. the verdant, lush, gorgeous greens of the basil and kale make me so warm and happy inside. with the glut, i decided pesto was the only logical thing to make.

my first batch was the basil pesto. this is classic, friends. i mean the flavor is so a powerfully delightfully basil. oh so rich, so elegant. smooth. graceful. it truly is summer. when i opened the food processor after pulsing the basil with the nut mixture, the aroma was so overwhelming i couldn’t help but do a dance of delight around my sunshiney, sweltering kitchen.

summer, it’s here!

the basil pesto is my favorite because it is the classic. the kale pesto is AMAZING, more intense in kale/garlic flavor, and i love it very much, too. enjoy smeared on bread, tossed on warm chickpeas, mixed with hot pasta, spread as a sauce on pizza, or by the spoonful. what’s your favorite way to eat pesto?

pesto

3 cups packed basil/kale (or a combo, or spinach!)
1/2 cup toasted almonds/pumpkin seeds/flax seeds (or pine nuts, but those are PRICEY!)
splash of lemon juice (for kale pesto)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves (i used 2 garlic cloves and 1 garlic scape for each)
salt and pepper to taste

1. pulse basil/kale and nuts (and lemon juice, for kale) in food processor a few times.
2. add garlic, pulse again.
3. then turn the machine on, and slowly pour in olive oil as machine runs. scrape down sides to ensure all is combined.
4. add cheese, pulse until blended. add salt and pepper to taste.

ENJOY!

toasted nuts

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high school graduation. the words stir such a range of emotions for me. mostly, gratefulness that i’m done with the drama and erratic emotions. but, i’d lie if i said i didn’t have some twinges of the nostalgia looking back. just twinges, though. ha. oh the spazziness of high school gwen. the spazziness is still here, though. i think it’s sticking around for the long haul.

regardless, i had the delightful honor and privilege to journey to athens, ohio, for my cousin ava’s graduation. folks, it’s official: all lawrence family grandchildren have graduated. we’re adults (gasp) now. all five of us. WILD. i headed south after soccer on thursday. stopped in ada to pick up nanny and poppy and uncle jeff, then in columbus to pick up mom, then a stop for ice cream (!) , then onward to athens. nothing like squishing 5 adults (who like to overpack) and a grocery list of perishable food stuff (including 8 pounds of asparagus and a flat of strawberries from a lovely ohio farm!) in a 5 passenger car. suffice it to say we were all glad to arrive to the humid, eighty degree athens. the lawrence family represented for ms. ava jae, the baby of our family.

my aunt juli and uncle john know how to throw a party. all of the millers do. actually, all of the lawrences do. food and flowers really dominate most of the thought of that entire side of my family. pretty fantastic, really.

what excited me most was my responsibilities the day of graduation. to let my aunt and uncle go and enjoy the graduation, i happily stuck at the home front with a handful of family to prep for the party to follow. and the preparations we had! the menu, extensive. fruit kabobs. peppered pork. rolls with pickles, peppers, and mustard. cheese tray with white cheddar, gouda, maytag bleu, swiss, and pepperjack. my mom’s baby mustard roasted potatoes. asparagus spears, 1/2 vegetarian 1/2 wrapped in prosciutto. antipasto platter with olives. rye boat. tomato mozzarella sandwiches with sweet onions, basil, and balsamic, in perhaps the best ciabatta bread i’ve ever worked with or tasted. some sort of beef lollipop. this table was PACKED. (look below the recipes for more pictures!)

so i know this is a poor quality photo. for whatever reason, the picture refuses to upload. GRRR. so here's my improvise.

the dessert table equally packed: angel food cake cubed. hand whipped cream. farm fresh strawberries. brownies. oreo balls. rhubarb bars. and fortune cookies.

and my job? to help orchestrate the food prep, presentation, and clean up. it was AMAZING. i had a ball. my uncle john comes from a catering family, and is also and amazing and organized chef. so i followed his directions (which were clear and written out) and everything came together so nicely. i think we could go into business.

you ask, my favorite item at the graduation party of ms. ava jae? the BRUSCHETTA. yes, friends. there’s no betta bruschetta. and that is a fact.

we had two types: the roasted tomato and the caramelized onion. my uncle john had prepped the spreads previously. my job was easy: cut bread on an angle. brush garlic oil on both sides of slices. toast. smear the spread. sprinkle cheese, nuts, etc. bake again. sprinkle ribbons of basil. DONE. i’m telling you, the flavor, the depth, the intensity of these spreads– UNBELIEVABLE.

and so i give you the rough recipes from these spreads. thanks to uncle john for sending them my way. he also said to use the roasted tomato spread on pasta. i think you could put it on pretty much anything and it would be great. enjoy!

roasted tomato and garlic spread
*this is doubled, per recommendation of uncle john

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12-14 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red-hot chili flakes
12-14 medium-sized ripe tomatoes (about 6 pounds)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
coarse salt
2 tablespoons capers
3 teaspoons anchovy paste

1. preheat oven to 375. in a 9×13 in pan, combine oil, garlic, and red chili flakes. add tomatoes and gently toss.
2. roast, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
3. stir in chopped basil and 1 teaspoon salt, roast for additional 15 minutes.
4. stir in capers and anchovy paste. roast until tomatoes darken and juices concentrate, an additional 25-40 minutes.
5. as i didn’t make this spread, just used it, i would guess to puree it if it’s not already sauced up. it will be thick, lush, delicious. a deep reddish brown. serve this on the bruschetta, topped with fresh mozzarella, fresh parmesan, and basil.

roasted garlic and caramelized onion spread

2-3 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. roast garlic (i might do more than 12 cloves. i love garlic.) in a 350 degree oven. drizzle it first with the veggie oil, cover with a lid and let roast for 30-4o minutes.
2. meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat. and add onions and saute until they begin to brown, after 15 minutes. add brown sugar, and stir in until melted. these become velvety, lush, gorgeous.
3. combine roasted garlic and caramelized onions, add balsamic vinegar. smear on bread, top with toasted pecans and fresh, soft goat cheese.

enjoy these with loved ones. or with un-loved ones. it will make any situation sweeter. other than the graduation itself, these babies made ms. ava jae’s day in my book.

the graduate with the fam (minus jake who's in china)

another monday’s come and almost gone. and with it, this week’s monday muffins.

today’s muffins of honor: cornmeal raspberry. these are moist, light, soft. the raspberries transform into blushing pockets of sweet and tang, a lovely addition to the grit of the cornmeal.

nanny gave me the raspberry leftovers from the weekend of culinary adventures. for them, i am very grateful. so are the muffins.

golden muffins with pink polka dots

adapted from two different gourmet muffins, found here and here. i would use more lemon zest in these babies next time!

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1/2 a lemon
scant chili powder
scant cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup raspberries

1. preheat oven to 375. butter a muffin tin.
2. whisk together dry ingredients, through lemon zest.
3. in a separate bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, milk, and butter. add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. gently fold in raspberries.
4. bake for about 20 minutes, rotating them half-way through to insure even baking. let the muffins sit in the tins for 3 minutes, then remove and allow muffins to cool on rack.

enjoy!

warm sunday greetings, friends!

what a whirlwind of a week this one’s been. beekeeping, thunderstorms, bed prep, planting, soccer, road trips to ohio, culinary coordination, family and friends. this week, the hum of activity has been continuous. exhausting? yes. but oh so enjoyable.

stuffing seems to be the general theme of the week. it started with a delicious stuffed bread pizza that tara and i made on memorial monday (a nice treat after the midday memorial muffins snack).

then came the stuffed blondies. i’ve never really made blondies before: my love for brownies had, thus far, left me little interest in their caramel look-a-likes. but then i came across a recipe for blondies with add-ins. and i was intrigued. so i stuffed my blondies with bananas, prunes, cranberries, and chocolate chips. overkill? perhaps. but, my roommates enjoyed and accidently ate a quarter of a plate i made specially for mr. will allen, who was in detroit this weekend. i missed him in motown, again. (i was at my cousin ava’s graduation in athens, ohio. AMAZING feasting weekend. more on that to come). i was so sad. but the stuffed blondies, all for him. those babies were stuffed more than any blondie i’ve ever seen.

and, finally, i am stuffed. a weekend of celebratory eating, for sure. ava jae, youngest of the lawrence family grandchildren, graduated from high school. our response? food. food. and more food. family. fun. drinks. and food. i rolled all the way home.

without further ado, i hope my week of stuff-ing leaves you inspired and excited. loving food and life and family and fun.

stuffed bread pizza

a loaf of a bread you like, cut in half, scooped out
(save the leftover insides for a panzanella salad or to thicken soup or for bread crumbs or… be creative)
a smather of tomato paste
some frozen pesto
sliced peppers
garlic
sliced onions
sliced tomato
cheese
olive oil

1. preheat the oven to about 375 or 400.
2. lightly oil the edges of your bread, this will make a nice, crunchy crust.
3. smear a thin layer of tomato paste on bottom of bread. then sprinkle with some frozen pesto (or, if you’ve got fresh, glob it on top the tomato paste).
4. layer veggies, thinly sliced, on top. top with cheese and bake for 8-16 minutes, until bread is brown, cheese melty, and you’re taste buds are screaming for a bite.

stuffed blondies

adapted from the macheesmo recipe, and thus, mark bittman’s how to cook everything

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground almond and pumpkin seed flour
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped cranberries
1/4 cup chopped prunes
1/2 cup ripe, mashed bananas

1. preheat oven to 350. butter an 8×8 inch pan.
2. melt butter and sugar together in a double boiler (or in a metal pan held over a larger metal pot with simmering water) until well combined and smooth. let cool to room temperature
3. while batter’s cooling, combine the “stuffing” in a bowl (chocolate chips, dried fruit, bananas).
4. once batter’s ready, whisk in eggs, vanilla, salt, and finally flours. fold in stuffing.
5. bake for about 30-40 minutes, until gold brown and toothpick comes out clean. i like mine a little under baked. allow to cool before cutting. if yours are a little underdone, soft, lush– put in refrigerator to firm up. yum!

what’s your favorite way to stuff your food, your tummy, your life?

much love. enjoy!