It’s too early to start seeds. Plans have been made and varietals selected. Garden season is pretty dormant in Indiana for the next month or so. As a result, I’ve turned to my pantry. As spring approaches, I try to use up the remaining frozen and canned goodies from last year’s harvest to make room for what’s coming.
Lots of spaghetti sauce-based dinners are happening at my house. Grilled cheese with tomato bisque and spoonfuls of eggplant caponata, too. Sausage and mad kraut. It’s fun to get creative with what’s on hand and tidy up at the same time. An organized pantry and freezer bring me joy. @MarieKondo
Using home-grown foodstuffs allows me to know precisely what’s in the food my family eats and lightens the grocery bill, too. I highly recommend trying to preserve at least one thing you grow, each summer.
Because of a very prolific cherry tomato plant, I made a ton of dried tomatoes last year and packed them in olive oil. Not only are the tomatoes sweet and chewy, but the flavored oil is delicious for dipping or sautéing. I have an excess of those little jars so I decided to make a batch of an old favorite.
Though I thought I’d never miss this dish (it was the top seller at my restaurant for nearly 20 years and I was OVER it), I find that I have. It is delicious and versatile. Many people have asked for this recipe over the years, and because it was a signature dish, I didn’t share it. It’s time to spread the love. I give you: Gemelli Pesto.
Before the recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto you’ll need to know what the other ingredients are and how the dish is assembled. Gemelli is a noodle shape: a pasta twist, about two inches long made from two pieces of bucatini (hollow spaghetti). To prepare a serving, you have already cooked the pasta “al dente” and drained it. 1.5 cups of cooked noodles per person is the portion I use. The sauce (again, per person) is as follows: 1/4 cup of Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (recipe below) in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in a 1/8 cup of heavy cream. When the sauce begins to bubble, toss in the noodles and stir gently to combine. Pour the dressed noodles onto a dinner plate and top with 1/8 cup of fresh chèvre, chopped fresh basil and slices of warm, grilled chicken breast. Multiply as needed. Bon Appétit.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (sunflower seeds are fine, too)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1/8 cup crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, combine all but the last ingredient. Blend until very smooth. Slowly pour in olive oil and continue blending until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Also freezes well. Oh yeah, it's spicy.
Every new year brings trends in fashion, design, food and music. Entertaining is no different. 2018 saw everything from ultra-violet décor, loads of copper everything, wonderland-themed weddings, geometric shapes in table scapes, lucite accents (the clear chair!), comfort food and let’s not forget the Über trendy “Hygge” style of laid back and cozy Danish entertaining. Whew!
So what’s on the horizon for 2019? First up is certainly anything that is PANTONE color of the year: ”Living Coral”. We haven’t seen this beauty since the early nineties and it promises to be all over the hippest soirées, especially weddings. Graceful swans are in the spotlight too and may show up on cakes, invitations, showers and even kid parties. Other hotties will include “orb balloons” and we’re still seeing monochromatic color themes.
Looking for party-ware? Since “sustainable” is the name of the game, real plates, glass and silverware is new again. That’s right, no more paper if we’re all trying to reduce our carbon footprint. Pull out those lovelies hiding in your dining room and put them to use. And you thought you’d never end up using that wedding china! I’m thinking about high tea in my garden! Domestic diva, Martha Stewart is sharing how-tos for an eco-friendly fiesta.
I’m happy to report that vintage is still cool and the traditional Cocktail Party is back at the pinnacle of hip (was it ever really gone?) but make it current with do-it-yourself drink stations featuring ALL THE FRESH HERBS (Bourbon Bars and Tequila Tables) and “mock tails”.
But the entertainment. Thank heavens the photo booth is on the way out and being replaced by more golden oldies: Tarot Card Readers, ventriloquists and caricaturists. Fun! Coordinate your music with a DJ playing all the Motown or wow the hipsters with bluegrass (Broad Ripple’s oldest show, “A Touch of Grass” plays house parties (firstname.lastname@example.org). I see you, too, Polka Band! For the kiddos, add a play area to your event, with jumbo building blocks, bingo or Twister.
For actual kid parties, Liz Bates (Bates Black Tie- Event Planning | email@example.com) takes play to a new level in ’19. “ Although traditional parties for kids are always a hit, expect to see parents take more of a hands-on approach in the DIY area. This makes for a unique and fresh take on the modern day kids party which the entire family can enjoy.” In the warm months, the fam could pitch in to build a new dog house to welcome a new puppy (great birthday gift) or duh, plant a garden! The possibilities are endless.
With so many fun, but not over-the-top party ideas in this new year, entertaining can be fun, unique and affordable. Be extra. Be EXTRAordinary. Cheers!
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.