Pesto Pasta Salad with Salmon
Tomato Basil Soup
Compost Cookies
We had a great time yesterday both cooking and visiting.  I have to watch Linda, though, or she will get distracted talking and put 2 cups + 2 tablespoons of flour in the recipe instead of 2 cups – 2 tablespoons of flour!  She is a lot of fun and always has the best attitude about trying new things.  She had never recalled having pesto before and had no idea what went into it.  Classic pesto has basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt and pepper, however there are many variations made with cilantro, spinach, parsley, hot chili peppers, and various herbs.  I liked the idea of a spinach and basil pesto so that’s what we made.  We added some toasted pine nuts, garlic, and Parm in the pesto and Linda’s little food processor worked just fine.  The end result was a flavorful, fresh and beautiful green puree.  We added the pesto to some cooked and cooled bowtie pasta along with diced sundried tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese, and thinly sliced scallions.  A little Caesar dressing was added to give it more moisture.  We served the pasta with a beautifully seared piece of salmon.  I tasted the pasta and decided I would make the exact same dish for my family the very next day!  (I had never made this recipe before so I was happy it turned out so well, but had no idea I would fall in love with it.) Linda, it turns out, loves pesto and is excited to have something she can make with her herb garden this summer.  I told her she could use pesto in her frittatas, on her seared chicken breasts, as a pizza topping, mixed with goat cheese for a spread, on grilled cheese sandwiches, and many more ways, and that it freezes very well.
Pesto Pasta Salad with Salmon

Linda tasted the salmon and said she really liked it.  It was perfectly cooked, crusty on the outside, moist on the inside and seasoned well.  She has never prepared fresh fish and she and her husband don’t usually eat seafood, unless you count fried catfish.  This is another example of how willing she is to try new things and she was pleasantly surprised to find that the salmon tasted good to her.  Her husband, Baker, also liked it.
When she paired a piece of salmon with a bite of the pesto pasta salad the combination of flavors was perfect together.

Recipe for Pesto Pasta Salad

4 cups washed spinach leaves
3 garlic cloves
3 T pine nuts
handful fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (or more if needed) olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt, fresh ground pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Pasta Salad
8 ounces bowtie pasta, cooked and cooled
4 T pesto
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (in oil) diced
1 T Parmesan cheese, grated
2 T Caesar dressing
2 thinly sliced scallions
Combine all ingredients.  Garnish with more sliced scallions.

1 lb salmon fillets with skin
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
Heat a skillet over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes.  In the meantime put the salmon fillets on a plate and coat with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Add fillets to pan, flesh side down. Cook over high heat until browned, about 3 minutes.  Turn over and cook until skin is deeply browned, about 5 minutes longer.  Transfer to plate and serve with pasta.

Tomato Basil Soup
We made tomato basil soup similar to the famous Le Madeleine soup.  Linda loved the flavors of the fresh tomatoes and basil.  She is a tomato lover and plans to have lots of tomatoes in her garden this summer.
We used both canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes for the soup.  I showed Linda how to “concasse” the tomatoes by dropping them in boiling water to loosen the skins, then removing the seeds before chopping them for the soup.  We used low sodium chicken stock, some unsalted butter, and a little cream.

Tomato Basil Soup
 The soup was heavenly.

Tomato Basil Soup
1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes plus 1 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (plus additional for garnish)
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes and stock in saucepan.  Simmer for 30 minutes over medium low heat.  Using immersion blender, puree carefully.  Add basil and puree again.  Add cream and butter.  Stir over low heat until heated through. Add salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve.

I have another version of this soup that I plan to make this evening.  The 5 pounds of tomatoes are all fresh, roasted with  6 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup olive oil in the oven at 450 degrees for 40 minutes.
Saute a cup of chopped onions in 2 T oil, stir in 2 cups water, 2 t sugar, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.  Puree with blender, add 1/2 cup heavy cream at the end.

Compost Cookies

I mentioned the compost cookies to Linda last time we had a lesson and she wanted to make them for her husband, for whom she routinely buys fancy gourmet (expensive) cookies.  I know that “compost” is a strange name for a cookie but it refers to scraps you might have around your kitchen such as various bits of candy, chips, cereal, cookies, nuts, etc. in any combination.  A version of compost cookies is a popular item at Momofuku, a trendy restaurant in New York City, and their compost cookies cost $20.00 a dozen.  Linda, did you read that?  Your 4 dozen cookies would cost $80.00!!  When Steve and I were in Ouray, Colorado last year we had a cookie called, “scrap cookie” in Mouse’s chocolate shop.  They took various candy “scraps” such as truffles, caramels, toffee, and nuts and made unique cookies, different every time.  There were awesome.
My recipe for compost cookies is not the same as Momofuku’s.  After reading various comments made on sites where people had used the “real” Momofuku recipe from Christina Tosi (who demonstrated it on Good Morning America a while back), I kept seeing disappointing end results.  Chocolate chip cookies tend to flatten out when baked but I corrected that problem so my cookies turned out chewy, crunchy, and shaped just right.  Both Linda and her husband were happy with the results and I have a feeling she will make more of these cookies some day.  I am not posting that recipe (have to keep some things secret) but I will say we added Callebaut chocolate chips, Lindt white coconut chocolate, Kettle sea salt potato chips, pretzels, and pecans a a sprinkle of sea salt.  Yum, yum, yum.

Compost Cookies

Linda is anxious for me to leave so she can eat!