Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's All My Fault

Another Pesto Post.

I wrote this post back in mid-December (during Marathon Swim Meet, I'm sure) but didn't get it posted for one reason or another (probably because it mentions a gift I still haven't given). Ah, whatever. Welcome to my world.  Here it is:

I had a poll going, over in the right column. It caused me to change my blog format because it was unreadable.   It asked the question: which of these items will be the most difficult for me to use up?  Cocktail onions?  Easy - marinated olives (which, by the way, turned out to be a BIG hit).  The lemon balm wasn’t a big concern. At least for you, dear readers (all four of you who voted in the poll!). For me? I’m stumped. Or, I was.

I harvested a huge batch of lemon balm from my garden. It took to our clay soil and my farming plan called “neglect” – and we had a huge crop. Problem is, I had no idea what to do with it. I tried a few things, but they were horrid. Still, I packed it away in the freezer for an inspired day.

That day is here. My friend (First Janet) brought it on this week when we caught each other two-timing at our regular sushi restaurant (there is one here in our corner of southwest Virginia, in a former Golden Corral building – what a vast improvement). I was there with DH, she with a gaggle of girlfriends.

FJ has taken up the refrigerator challenge with me, making MUCH more progress than we have. I’d like to think it’s because she has a large tribe which eats as much as a small army and pretty much cleaned her out after Thanksgiving when they and their significant others rolled out. My tribe is both small in number and rather finicky.

Apparently FJ has a sparkling white, empty refrigerator, anticipating the coming holidays, when it will be filled in preparation for the return of her tribe. In the meantime, there’s nothing to eat but ketchup, mustard, and some other stray condiment. It’s all “my” fault that she had to go out to lunch with her friends. Sure it is.

Well, to take care of my pal, I’ve decided to give her a care package: two pastas and two pestos. Score three for me: a holiday gift for my friend, and two more items leave my fridge disguised as gifts. You’ve already met Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto. Here’s Lemon Balm Pesto, courtesy of Just in time to rescue FJ, her Beloved, and my family for a quick supper during this exceptionally busy week ahead.

Lemon Balm Pesto Spaghetti

2 c. lemon balm leaves
½ c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic

Combine these three ingredients in a food processor. Process until combined but still slightly chunky. Reserve in glass jars for up to two weeks (in the refrigerator).

1 (8 oz.) pkg. spaghetti, cooked al dente (about 12 minutes) and drained well.
1 (16 oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained
3 onions, chopped
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
½ tsp. arrowroot
½ tsp. salt

Combine tomatoes, onions, and dried mushrooms in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cook until the tomato liquid has partially evaporated, about 15 minutes. Stir in the arrowroot, salt, and prepared lemon balm pesto. Simmer to blend the flavors and thicken the sauce, about 5 minutes.

Serve the lemon balm pesto sauce over the hot cooked spaghetti.

Substitution Queen's Notes:

1. Arrowroot powder is used as a thickener. I don’t have any. Substitution Queen would use corn starch or flour dissolved in a little cold water. According to my new favorite book, The Food Substitution Bible (Second Ed.) by David Joachim (had to get this the minute I saw it!), 2 tsp. arrowroot thickens 1 c. liquid, as does 1 T. quick-cooking tapioca (don’t have that either), 1 tsp. instant mashed potato flakes (ditto), 1 ½ tsp. cornstarch (now we’re talking) or 1 heaping T. all-purpose flour. Since the recipe calls for ½ tsp. arrowroot, or about ¼ the portion size in this Bible, I’ve decided to use about 1 tsp. flour (about ¼ a heaping T.) dissolved in a little water.

2. Dried shiitake mushrooms are difficult to find here in southwest Virginia. The Food Substitution Bible suggests substituting 8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms for 1 ½ oz. dried. Since the recipe didn’t give a package weight for the dried mushrooms, I say go for it – add the whole package of fresh mushrooms if it looks right to you. One consideration is that the fresh mushrooms will add liquid to the sauce while the dried mushrooms would have the opposite effect, so you might want to bump up the thickener a little, but I probably wouldn’t. Depends on what it looks like!

3. I already have a nice batch of leftover spaghetti sauce, with onions and mushroom and some errant meatballs, in the fridge, so I plan to use it up instead. Another win!

If I’d been thinking, I would have taken my entire jar of pickled ginger with me to the sushi place. Now THAT particular refrigerator gem has me worried. Pickled ginger chips? Hmm…


Janet Hanks said...

You crack me up. Did you see the mustard relish tacos in my blog post?

Accidental Artisan said...

FJ, I certainly did! I LOVED it. Thanks so much for the much-more-eloquent explaination of what I'm trying to do here. It reminds me to focus less on the process and more on the reason why. Less is definitely more.

PS. Two and a half pestos ready when you are...