Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cooking with Herbs- Crostini and Pasta with Fresh Herbs

Last night Bonnie and Dawn came over to my house for our monthly Cooking with Friends night in.  Since my herb garden is in full abundance right now we went with the theme Cooking with Herbs.  There is so much that you can do with fresh herbs, and honestly we only just scratched the surface!  But our dinner was delicious and absolutely bursting with herbs!  Bonnie chose to make a pasta that incorporated the use of a bunch of herbs, that really showcased their flavor.  They were easily the star of the show.  It was so yummy and one I will totally be making again and again.  I think the addition of some chopped garden tomatoes would be lovely too.  

I went with a mixed variety of Crostini, some hot and some cold, all using different fresh herbs to show a lot of versatility in one basic little dish.  They all turned out delicious and we had a tough time deciding on a favorite.  But two stood out a little more then the rest- the Roasted Garlic Topping and also the Asiago Cheese and Onion Topping.  These two packed a ton of flavor in just very simple ingredients.   I was thrilled with the outcome of all the crostini and will definitely be making them again. What a perfect appetizer for a dinner party!  ....Although I doubt I will be waiting until a party to make these again- they are too good!  

from left to right: Roasted Garlic with Parmesan Cheese, Basil Pesto with Buffalo Mozzarella and Bruschetta Tomatoes,  Asiago Cheese and Onion Topping

Basic Crostini
1 french bread baguette, sliced thin on the diagonal (about 1/4-inch thick)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place butter and olive oil in a small sauce pan over low heat and stir until butter is melted.  Brush both sides of the bread slices with the mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven, turning once, until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes.  Allow crostini to cool, then place in an airtight container until ready to use.

Classic Fresh Tomato Bruschetta Topping
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
healthy drizzle extra virgin olive oil
shaved Parmesan Cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside, unrefrigerated for at least 30 minutes.  Place onto toasted crostini and top with slices of shaved Parmesan Cheese.

Classic Fresh Tomato Bruschetta Crostini 

Roasted Garlic Topping
from Outer Banks The Bountiful Coastal Carolina Cookbook by Chyrel B. Austin
3 heads of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel garlic cloves and place in a small oven proof dish.  Pour oilve oil over the cloves; oil should cover the garlic cloves completely.  Cover the dish tightly with a double thickness of foil.  Place on the center shelf of oven and bake until cloves are tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.  Reserve the oil.  Place the garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of the reserved oil in a food processor and process until pureed.  Season with pepper, transfer to airtight container and refrigerate up to 2 days.

To serve, spread each crostini with a teaspoon of the roasted garlic mixture.  place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until crostini are warm, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve warm.

Asiago Cheese and Onion Topping
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow or white onions, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (we used fresh, so it would be 1 tablespoon instead)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups grated Asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions. Let onions cook at least 3 minutes before stirring (they should start to brown before you move them around). Continue to cook, stirring only occasionally, about 20 minutes, until onions are well browned. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Spread bread slices with a little mustard. Divide onion mixture evenly over bread slices then top each with cheese.

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts, tosasted
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Next add the cheese right into the food processor and just blended for a quick couple of seconds to incorporate.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

*for the crostini, I spread the pesto lightly onto the toast, topped them with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and a spoonful of the Classic Bruschetta Topping.

Shrimp and Sausage with Asiago Cheese

Shrimp & Sausage with Asiago Cheese Topping
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 lb. Italian hot or sweet sausage, casing removed
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup coarsely grated Asiago cheese

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook, stirring, until onion is wilted about 3 minutes. Add sausage meat and cook, stirring to break up lumps until no longer raw, about 5 minutes. Add chopped shrimp and garlic, cooking just until shrimp turns pink. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Preheat broiler. Place Basic Bruschetta slices on a baking sheet. Top with shrimp and sausage mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil just until cheese melts (3-4 minutes). Do not let brown. Remove from oven, cut into 2-inch pieces and serve hot. Serves 4.

Pasta with Fresh Herbs

Pasta with Fresh Herbs
1/2 lb uncooked pasta
1/2 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (we used fresh since I am growing it! Make it 1 Tablespoon if using fresh.  Note:if you can't find Marjoram you can use oregano instead. They are in the same family.)
1 teaspoon ground savory (fresh here again- 1 tablespoon)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sliced black olives (we added more because we all love olives)

Cook pasta acording to package directions.  Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the herbs.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the butter mixture and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with black olives.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

The big, wonderful bowl of pasta- yum!

*I didn't make this one last night, just ran out of time and bread!  But I want to share the recipe for future use because it sounds wonderful!
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Topping
Adapted slightly from Williams Sonoma 

2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and
coarsely chopped
2 Tb. slivered almonds or toasted pine nuts
3 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 c finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 oz. goat cheese 

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the red peppers on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Bake for approx 40-45 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Let them cool and then, seed, peel and chop them.

In the bowl of a food processor or using a hand blender, combine the red peppers, the remaining garlic clove, nuts, cheese, 3 Tbs of the parsley, lemon juice, 2 tsp olive oil and the cayenne pepper. Pulse until a coarse puree forms. Season with salt and black pepper.

Reduce the oven to 350°F.

With the crostini in a single layer on a baking sheet, spread about 2 tsp of the goat cheese on each crostini. Bake until the cheese is slightly soft and the crostini are warm, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and top each with about 1 Tbs of the red pepper pesto. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. parsley.

1 comment:

  1. Those are some of my favorite things to cook: pasta and crostinis! They look great, now I have a taste for that meal!



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