Pesto Pantesco with Shrimp

I love it when Victor heads into the kitchen! I know I'm in for a treat!

Our tomatoes are finally coming in at a pretty good rate - Not enough, yet, for a batch of sauce, but enough to have tomatoes at pretty much every meal. I made a tomato and bean salad Saturday night to serve with a flank steak, we  had a tomato an hot pepper salsa over a grilled pork loin on Thursday. Both really good but they were both just throw-togethers - no recipes.

Victor had seen a recipe in The Washington Post for a pesto that used fresh Roma tomatoes, but... we've found out Roma's really don't do well in our area.  That, of course, has never stopped us from creating something! The reality is, in just about any recipe, any good tomato will work - and if you are able to pick them from your own garden - even better!

Pesto Pantesco

adapted from The Washington Post

  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, if desired, and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup (3 ounces) almonds, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup (1 ounce) packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup (1 ounce) packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • S&P, as desired
  • 1 pound cooked pasta or a dozen crostini, for serving (optional)

Step 1 In a food processor or blender, pulse together the tomatoes, almonds, capers, basil, mint and garlic until chunky. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth. Taste, and season with S&P, if desired.

Step 2 Toss with pasta, use as a topping for bruschetta, crostini, or serve as you’d like.

He did peel the tomatoes this time around. We have a bad-boy Ninja blender/food processor, so it can blend things a bit better than your basic budget Hamilton Beach, but it's still a personal preference. If you have the time, go for it. If not, don't worry about it.

Victor knew it was going to go over pasta and thought he might make some - he does make some awesome pasta. We had a box of squid ink and pepper pappardelle, however, and he decided to add shrimp to the pesto and serve it with the pappardelle. I have absolutely no idea where we picked up the pasta, but it's been around for a while - just waiting for the right sauce. And this was definitely it!


The pesto screamed fresh tomatoes - it definitely was the prominent flavor - and, I think the peeled tomatoes may have helped enhance that fresh-from-the-garden flavor - totally contradicting my earlier claim, above.. And then, everything else came into play - the basil and mint, the garlic, the almonds in the background... Bold and subtle at the same time.


The pasta was the perfect foil, and the perfectly-cooked shrimp added another layer of flavor and texture.

The pesto recipe made about 2-2 1/2 cups - enough for dinner and enough to go into the freezer for another great meal or two - a little goes a long way.

And just for grins and giggles, here is the comic Pickles by Brian Crane.

It just described our refrigerator, perfectly. As I do the majority of the grocery shopping...

... Guilty, as charged.

Pomegranate Molasses

A million and one years ago when I was The Demo Dude at Trader Joe's #632 - and years before Pomegranate Molasses was readily available outside of Middle Eastern stores - I came up with a recipe to make it with their rather excellent 100% Pomegranate Juice. The juice is pretty tart and most people didn't know what to do with it back in those dark ages. It was before POM and all those other juices and products came into vogue. As was typical with our Demo Process back then, we took products and gave people several different ways to use them - the more reasons we gave people to use something, the more often they would buy it. We figured it was job security - and since I lasted 17 years before finally retiring, I guess it was.

Pomegranate Molasses was one of our definite hits - we sold a pallet of the juice in just a couple of days because it was new, it was unique, and it tasted fantastic. And because we were extremely fun and creative - drizzling it over ice cream, making BBQ Sauce, salad dressing... We were definitely creative!

Pomegranate Molasses

  • 1 qt pomegranate juice
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Lemon juice

Place pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan and slowly reduce by boiling to about 1 1/2 cups.
Cool, bottle, and keep refrigerated.
We really did have a lot of fun back in those days.

Fast-Forward 15 or so years and I now buy it - it's available just about everywhere - and I still use it whenever I'm looking to add a bit of sweet/tart flavor - like tonight...

I had seen a recipe for Charred Eggplant with Burrata and Walnut and Pomegranate Relish quite a few years ago in Food and Wine magazine and filed it away as I do with hundreds of recipes a year.

Today, I was thinking of different ways to cook zucchini - since it has taken over one of the garden beds - and thought it might be worth revisiting... My mind definitely works in mysterious ways when it comes to cooking. I guess it's one of the reasons we had so much fun creating all of those Demo recipes back in the day...


Pomegranate and Pistachio Relish

adapted from Food and Wine magazine

  • 1 cup pistachios - roasted & salted
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Ground black pepper

Coarsely chop pistachios. Combine them with the pomegranate arils, parsley, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Season with black pepper to taste, and stir to combine.

It really is that easy!


I switched out pistachios for walnuts and parsley for cilantro, doubled the pomegranate molasses and served it over grilled zucchini instead of eggplant. I left out the cheese. And grilled lamb loin chops for the win.



Tons of flavor and totally minimal effort - important when it's really hot outside...


Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini are stealth-growers.

Their goal is to grow as large as vegetably-possible. They hide. They manipulate leaves to cover themselves. They suck nutrients from the soil as they quickly gain size and shape. Then - without any warning, they show themselves in all of their weighted glory.

Or, at least, that's what it seems like.

I'm in the garden checking things every day, but I didn't see this monster until yesterday morning. It was hiding... mocking me...


But I had the last laugh on this one... What does one do with a 1 3/4 pound zucchini?!? Why... one stuffs it - - with sausage and peppers and onions and a chunk of our homemade bread and lots and lots of cheese!


It was a clean-out-the-'fridge recipe, tonight...

  • Zucchini
  • Buccellato di Lucca
  • Spring onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Calabrian Chili Paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mozzarella

I made a quick blender sauce of onion, pepper, tomato, basil, garlic, mint, oregano, S&P. Poured half into a 9x13 bking dish.

I cooked up the sausage, Calabrian chili paste, onion, peppers, basil, ad garlic. Into a bowl with the crumbled bread.

I added the rest of the quick sauce and mixed it all together.

Hollowed out the zucchini, stuffed it, and then covered and baked for 30 minutes. Uncovered, added the mozzarella, and placed back into the oven until all melty and gooey.


It was huge - and waaaaaaay too much for one meal - so we're having it for lunch, today.

I'm on the lookout for more of these monsters!

From The Garden

Finally! Tomatoes and peppers are coming in! Black Krims, Brandywine, and an Oregon tomato are doing some serious producing. We pulled up the San Marzanos we planted - five plants - because of rot. Plum tomatoes just don't seem to do well, here.

Oh, well.

The peppers - bell, anaheim, and jalapeño - are finally doing well, also. It's taken all summer for them! The Thai peppers have lots of flowers, but I haven't seen a lot of peppers, yet. there's still time.

It's great to sit out front on our new patio and look up at the garden... We have a whole new outdoor room to enjoy, and it's great to look up and see where dinner came from!


Dinner, tonight, was a quick pasta dish with peppers, garlic, and tomatoes from the garden - along with fresh rosemary and oregano - white wine, shrimp, red onion, and salt and pepper. As basic as can be.

The tomatoes really shone through - they are just really flavorful - as only a homegrown tomato can be.



We're hoping for a bunch more to ripen at the same time so we can make a bit more Tomato Paste - the true nectar of the gods.

Cross those fingers.

In the meantime, there's still carrots and eggplant to go through! Lovin' it!

Gardening 101

After last year's rather dismal season, I thought I'd read up on Gardening in the Pacific Northwest. I also thought that it might be nice to start more plants from seed, this year. I really wasn't pleased with the plants we bought last year - time to try something different.

I started out with some seeds we have had for a few too many years - and none of them sprouted after 2 weeks, so... out to buy new, fresh seeds.

We have a skylight and flat surfaces in the bathroom, so it has become Gardening Central.

Right now, we have Onions that have already begun sprouting that I got from my brother. and Black Beauty Eggplant in the first seed starter tray. Next, we have San Marzano Tomatoes - from Italy - and Heirloom Beefsteak. The San Marzano seeds are a bit old, so I'm unsure of how they will do. I've planted extra Italian Roma's just in case. The next tray is all Italian Roma Tomatoes. If they take off, it will be some excellent sauce and paste!

The next tray has Green Zebra and Black Krim Tomatoes. These are seeds from back east and they've only been in for 3 days, so we shall see how they do. Finally, we have Red and Yellow Brandywine Tomatoes, and more Black Krim.

We have Radishes, Garlic, and Potatoes in the ground right now, and in a couple of weeks, Carrots will go in. In the middle of February, we'll start the Hot Peppers indoors, and at the beginning of April we will be planting Green Bean, Carrot, and Beet seeds outdoors. And somewhere in there will be Lettuces...

From their sprouting bins, they will be transplanted into individual 4" pots where they will be nurtured until time to plant into the ground. I'm really hoping for a bumper crop of seedlings - we have my sister and plenty of nieces and nephews who all have gardens, so they will not go to waste.

The mosaic in the background was made by my Great Aunt Dolores back in the early '60s. I've had it since the late '80s. I love it - and if we ever redo the bathroom, I'd love to have it incorporated in a walk-in shower... [Note to self: Buy Lottery Ticket.]

So... we have a plan. May the gardening gods smile down upon us!



Italian Cherry Liqueur

Last week, after bottling our latest batch of Limoncello, our nephew remarked that we should make a batch with cherries - since we just seem to have a few of them...

Challenge, accepted!

We found a recipe online and with a couple of tweaks, Italian Cherry Liqueur has been started.

Started, because this is going to be a loooooong process.

The first step is soaking the cherries and sugar together for 2 weeks.

The second step is to add the vodka and let it steep for three months. THEN...

It's strained, bottled, and ages another three months.

This is going to be a Christmas Beverage!


Italian Cherry Liqueur

This is the first stage - the sugar and cherries. The recipe calls for using half of the pits, as well. I put them in cheesecloth, because we plan on using the cherries for Christmas Cookies!

Italian Cherry Liqueur

adapted from Italy Magazine

  • 2 kg cherries
  • 2 ltr 100 proof vodka
  • 750 g sugar

Cut and wash the cherries, discarding half the pits.

Place the remaining pits on a clean cloth and break with a hammer.

Combine the pieces of pits and cherries in a glass jar.

Cover fruit and pits with sugar and seal in container to age.

Shake fruit mixture several times during the first two weeks.

Add the alcohol and place mixture in a cool, dark area and set aside to macerate for three months.

Using a fine muslin bag or wire mesh strainer, pour aged mixture through cloth/mesh to strain.

Reserve filtered liquid, placing in a new bottle to age for three months or more.


Update September 26, 2021:

It's bottled!

Now... It sits for another few months!

Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta and Fresh Tomatoes

We're not done, yet, with those tomatoes! They really are the gift that keeps on giving!

When we cleared out the majority of the garden the other day, we brought in a lot of unripe tomatoes - the upcoming weather was just not conducive to keeping them outdoors.

We had a bunch of yellow tomatoes ripen together, so that started us off on a path to fresh pasta and yellow tomato sauce.

And I have to tell ya - it was a pretty yummy path!

Fresh Pasta

First, Victor made cavatelli - little semolina pasta shells. Perfectly light and tender, but sturdy enough to stand up to the sauce.


  • 1 1/8 cup semolina flour
  • 3/4 cup Tipo "00" flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Mix flours and salt on board. Make a well and add the water and oil. Slowly mix the liquid into the flour forming a dough. Knead about 5 minutes. Wrap and let rest about 30 minutes to an hour.

Roll pieces of dough into a thin rope and cut into 1/2" pieces. Press and roll to make little shells.

Cook in salted boiling water. Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

For the sauce, I blended several yellow tomatoes in the blender to make a sauce.

Into a skillet went garlic, leeks, and fennel. When it was wilted, I added white wine and cooked it down. Next went the tomato sauce.

I brought it all to a boil and added oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.

I brought it to a simmer and poached monkfish medallions in the sauce, and then added chunks of yellow tomato.

I cooked the pasta about 3/4 of the way though and then added it to the sauce to finish cooking.

The end result was pretty spectacular for being such a simple meal.

I am really going to miss these fresh tomatoes.

Fresh Tomatoes

The Last Hurrah

Sadly, the garden is over for another year... It's been a good year, with a record amount of tomatoes, cucumbers, galore, and some pretty hot peppers.

The eggplant didn't do as well as it has in the past, and, neither did the hot peppers, although there are still a few out back. The peppers that did arrive came late. I'll go out and get the last of them as soon as it stops raining. (Wishing I could send the rain west...)

Fresh Tomatoes

The green and purple beans started out great and then withered away. No idea why. The beets were good, but also not really plentiful. We also harvested the last of the leeks and the fresh ginger.

It really was the year of the tomato - and, when we weren't canning them, they seemed to go into almost everything we made.

A few nights ago, I made a throw-together andouille sausage and chicken stew, and then the following night, made a pot pie with the leftovers.

Pot Pie

I laid thick slices of tomato on top of the filling before adding the top crust. It was a pretty good use of leftovers...

And then, after seeing a recipe from La Cucina Italiana - I made a bean soup with shrimp.

Bean Soup

I didn't even remotely follow their recipe. but I did take their idea.

I made a quick bean soup using canned cannellini beans, homemade tomato paste, garlic, leeks, and celery, along with white wine, chicken broth, and aleppo pepper. I used an immersion blender to smooth it all out and then added a final can of beans for texture.

I sauteed shrimp in butter and olive oil, lots of garlic, a squirt of lemon, and lots of parsley.  Put the soup in a bowl, added the shrimp on top, and drizzled the pan juices around. It was pretty darned good. I made garlic bread from the Italian Bread I had made earlier in the week

Italian Bread

It was pretty good, too.

We probably have another weeks worth of tomatoes ripening and then it's over until next year - and next year's garden will be in California!




Tomato Galette

Tomato Galette

The garden tomatoes are slowly coming tpo an end, but while they're still around, we're coming up with more ways to eat them.

Tonight, Victor made a Tomato Galette - layers of sliced tomatoes under crisp and crunchy croutons. It was pure perfection!

He took a bunch of yellow heirloom tomatoes and sliced them and then layered them in a small casserole dish with thinly-sliced shallots, a bit of shredded quattro formaggio cheese blend, salt & pepper, topped with homemade croutons from the Italian Bread I made yesterday.

The croutons were bread cubes mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder - baked in the oven until crunchy and toasted. Since toast is one of my most favorite food groups, he made enough for me to snack on, as well!

It all went into a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.

Tomato Galette

Crispy crunchy croutons atop perfect tomatoes - seasoned simply, because they're so delicious on their own they don't need a lot. And the homemade croutons made the dish!

I made the bread to go along with a beef stew I had made.

I make stew based on a Boeuf Bourguignon recipe I've been making for years. It started off as a quick version of Julia Child's classic and has just morphed over the years. The constants are beef, bacon, brandy, a bottle of red wine, and beef stock - the rest changes to suit what's in the kitchen at the time... It slow-cooks in the oven for several hours and comes out great every time.

beef stew and tomatoes

This really has been the year of the tomato and I'm going to be sad to see it end.

But it ain't over, yet!





Orzo Salad

Orzo Salad

We did a bit of tag-team in the kitchen, today... I had planned burgers with a mushroom sauce because I had mushrooms that needed using up. Victor decided to make an orzo salad because orzo salads are really good. I had also harvested another huge bowl of tomatoes.

You can see how logic plays right into our meal decisions.

Orzo Salad

The salad consisted of:

  • orzo
  • fresh tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • leeks
  • celery
  • kalamata olives
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

Fresh and refreshing!

The burgers were pretty basic and the mushroom gravy was:

  • crimini mushrooms
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • brandy
  • red wine
  • beef stock
  • pepper, garlic powder
  • cornstarch to thicken

Neither were anything fancy, but they really hit the spot.

Tomorrow night, we're thinking of reworking the salad into a pasta dish with shrimp!

Stay tuned.



They just keep a'comin' even as the plants start dying back. I'm really rather in awe - last year, they were pretty much gone in early September.

I think the Black Krim have been the best-tasting, overall, this year - a rich tomato flavor you will never get from the supermarket. That being said, the others haven't been too shabby. Every one has been superior to anything store-bought.

We're going to do at least one more round of tomato paste, but, tonight, decided on a Tomato Cobbler with Ricotta Biscuits from the NY Times.  Something a bit different...


The recipe calls for draining ricotta, freezing flour, and, generally, making a huge production out of making the biscuits. I just made them using their basic ingredients but not following their process. They were really good. Use your own judgement.

Tomato Cobbler with Ricotta Biscuits

adapted from the NY Times

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper


Prepare the ricotta: Strain the ricotta in a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer for at least 30 minutes. When it’s ready to use, squeeze to get rid of any excess moisture.

Prepare the ricotta biscuits: Put 2 1/2 cups cake flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes. Add the butter to the bowl and smear the pieces between your fingers, pinching them to make thin pieces and smushing these into the flour mixture until no big pieces are left.

Make a well in the middle of the bowl and gradually pour in 1 cup buttermilk while using a fork to fluff in the flour from the sides of the bowl until you form a shaggy-looking dough. Crumble in the ricotta and loosely incorporate with your fingers.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to shape it into a roughly 4-inch-by-6-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds and flatten back to the same size with your hands; repeat two more times, flattening the dough out until about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 2-quart baking dish, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and thyme and oregano with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons cake flour. Season generously with salt and pepper, and let sit while you prepare the biscuit dough.

Lay the biscuit dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch squares or circles and arrange in a single layer over the tomatoes — you should have around 10 to 12 biscuits. Roll and cut scraps, or just bake the scraps separately to snack on. Bake for 45 minutes, until the tomato mixture has bubbled up and the biscuits are browned on top. Allow to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature, finishing with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.


I made pork patties with ground pork, aleppo pepper, garlic, and salt and pepper - and then pan-fried them.

The biscuits were really light, the tomatoes really flavorful.  The total flavor combination worked great.

And there's still more to come!



Tomato Risotto

Tomato Risotto

I have been making risotto for years. And years.

It's one of those dishes I just make - the basics are always the same, the flavors can change depending upon what's in the 'fridge. It's really an easy dish to pull off - and pretty much impossible to screw up. It takes about 30 minutes - and it's worth the minimal effort.

Tonight's version started off as a way to use up tomatoes. We're getting to the last of them, but... there are still quite a few. I used small yellow tomatoes for this, but any would work.

Tomato Risotto

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or other risotto rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast, cut in chunks
  • 6 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 - 2 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Saute onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil and butter.  Add chicken and cook about half-way. Add rice and cook until translucent, stirring continually.  Add the tomato paste and blend well.

Add wine and cook until almost fully absorbed.

Begin to add broth by the ladle, stirring continually.  Continue adding ladles of broth as the last one is absorbed. Midway through, stir in tomatoes.

Continue stirring and adding broth until rice is just tender.

Stir in cheese.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.


Tomato Risotto

20/20 hindsight being what it is, I probably could have held back a few tomatoes and stirred them in at the end for a bit more texture, but, as it was, they melted in and made for a rich, flavorful sauce.