Another morning of rummaging through my drawers, frantically whipping through my closet just to realize that it’s time for this Mamma to go shopping! YES! FOR MYSELF! Not for the kids, not for the husband, JUST FOR ME!
How many of you are like me and although you may have gone shopping recently it was probably for everyone else in your household but not for yourself? Right? After having kids everything has been about them and it’s just recently that I’ve been finding my old self again. The one that actually used to do things for herself which included shopping and having an updated wardrobe…not one that consists of out dated clothing that were purchased pre-kids (yes that’s 6 years ago) and just don’t seem to fit right anymore.
I’m a plain and simple kinda Mamma; give me jeans or leggings, a tee or tank and add some Converse Chucks and I’m rockin’! I love that look and maybe it’s because it’s easy but I’m also looking to build off of that and start incorporating new pieces for some new looks. Shopping for me and putting together outfits is not something I’m good at. I either come home disappointed and with nothing to show for my countless hours of wandering the mall or I come home with stuff that is totally wrong for me and that I should have never bought in the first place.
I have finally come to the conclusion that I need shopping help. I need a pro by my side to talk some sense into me when I pick up the wrong thing or when I pass by something that I should be picking up. So I called up my friend Suzanne from Your Shop Girl and asked her to come along with me and help me out. It’s all about taking the first step right? LOL! I’m half way there…admitting you have a problem is half the battle they say 😉 .
Leading up to our shopping trip I had some homework to do; find a mall to hit up that has stores that I like as well as filling out a shopping questionnaire from Your Shop Girl. Done and done…that part was pretty easy. I pickedErin Mills Town Centre as I hadn’t been in a while and was wanting to go check it out again especially after all the great changes and updates that they’ve been working on.
Once arriving we got to work. Suzanne sat down with me and before starting on our shopping adventure we got comfy on a sofa at Hudson’s Bay (these furniture departments are awesome for impromptu meeting spots haha!) and based on my answers in my questionnaire and my body type she was able to guide me on what to look for and what I should be avoiding when shopping for clothes. It was now time to hit up the stores on my list like Husdon’s Bay, GAP, H&M, Roots and a few more. By the way, H&M just renovated their Erin Mills Town Center store, and it’s fab! Also in the midst of shopping I made sure to check out the new food court which by the way is beautiful. It’s a great big open space with a wall of windows and tons of variety which is key for Mammas like us. I won’t lie, I kinda felt guilty for not bringing the kids with me…but just for a second though, haha! Also being the breastfeeding Mamma that I am, I was totally impressed with the area they have designated for nursing mothers; it’s warm and welcoming.
Now back to the shopping…yes I get easily distracted by beautiful shiny objects like their brand new food court but also by the other kinds of beautiful and shiny like the stuff you’ll find in the Pandora store (also located in Erin Mills Town Center) and I’ll explain in a bit. I picked up a few great pieces; an awesome off the shoulder gray sweater from Hudson’s Bay, a fab long black vest as a great layering piece from Sears, and a super cute drapey eyelet tank from GAP, along with a few other pieces. It was now time to accessorize and I’m sure you can see how Pandora fits in to this part of my shopping trip. A Mamma needs to accessorize right 😉 ! There I was able to find a great necklace and bracelet to go with my new looks. I was able to take the tips and advice that Suzanne gave me and actually put them to use. Yeahhhhh! Finally some new great pieces to add to my closet and I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to be going home with bags filled with stuff I actually liked, looked great in and felt comfortable wearing!
The shopping didn’t end there though because although I finally got to do some shopping for myself, I also picked up a few things for the kids and the husband. For the kids; some summer basics at The Children’s Place and Old Navy and for the husband I got some of his fave essentials from The Body Shop. C’mon what Mamma can hit up a mall without shopping for the rest of the family! It’s ok though because I was in my happy place shopping away, with my tea in hand (yup they also have a David’s tea)! Oh and did I mention that Erin Mills Town Centre also has a Walmart which meant that I was also able to cross off some items on my grocery list. You don’t know how happy I was because now I wouldn’t have to stop at the grocery store on the way home…yeah to one stop shopping!
Now my question to you is, do you need your own Mamma shopping day at Erin Mills Town Centre? Probably….right? Well lucky for you I’m giving away a $100 Erin Mills Town Centre gift card and if you want a chance to WIN, well this is your chance!
HOW TO ENTER:
1. Leave a comment on this blog post with how you would spend your $100 Erin Mills Town Centre gift card and be sure to include your Instagram name.
Mike Ward…where do I start? I’ve known him for years and he’s honestly one of the most talented humans out there…like I’m dead serious lol. He can do anything and everything and kick ass at it but when it comes to cooking, well…he’s pretty much a God!
Beginning his cooking career at the bright-eyed age of 17 in Sydney, Australia, Mike never believed he would one-day prepare meals for such clientele as Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Mike has cooked in some of Sydney’s and Toronto’s most acclaimed restaurants (Zigolini’s and The Basementin Australia, Prego Della Piazza and Shark City in Toronto), and has owned and operated several catering companies over the years. Mike has had a rare and valuable mix of both successful culinary and media careers. In early 2000 Mike expanded his creative pursuits beyond restaurants to include producing and directing award winning cooking/travel/lifestyle television series that have been viewed in over 40 countries.
In addition, Mike also;
Recently signed a cookbook deal with the release date being slated for early 2018.
Writes and hosts a weekly food radio show on SiriusXM called Devour that reaches a US audience of 30 million & 3 million in Canada.
Appears regularly on several radio outlets and cooks on television on Cityline (Canada’s #1 rated national morning lifestyle show) and on-camera for various other outlets.
Is the ex-Food Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Living (Canada’s #1 food/lifestyle magazine).
Creates food content for many major food brands.
Writes for The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Sun, 24 Hours (national), Hoss Magazine, Domino and several other magazines and online outlets including having his recipes featured on virtually all the top food sites.
Regularly hosts and emcee’s food and culinary events including the Visa Dining series and Taste of Toronto.
Demo cooks at, and hosts numerous charity events, in addition to most of Canada’s major food festivals and culinary events.
Has been engaged to consult on a national 2017 Food Trend Advisory Board.
Has his own YouTube channel with views recently crossing the 4 million mark.
Serves as a consult to Centennial Colleges’ culinary department to develop curriculum and guest instruct industry relevant culinary courses.
Is involved in many charities including Dancing with Parkinsons.
His personal passion remains finding solutions and working with organizations that can and are actualizing the concept of fair and accessible good quality food for people of all economic levels. Whether it be a quiet night at home teaching his two daughters how to use the “grown up” knives, in a foreign country directing a cooking series, or flying his beloved 2-seater aerobatic aircraft, Mike’s insatiable appetite for food and adventure continues to drive him to explore and create.
Wanna see him in action? Just watch the video below and check back with us here on ChicMamma.ca because we’ll have some Mike Ward coming your way VERY SOON 😉
The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. The reason for this is because people are being misguided. Most people who are overweight agree with the following statement. “When I am sad or stressed, I eat a lot. When I am happy, I eat well.” Why then are people so focused on FOOD when it comes to weight loss? It has been my experience and reality that addressing the underlying emotions that influence food choices is most essential.
Let’s discuss some of the reasons why you are not losing weight and keeping it off.
1. You don’t do a good job at nourishing your emotions. It’s not completely your fault. You may have been raised in a family where your emotional needs were not met. From a young age, you might have realized that when you were sad or anxious, no one was there to comfort you or listen to you and so you turned to food. This pattern of emotional eating to help you cope with your emotions stays with you and the habit strengthens as you get older. Unless you make the connection and tend to your emotional needs in other ways, you may always struggle with excess weight.
2. You are too stressed out. Most people I see in my office are overwhelmed with life. They work full time jobs, try to juggle family, friends, relationships, everyday stresses etc. People today fill their days with a “to-do” list that only superwoman can accomplish. What are you accomplishing if you are stressed, unhappy and overweight? When you set out to lose weight and change your habits, you need to make yourself a priority. It involves you freeing up time for yourself and saying “NO” to the things that get in your way.
3. You lack self-love. “How can I love myself when I have a lot of fat on my hips and belly?” says my patient. “Why not? You are more than your flesh”, I say. Once you learn to love yourself unconditionally (that means no matter your size), you can begin the healing process. Here is the reality, only good can come from self-love. It is a process that takes time and some hand holding, but when you have love for yourself, all your decisions reflect that love. For example; a woman who loves herself will not stuff her face with chocolate and ice cream. A woman who loves herself will want to move her body, address her emotions and eat healthier food. Alternatively, a person who hates themselves is more likely to have negative thoughts and negative emotions which lead to poor eating habits. Make sense? Why wouldn’t you choose love?
4. You think FOOD is the problem. Food is part of the problem. More importantly, it is your relationship with food that is the problem. Food is quick, easy and accessible, especially under stressful times. It seems way easier to eat pizza and chips than to express your emotions to a friend. It might be easier in the short run, but very damaging in the long run. You don’t need another fancy diet plan that tells you to avoid gluten and wheat and dairy (unless of course you have an allergy to them). You need to assess the relationship you have with food first and fix it.
5. You keep looking outside yourself for help. So many people are looking for quick fixes, drugs, diet pills, diet plans, personal trainers, nutritionist, doctors, to “fix” them. Asking for help is great, but a lot of people don’t fully understand that they hold all the answers to their problems. I want you to feel empowered in your weight loss journey. I want you to understand that healing starts when you look within yourself to address your feelings, wants and needs. One size does not fit all when it comes to losing weight. You hold the key to your weight loss success. I just help you unlock your potential.
Why am I so passionate about this topic? For many years, I struggled with my weight and was desperately searching for ways to lose it. I tried all sorts of diets and seeked out all kinds of help with no success. When I began to look within, I realized what I needed. It wasn’t pills or strict diets. It was self-love, respect and emotional balance. I started an exploration within myself which involved addressing my emotions, negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, and poor self-image. Through a process, I ultimately created a healthier environment within myself. My outer reality began to reflect my inner loving self. Weight loss happened almost immediately and effortlessly without much concern about food. It truly was a remarkable experience and I can’t begin to tell you how freeing it is. I wish the same for you.
If you haven’t already heard, drinking cold pressed juice can be the most natural and raw way to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.
What is Cold Pressed Juice?
Cold pressed juice is a method of extracting juice from produce. It involves two steps.
The produce is first pulverized by a blade and turned into pulp. This process breaks open fibers and frees up nutrients and enzymes to be released.
The newly made pulp is placed inside a cloth type bag and squeezed at high amounts of pressure using a hydraulic press. The strong action of the press squeezes out the most juice that can be squeezed out of the produce, better and more efficient than any other form of juicer on the planet.
What is the difference between cold pressed juice and regular juice?
The juice that you find at the supermarket can take up to 12 months before it hits the shelf. Regular juice is: 1.Juiced 2. Pasteurized 3. Stored 4. Shipped
Pasteurization is the act of heating up the juice to extremely high temperatures to kill off the bad bacteria. The problem is that vitamins, enzymes and good bacteria are also heat sensitive, so you also destroy the good bacteria. Chemicals are also added to the juice during this process before it is bottled.
Cold press juice is simply the pure juice from the produce, with no type of processing done to it at all. The juice is extracted and bottled. Because of its natural nature, cold press juice must be consumed within 3-5 days (depending on the juice) from the day it was pressed. Just the way nature intended it to be!
Why Drink Cold-Pressed Juice?
Maximum Nutrition – Regular centrifugal juicers use a blade that creates heat, which causes the juice to oxidize and lose nutrient value. The hydraulic press removes the juice from the pulp without adding any heat and yields a highly concentrated juice full of nutrients.
Fastest Absorption – once the pulp has been removed, the digestive system is able to absorb all of the nutrients immediately. The digestive system does not have to work on breaking down anything. As soon as the juice enters the small intestine, the nutrients are absorbed immediately and enter the bloodstream.
Freshest juice – Real cold press juice is never pasteurized or processed in any way. The shelf life is only 3-5 days, guaranteeing a fresh product. Always watch out for cold press juice that has been HPP’d (High pressure processing). This juice claims to be cold press, but has been processed to extend the shelf life from 3 days to 30 days! Makes you wonder if this can still be considered natural??
We are all supposed to eat fruits and vegetables everyday, the problem is that in today’s fast paced society people find it difficult to stop and take a bite of the apple, or eat that piece of broccoli. A high majority of Canadians do not take in anywhere near the recommended 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables. Cold press juice is a convenient way to stay healthy and guarantee your absorbing high quality nutrients, while getting in all your servings of fruits and vegetables.
“The juices extracted from fresh-raw vegetables and fruits are the means by which we can furnish all the cells and tissues of the body with the elements and nutritional enzymes they need in the manner they can be most readily digested and assimilated.” Dr. Norman Walker
While Pinterest would have us believe that bonsai shaped broccoli, storm trooper sandwiches and apple roses are key when it comes to packing school lunches, I have found that the key ingredient, when it comes satisfying the two little stomachs that I pack meals for, is the act of listening. Defined as, giving attention with the ear and attending closely for the purpose of hearing, it is this seemingly simply act, that can help you gain valuable insight and, make the completion of tasks (such as packing lunches), a whole lot easier. Yes, you read that right; the act of listening has taken a great deal of effort out of meal prep.
I learned this valuable lesson on the eve of my children’s very first day of school two years ago. I was ready to simply pack up leftovers from dinner and send them off on their merry way. Given that it was a pretty important first day though, I decided that before moving forward with my lunch plan, it might be a good idea to inquire, rather than assume. I felt it best to ask so that at least one component of their day would not be surprising or overwhelming for them (this was after all a brand new experience for all us). So I turned to my little ones and posed the question that has since been our evening ritual “what would you like mommy to pack for your lunch?”
Funny enough one of my girls answered without hesitation asking for lasagne. While I love my daughters dearly I wasn’t prepared to pull and all-nighter creating an Italian casserole, so lasagne were a lunch box no-go. After explaining to them that mommy couldn’t get that particular lunch made I posed the question again. They pondered for a few minutes and then responded with the next, more feasible option. While I don’t recall the exact noon hour nosh they requested, I do recall that they each asked for something different (which has typically been the case since).
While you might think that given the choice, children will gravitate towards unhealthy options, but I have actually found the opposite to be true. Of course my girls will ask for cookies, bags of chips or juice boxes on occasion (they are kids after all), but for the most part, they make great choices and by involving them in the process, I empower them to make those choices.
So before running out to buy a bento box in which to compartmentalize googley-eyed oranges and critter shaped cucumbers (which admittedly yes I have done from time-to-time, heck even I like to pack a little pinspiration), try listening to what your children (and their taste buds) have to say. And by the way, since I did take the first day off school off, I had plenty of time to layer noodles and make the girls their lasagne to enjoy as a special dinner on their first day of school, and to pack for lunch the next day.
Here’s to a happy and healthy start, to a new school year. Buon Appetito!
Summer may be winding down but there are still a few weeks left to enjoy seasonal activities like splashing around at the beach; seeking theme park thrills; foraging through woodlands; hiking or biking through beautiful trails; and grabbing a blanket and packing a picnic to enjoy at the park.
Quintessential in my wicker basket is what I consider to be the perfect picnic food, a scrumptious Sicilian sandwich known as the Muffuletta. A mile high loaf (ok, actually only 2 inches high) piled with layers of Italian deli meats and its distinctive characterizing feature, olive salad. Anyone who’s been to New Orleans will recognize this sandwich as a staple garnering signature status right alongside the Po’ Boy.
The original Muffuletta or Muff (as it is affectionately known), is said to have been the original creation of Salvatore Lupo, owner of the famed Central Grocery (an Italian Market) in New Orleans, in 1906. Central Grocery was located near the Farmer’s Market and quite often many of the farmers, most of which were Sicilian immigrants, would find themselves there for lunch, ordering bread, salami, cheese and a little olive salad. Signor Lupo would watch them while they sat on crates and barrels performing a balancing act with their meal on their laps.
While typical Sicilian fashion was for each food to be eaten separately, Salvatore suggested that it might be easier if he halved a loaf of bread and made a sandwich with the ingredients. After experimenting with different types of bread he found that the soft, round, sesame topped, Sicilian Muffuletta loaf was ideal, and began producing the sandwich. In no time, the farmers began asking for it as the Muffuletta and a taste phenomenon was born. The Central Grocery now has two locations in New Orleans, each proudly bearing a sign reading “Home of the original Muffuletta”, and each drawing a crowd for the famous Sicilian sub. The Italian Market has since become a tourist attraction and the sandwich it made famous can be found all over the Mardi gras city.
The Muff consists of a round loaf of bread (about 10 inches across) filled with Italian salami, olive salad, provolone cheese and mortadella. The key ingredient is the olive salad which gives the sandwich its special flavor and makes it appealing to the eye. A true Muffuletta must always be served at room temperature, never toasted; it is considered blasphemy to heat the sandwich.
You don’t have to stamp your passport and take a trip to New Orleans however to enjoy this delectable sandwich, you can easily prepare the Muff at home and pack it up just like I do for a picnic. Buon Appetito!
Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe
2/3 cup pitted and chopped green manzanillo olives
2/3 cup pitted and chopped black Kalamata olives
1/2 chopped roasted red pepper
2 garlic cloves minced
1 anchovy fillet mashed
1 tbls capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano (dried works well if you don’t have fresh)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all the salad ingredients together and allow the flavors to marry for 1 hour. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the sandwich:
1 round crusty Italian bread such as Calabrese, sourdough, or if available actual Sicilian Muffuletta bread
Sliced provolone cheese
I have taken a few liberties with the deli meats and filled the sandwich with some of my favorites versus the traditional mortadella and salami
Sliced spicy capicollo
Sliced prosciutto cotto
Sliced roast chicken
To make the Muffuletta cut the bread in half lengthwise and hollow out the bottom half. Layer the bottom with some of the olive salad and its juices (this is also where I stray from the original recipe where olive oil is brushed on the bottom and the salad is reserved merely for the top of the sandwich). Fill with layers of the deli meats and cheese (I actually tried to alternate the lighter and darker meats with the cheese for visual appeal). Once you have filled the bread top with the olive salad and cover with the other half of the loaf and press down slightly. If possible allow the Muffuletta to sit for at least half an hour once again for all the flavors and layers to mingle. Slice into wedges and serve at room temperature, and, if possible enjoy with a nice glass of wine.
I’m not sure what your facebook newsfeed looks like but mine is full of those cooking and baking videos…food seems to be a hot topic with my friends haha. Every once in a while I come across something that I watch and think…hey that seems pretty easy, I’ll give a shot!
My most recent recipe attempt was one for 3 Ingredient Breakfast Cookies. It looked pretty simple and something I could try to do with my two older ones fighting and trying to kill each other and my little guy screaming for boob. So this morning I gave it a go and guess what, it was easy and better yet they didn’t taste like crap haha. I posted a pic on instagram and thought I’d share the video here for those of you who want to give it a shot.
Try it out and see what you think, the best part is that it’s super fast, simple, not horrible for you and taste pretty good.
The fava bean, a legume that here in North America, is often overlooked and underestimated. While Hannibal Lector gave the broad bean 15 minutes of fame when he uttered those now infamous words in Silence of the Lambs, fava beans should be regarded as much more than a side dish to a cannibal’s meal.
Fava beans, are members of the pea family, and are one of the oldest plants in cultivation. Also known as pigeon beans, horse beans and Windsor beans, they were a staple in ancient Mediterranean civilization. Not only did they form part of the diet of the ancient Greeks and Romans but they were also used in voting. White and black fava beans were used to cast yes and no votes.
Fava beans have a distinct earthy flavor and creamy texture. They can be found in many popular summer dishes in Mediterranean cuisine. The seasonal bean is often celebrated and enjoyed in soups, pastas, risottos and salads. They can be grilled; ground into purees; fried to produce a crunchy snack; steamed and served with olive oil, salt and lemon; or merely eaten straight out of their soft green pods alongside Percorino or other local cheeses, salami and olives. When harvested young, even their leaves can be enjoyed either raw, or cooked in the same manner as spinach.
The little green gems are deliciously versatile and believed to bring good fortune. In some parts of Italy, people carry a broad bean for good luck, believing that if one carries a fava bean, they will never be without the essentials in life. It is the fava bean crop in fact that is said to have saved the Sicilian population from starvation during a terrible drought. Because of this the beans are traditional on many St. Joseph’s Day altars as an offering of thanks to patron saint of Sicily.
As they are a spring and summer crop they are typically celebrated alongside other spring greens such as peas and artichokes. The beans are typically sown on All Souls Day, November 2nd and are known as fave dei morti and cakes made in the shape of them (but not from them) are commonly eaten.
Growing up, fresh fava beans were a clear sign and taste of summer in my household. My father would make a trip to the local farm and bring home abundant baskets of broad beans which we would then pluck from the cotton interior of their pods and savor immediately. The bitter crunch of the raw beans made a wonderful lunch alongside salty Parmigiano or ricotta affumicata from Calabria, briny green olives, homemade soppressata, crusty Italian bread and a glass of vino.
After our peasant feast we would then proceed to shell the remaining beans along with fresh peas and combine them together to create a sensational summer stew, to be spooned over conchiglietti for an earthy and hearty pasta dinner.
Conchiglietti con Fave e Piselli
500 grams of fresh fava beans
500 grams of fresh peas
660 ml jar passata di pomodoro
1 large onion chopped
1 cup of water
3-4 potatoes peeled and cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
Cubed pancetta or capicollo for flavor (optional)
Remove the fresh fava beans and peas from their pods and rinse thoroughly. Place the beans along with the remaining ingredients in a large sauce pot and simmer over medium heat for 1-1 ½ hours until you get a rich bean stew. Cook the pasta according to directions then enjoy topped with a generous portion of the fava bean and pea stew. This bean stew can also be enjoyed on its own with some crusty bread or a side dish.
Are you struggling to lose weight? Do you often wonder why some people stay thin and want to know their secret? Here are 7 habits that are consistent with people who lose weight and keep it off.
They do some form of exercise most days of the week.
They eat breakfast.
They have portion control
They stick with basic, whole foods.
They have a method to keep track of calories/nutrients.
They deal with emotional eating issues.
They have a support system in place.
How many habits are true for you?
If you are struggling with some of these habits and have picked up poor habits that are contributing to your weight gain, maybe it is time to face each bad habit and work to change them, ONE at a time.
For example: if skipping breakfast is a bad habit you have, then each day when you wake up, try to have something small to eat, such as a hard boiled egg, fruit, yogurt or oatmeal. You must do this for 21 days to break a bad habit and create a new one.
Do this until you can check off all 7 habits. This may take you 7 months long, but it is worth it because it is a permanent change. Most people try to change too many things at once which can be very difficult and leads to failure and giving up.
Small steps and you are on your way to a healthier, fitter, happier YOU!
A garden full of glorious greens inspires many delectable thoughts during summer months. Scallions and scapes sautéed as a savory bed for fried eggs; zucchini grated into summer’s favorite bread, spicy green chilies adding heat to a plate of pasta; and fragrant basil leaves pounded into pesto. The recent bounty from our backyard garden prompted thoughts (and recipes) in fifty shades of green.
Glimmering emerald jars (well technically, plastic recycled ricotta containers, but that doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous) are among the most used in my kitchen, in fact pesto is a staple similar to the homemade sugo and seasoned breadcrumbs. Somehow, someway, its aromatic goodness makes its way into a myriad of meals.
The word pesto comes from the Italian pestare meaning to pound or crush, referring to the original method of preparation, with mortar and pestle. While most credit this sauce to the Genovese of the northern Italian region of Liguria, it actually dates back to the ancient Romans. Moretum, a mixture of herbs and cheese (ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar) combined with oil and vinegar, was a common spread that was eaten with bread. It is believed the main ingredient, basil, was introduced in India where the herb was first domesticated. The Ligurians adapted the recipe using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated Parmigiano or pecorino, pine nuts and olive oil, turning it into the classic Pesto Genovese.
While the word pesto conjures up images of the brilliant green and perfumed paste, it is actually more of a generic term for sauce that is made by pounding. Variations, including ones in other shades, and loaded with local flavors, exist across the peninsula. Other adaptations in verde include broccoli, mint, parsley and arugula and swap out the pine nuts with walnuts, almonds and even pistachios; the ingredients can change from region to region. Other popular pestos that hold their own alongside their green counterparts include the red pesto of Cinque Terre with its addition of sundried tomatoes to the classic basil recipe; Pesto Trapanese (also known as Pesto Siciliano) which is made with fresh tomatoes, blanched almonds and mint; and Pesto Calabrese which is made using peppers, chilies, tomato and ricotta. Another southern Italian variation is artichoke pesto made with artichokes and lemons.
The ingredients may be up for discussion, however the method is not. A true pesto purist would never use a chef’s knife to cut the basil or a food processor to blend the raw sauce, rather it must be prepared using the standard marble mortar and a wooden pestle that mashes the plant fibers into a paste, releasing the aroma and essential oils to get the true flavor.
Aside from its obvious use as a pasta sauce its versatility is incredible. It often gets tossed with spaghetti or penne but it makes a lovely layer in lasagne and adds a nice dimension to risotto. Because I make my pesto with basil and parsley it is the perfect flavoring agent for my Sunday sauce (everything that normally goes into a sauce is found in a couple of tablespoons of pesto) and even a minestrone. Adding a spoonful to bruschetta makes the diced tomatoes just sing, and it’s a dynamite dip when combined with cream cheese, Italian seasoning and chopped sundried tomatoes. It completely elevates pizza when used as the base sauce and topped with sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, roasted peppers, black olives and Parmigiano.
Forget the mayo (or maybe add it to the mayo) I often add it as a spread when making a sandwich or pressed panino (just fantastic with prosciutto, tomato, fresh mozzarella and spinach); and it makes a sensational stuffing (I have used it with fior di latte for a lovely stuffed chicken, layered it with prosciutto over a butterflied leg of lamb, and spooned into halved peppers). If it’s not filling my protein it’s topping it, such as my salmon before it gets baked or on my steak when it comes off the grill. It can also make sides simply shine, imparting its incredible flavors onto roast potatoes or mixed into a salad dressing. The only course it hasn’t yet found its way into, is dessert (unless of course you count my savory pesto biscotti).
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Peel and chop the garlic. Pick and roughly tear the basil leaves, discarding the stalks. Finely grate the cheese.
2. Place the garlic, a pinch of salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar (you may need to add the basil leaves in batches depending on the size of your mortar). Using the pestle begin to pound out the mixture. Add in the pine nuts and pound again. Add the grated cheese and slowly stream in the olive oil, stirring in a circular motion with the pestle until the sauce begins to bind. Continue to add oil until you achieve the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
3. If you do not have a mortar and pestle place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the pesto sauce comes together.
As you can see, when it comes to making use of this gloriously scented sauce, the pestobilities are endless. Buon Appetito!