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Everyday Pesto

Pesto in itself is a simple beauty from northern Italy, lending a vibrant and luscious punch to everything from a piece of bread to a bowl of pasta. As I was playing around with the recipe this week, it almost became a game as to all the different ways I could use it with what I already had in the house–a perfect sauce with some linguine I found in the cupboard, a delightful spread on some thick slices of toasted bread, an out of the ordinary dip for carrots, celery & cucumber, and with a splash of lemon juice, it made a bright and decadent dressing for a salad of greens and fresh mozzarella.

Traditionally, pesto is made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and a hard grated cheese like Parmesan. And this in itself is amazing, especially in the summer months when basil is abundant and has the chance to get together with good friends like tomatoes.

For the rest of the year, there is a lot of room to play around with the recipe and make it work in your kitchen for what’s happening in real life, like a half bag of spinach or a bunch of kale hanging out in the fridge without a hope of being used up before it’s too late.

Recently Hans and I had a super rare opportunity for a date night and we spent the evening at one of our favorite spots in San Diego, Ironside Fish & Oyster for one of Chef Jason McLeod’s  incredible Chef’s Catch dinners. This particular dinner featured Sara Gasbarra, the special guest of the evening, who also happens to be a friend from Chicago:) Sara owns and operates Verdura, where she cultivates (from concept to harvest) culinary gardens for restaurants and hotels.

This delightful dinner was all about celebrating the lesser-known or ugly parts of vegetables (and animals) that in fact are full of flavor and culinary possibility. Aside from the novelty in creating a gremolata sauce from citrus pulp leftover from juicing, or a pesto made from vegetable tops, or using the forgotten flowers from rapini plants, a deeper chord ran through all the fun and adventure that could not escape me. There is real, nourishing food that never makes it to the bins at the grocery store. And not only that, but there is real, amazing opportunities in my fridge right now even though it may look like “there’s nothing to eat”.

I could not stop thinking about it as I walked through the grocery store later that week, and I continued to think about it as I wandered through the farmers market on Saturday. Actually, I found myself feeling a lot of emotions about these forgotten foods, like I wanted to stick up for them being bullied by the cool veggies like breakfast radishes, or heirloom tomatoes, or the stunning romanesco.

And honestly, I think it’s a combination of the current political shenanigans and things like the anticipation of EO Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life where he proposes a plan to save the planet by devoting half of the surface of the earth to nature, but I can’t stop thinking about the unknown future and my part in it. I know I probably shouldn’t be writing about politics in a food blog, but oh well. When I heard Drumpf was running for President, I didn’t give it a second thought. I took it as a bit of fun for the media and hardly credible. But look where we are now. This planet has been so good to us for so long, it feels hard to believe that anything really apocalyptic could ever happen, and yet look at what’s happening to the ice caps and weather patterns. So the thought that has been spinning around in my head is this; when we pluck something from the earth, do we have a responsibility to use every bit that we can? There is also money savings when we buy a bunch of carrots with the tops and use the carrots for snacking and soups and salads, and then use the green tops for something as delicious as pesto. The point is, it’s your kitchen, it’s your grocery store run, it’s your trip to the farmers market, it’s your budget. Make it count, make it fill your table with fun, adventure, and make it yours. <3<3


2 large garlic cloves
1 ½ c. kale leaves
(or other greens like carrot, beet or radish tops, spinach, arugula, ramps, broccoli florets, rapini,etc.)
1 ½ basil leaves
¼ c. raw almonds (or pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
½ c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Wash greens and basil well and dry thoroughly.
  2. Blend everything together until smooth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Component in Action

  • sauce for pasta
  • spread for croustinis
  • on sandwiches
  • scrambled with eggs
  • as a dip by itself, or folded into some greek yogurt for a creamy dip
  • leave out the cheese and use as a marinade
  • as a vinaigrette for salads

Parisian Gnocchi: The many delights of pâte à choux, part 2

Welcome to the world of gnocchi perfection. I’m talking about floating ethereal clouds, dreamy pillows bursting with flavor and texture. These gnocchi take on a variety of preparations like a pro, and if that wasn’t enough, are a snap to make. And did I mention these little darlings also have a French accent? What’s not to love?

These French dumplings are called Parisian Gnocchi. I typed the word “Parisian” into the title of this post many times and then repeatedly deleted it, in fear it would scare some people off. Then I finally added it back in because I couldn’t give in to such devices. The word Parisian sounds elegant and let’s face it, kind of fancy. The closer we get to the roots of a recipe, the more exotic it sounds and sometimes that can be off-putting when we have, oh you know, just a little thing called LIFE going on. Some people might be reading this and thinking, “Big deal. I’m not scared of a little gnocchi! ” But I also think that we have been bombarded by LOTS of advertising whispering to us over and over that cooking from scratch is too hard for our busy schedules. So to that I say Hogwash, and here’s a perfect example to prove it.

In France gnocchi is made with pâte à choux dough while In Italy it is usually made with potatoes. Both versions are great but I tend to lean towards the French version more often because the gnocchi are not only perfectly light and airy, but they are also easy and super fun to make.

There are many ways to serve Parisian gnocchi. One of my favorite preparations is to crisp them up in a pan with a little brown butter, throw some arugula in at the last minute, spoon into bowls and grate some fresh parmesan over the top. You could also transfer the cooked gnocchi to a baking dish and sprinkle cheese over the top and bake until golden brown, or you can simply toss them in your favorite sauce and call it a day. 


1 c. water
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz)
1 c. AP flour
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper drizzled with a bit of olive oil.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a medium boil (just like you are cooking pasta)
  3. In a medium saucepan bring water, butter, and salt to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until dough comes away from the sides of the pan, about 30 seconds.
  5. Take the pan off of heat and add eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is completely incorporated into the dough before adding the next one. This is when you will notice the dough will appear to “break”. Just keep stirring and before you know it, all will be well again and you will be ready to add the next egg.
  6. Stir in cheese.
  7. Use a spatula to transfer the dough to a piping bag and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. (you can even use a freezer bag or even just use a spoon for larger, more rustic gnocchi)
  8. Once the dough is rested and the water is boiling, snip off the tip of your pastry bag (You are looking for about a ½” tip or opening) and squeeze gnocchi into the water using a clean pair of kitchen sheers or a sharp knife. If there are two of you in the kitchen it is super nice to have one person squeeze and one person snip. Don’t feel pressure to go fast right away. Squeeze and cut for about a minute and then let those gnocchi cook. Find gnocchi sticking to your sheers or knife? dip them in the pot of water to keep things cutting smoothly.
  9. When they float to the top, let them cook about a minute longer and then skim them out of the water with a perforated skimming ladle or spider. Spoon the cooked gnocchi onto your sheet pan and repeat this process with the remaining dough.
  10. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi on the sheet pan and then transfer to a plastic freezer bag for later use, or you can continue to serve now.

Component in Action

  • you can incorporate a variety of different flavors into the dough itself before putting into the piping bag. Think fresh herbs, spices, a spoon of dijon mustard, a variety of semi hard or hard cheeses, etc.
  • If it’s the middle of summer and you know you want to serve the gnocchi with a fresh tomato sauce, add some freshly chopped basil to the dough.
  • serve with a creamy alfredo sauce for a decadent treat
  • serve along side seared scallops
  • in the fall try with brown butter, sage and butternut squash