Tag Archives: pesto

Wood Fired Salmon with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Confit

We recycle, bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store, and have replaced our regular light bulbs with energy saving fluorescent light bulbs.  “Organic”, “local”, and “free range” have become more than just buzz words;  people are starting to have a better understand of the importance of  purchasing chemical free produce and meat from farmers who practice  good animal husbandry. Awareness has grown, and our purchasing practices are changing.
But when it comes to fish; how they are caught, and what is left behind when they are taken from the water, do people really have an understanding of what sustainable means?
What does sustainable fish mean to you?
Here’s what Green Peace has to say: “In simple terms, a sustainable fishery is one whose practices can be maintained indefinitely without reducing the targeted species’ ability to maintain its population at healthy levels, and without adversely impacting on other species within the ecosystem – including humans – by removing their food source, accidentally killing them, or damaging their physical environment.”
I think that pretty much sums it up. As responsible humans on this planet, we have to be care takers, and start making decisions that have a positive impact on our planet. When we open our wallets to pay for the food we purchase, whether in a market, or in a restaurant, what we choose to buy affects the way things will continue. If we give our money to those who pole catch albacore, that’s where our fish will come from. If we say we aren’t going to give our money to those who ravish the oceans, maybe those practices will go away. It’s all about the power of our choice, and the effects those decisions have upon our environment.
What can we do to help save our oceans for generations to come?

Make ocean friendly seafood choices when you go to the market or to a restaurant.
So how do you know what kinds of fish to buy, and which fish to avoid?
There are several excellent resources out there:

Fish To Fork The campaigning restaurant guide for people who want to eat fish – sustainably.

Seafood Watch Pocket Guide providing valuable information on best choices, good alternatives, and fish to avoid.

For this month’s 5 Star Foodie challenge, Sustainable Fish I decided to feature  salmon, one of America’s most popular fishes,  for its flavor and its health benefits; rich in omega 3.

When it comes to purchasing salmon, the sustainable choice is to buy wild Alaskan salmon.  It’s caught from a healthy wild stock with sustainable methods, is free of contaminants, and avoids the problems with farmed salmon, which can not only pollute local waters near the farm but also be polluted themselves because of the fish meal they’re fed.

Wild caught salmon tastes incredible all on its own, but  here is  a recipe that gets you out using your grill, and enjoying the subtle hints of smoke from using cedar planks.

This dish makes an excellent entree for entertaining too. The peppery arugula pesto, and slow roasted tomatoes may be made ahead of time, which means you will have more time with your guests!

Happy cooking~









Wood Fired Salmon with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Confit

Tomato Confit

3 pounds large plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed

4 large fresh thyme sprigs

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt


Arugula Pesto:

4 cups fresh arugula

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


2 (1 1/2-2  pounds) salmon fillets

2 cedar planks

For tomato confit:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange tomatoes on baking sheet. Scatter thyme sprigs and garlic cloves over. Drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake tomatoes 45 minutes. Turn tomatoes over; continue to bake until tomatoes shrink slightly but are still plump and moist, about 1 hour longer. Cool completely. Peel off skins. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)


For pesto:

Combine arugula, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add pine nuts and Parmesan cheese to mixture and blend until incorporated.

Makes 2 cups

For salmon:

Begin soaking cedar planks (fully submerged) in water at least 2 hours before using. Set grill to to medium-high heat. Place salmon on each of the cedar planks. Spoon half of the arugula pesto over each salmon fillet, spreading evenly over fish.

Place the  cedar planks in the center of the hot grate.  Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature should read 135 degrees F.  Cut each salmon fillet into 4 portions. Using a spatula, separate the fish from the skin, lifting onto each plate. Top with tomato confit.

8 servings



Beef Braciole with Meat Sauce Recipe

Growing up in a family with Italian immigrant roots meant that gathering around the table  for a big meal was a pretty regular occurrence.  Whether it was my dad’s famous lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parmigiana, or any other number of Italian dishes,  preparing for this family gathering meant the whole house would first be filled with the intoxicating smell of Sunday  tomato sauce or “gravy”  that simmered away on the stove for hours and hours.

I remember sneaking into the kitchen throughout the day, where I would tear off a little piece of bread and dunk it into the large pot of warm sauce. It was my way of testing the sauce’s progress, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I was the only one in the house  who did this. I think we all found ourselves wandering in and out of the kitchen; it was just too hard to resist.

One of my favorites from  these family dinner gatherings is Braciole (pronounced bra’zhul).  You might even call it a roulade, or involtini, depending on where you are from.  Braciole  is a southern Italian dish, with many variations, based upon the family that is cooking.  For most, flank steak is  pounded thin, stuffed with a pesto like filling, rolled, tied and simmered in sauce until fall apart tender.

I have enjoyed braciole made a million different ways, but always seem come back to the way my family makes it. Maybe because of the flavor, but maybe too, because of the familiarity and comfort it brings.

I  love to serve this entree as part of a family style Italian themed dinner party with friends.

I find it’s casual entertaining like this, that  conjeur ups old family memories and laughter around the table. It’s also a great way to discover new recipes, especially if you have your guests share in the food prep, bringing with them a favorite dish from their family cookbooks.

If you take advantage of the make-ahead steps in this recipe, and  prepare the Braciole 1 day ahead, you will  simply need to reheat before serving, ensuring you will be free to relax and have fun with your friends!

Have a look~

You will begin by preparing the sauce (see recipe below).

Next, you will make a pesto filling

Pound flank steak thin, then spread with the pesto filling

Roll up jelly-roll style, tie with butcher’s twine, then slice into 3-inch-thick slices

Brown the little bundles on both sides

Into the pot with sauce they go, and simmer away until melt in your mouth tender

Braciole with Meat Sauce

Serve the Braciole with a side of polenta, pasta, or potatoes.

Meat sauce:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 country style bone-in pork ribs

2 (28-ounce) cans diced plum tomatoes

½ cup fresh basil leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pork ribs, sprinkle with salt, and brown on both sides. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, and basil to a blender. Pulse to puree. Add pureed tomato mixture to pork. Simmer 2 hours, covered. Remove pork ribs from sauce. Shred the pork, discarding the bones. Mix shredded pork into sauce.


3 pounds ½-inch-thick flank steak

1 cup Romano cheese

¼ cup minced garlic

1 cup golden raisins

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup chopped Italian parsley

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Butcher’s twine

Pound flank steak with mallet or heavy pan to ¼-inch-thickness. Trim off any fat. Season with salt and pepper.

In a food processor, pulse the cheese, garlic, raisins, pine nuts, and parsley to form a coarse paste. Spread paste evenly over flank steak. Starting at one long end, roll meat up jelly roll style and tie with butcher’s twine in 2-inch intervals to secure.  Slice into 3-inch-thick slices.

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add braciole slice to oil and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add meat sauce to pan, cover, and simmer over very low heat for 3 hours.

8 servings


Ramps: A Little History and a Pesto Recipe with Goat Cheese

West Virginia has been in the news a lot lately.

Jamie Oliver brought  his Food Revolution campaign to Huntington and shows documenting his journey to fight obesity in America, began airing on ABC at the end of March.

Last week we heard about the horrible coal mine tragedy that claimed 29 lives.

But there’s something else going on in  in West Virginia right now that also warrants some attention…

It’s the  beginning of ramps season in the Appalachia mountains of my neighboring state.

Ramps are a type of wild leak related to the onion family,  native to the eastern North American mountains. They can be found growing in patches in rich, moist, deciduous forests and bottoms from as far north as Canada, west to Missouri and Minnesota, and south to North Carolina and Tennessee. In early spring, ramps send up smooth, broad, lily-of-the-valley-like leaves, with white bulbs at their base. They kind of look like plump scallions to me. Their flavor is very similar to a mild onion, and their aroma is that of  really potent garlic (x 10).

A few years ago, ramps were not very well known until they started showing up on menus in upscale restaurants where chef’s offered these prized foraged greens sauteed  with fresh morel mushrooms (also a spring treat) or pickled and served as part of a salad.  Huge buzz was created in the  foodie world, and with it came the search for the coveted ramps, so hard to come by and so incredibly unique.

For the mountain folks living in the Appalachia region, ramps have been and still are a celebration of community and the welcoming of spring.  During the  harvest season (which begins now, and lasts just a few weeks), festivals and celebrations sprout up around the mountain region.  For a more humble look at how ramps are celebrated in Richwood, West Virginia, watch the clip from last year’s festival.

Today ramps are becoming a bit easier to find, as their popularity grows.  I found them while on vacation at a farmer’s market far away from any of the areas they are grown, which means they were shipped in, and yes, I paid dearly for them. But the friends we were staying with had never had them, and I wanted to share the garlic breath joy with them.

Check your farmer’s market, or ask the produce manager of your favorite store if they will get some for you; but act soon before they disappear!

One of the things I like to do with ramps is whirl them into a fresh pesto and pour it over some soft goat cheese. The pesto is also delicious atop grilled fish, or tossed into pasta with shrimp. It’s simple, and lets you really appreciate the flavor of the ramps.

Ramp Pesto with Goat Cheese

1 bunch ramps (about 12 in bunch), trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 ounces soft goat cheese

1 baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place ramps and next 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor, processing until smooth. With motor running, slowly add olive oil to mixture.

Allow  goat cheese to sit out of the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to soften. Form the goat cheese into a  circular shape, then press the center in a bit to create a well. Place goat cheese round on serving platter. Pool the pesto into the center of the goat cheese, allowing it to spill onto the platter. Serve with *toasted baguette slices.

8-10 servings

*To toast baguette slices, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes to toast slightly. Remove baking sheet from oven and brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Return to oven and bake 7-9 additional minutes (or until golden brown), flipping slices halfway through bake time. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper.