Pesto for breakfast, lunch and dinner

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As a pizza fanatic, I often have a jar of pesto on hand at all times. I prefer the crunchy, herby, garlicky base rather than traditional tomato sauce. I’ll admit, though, the pesto is not usually made by me, but by Riverview Herbs.

Due to the abundance of beautiful herbs growing on my patio, I decided to make a batch myself. What I created was a deliciously fresh, earthy and (very) garlicky pesto, great for a variety of dishes. Obviously I used it on pizza, a couple times, but I wanted to  branch out from that. Here are three other very easy-to-make dishes that incorporate pesto for an intense flavour boost, all day long. And no, I didn’t eat all three of these meals on the same day!

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Breakfast: I threw together a market veggie scramble with pesto and goat’s cheese; one of my favourite, quick meals for the morning when you want something healthy and substantial.

How I did it: Heat the pan with a little olive oil, throw in some sliced onion, then chopped red pepper, asparagus, and a minute or two later, cherry tomatoes. Season. Allow them to cook about halfway. In a bowl, scramble your eggs with creamy Fox Hill milk, salt and pepper, then some pesto (a tablespoon or two). Pour in the pan and scramble away. Add swiss chard (spinach is good too) last and let it wilt. Dish into a bowl, adjust seasoning if you need to, and crumble Ran-Cher Acres goat’s cheese on top.

IMG_4125Lunch: Using my trusty panini press, I made pesto grilled cheese with sliced yellow tomato. If you’re making grilled cheese anyway, I definitely recommend adding some pesto in there. For this sandwich, I used Ran-Cher Acres goat paneer, which has a really unique texture. After buttering the bread (a really hearty multigrain loaf I buy at Local Source), I spread pesto thick on one side, layer both sides with sliced cheese, and put the tomato in the middle (or else it makes the bread soggy). Just remember that something needs to buffer the tomato’s moisture.

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Dinner: Light up the barbecue for grilled trout with creamy pesto sauce, forbidden rice and asparagus. This was the perfect summer meal. And pretty healthy. I had the rice done in advance, as the black rice takes about 50 minutes to cook on the stovetop.

How I did it: Everything on the barbecue. I reheated the rice in a little pot, just adding a touch of water, butter and some fresh thyme. For the fish, I oiled the skin side and grilled it skin-down, on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes. In a pan, I heated up some pesto with a tiny bit of butter, and simply whisked in creamy Fox Hill whole milk, until I had the consistency I wanted. I also grilled some asparagus. When it was time to plate, I used the rice as a base, topped with a piece of crispy-skinned trout, asparagus, doused everything in some freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and topped with the pesto sauce. The citrus really brings everything together as there are a lot of flavours competing in this dish, but it is lightened considerably and balanced by the lemon and works really well.

If you’re wondering what I put in my initial pesto recipe, it was something like: Fresh parsley and chives (main ingredients), thyme, toasted pumpkin seeds (second main ingredient), Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic, roasted garlic, olive oil, meyer lemon infused olive oil, roasted garlic olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a touch of water.

Brown Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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Today is apparently Pi Day, which the foodies have turned into a day to post photos of pie-related dishes. Most memorable (so far) is this awesome creation by Ratinaud.

Lucky for me, I was already planning on blogging about my most recent dish, brown lentil shepherd’s pie. So what better day to post?

I love making a dish that’s a meatless concept where you’re replacing the meat with something else, but the look of the dish is virtually the same, and the way you incorporate this other ingredient works so well that it’s a whole new thing entirely on its own. Know what I mean? Probably not, unless you’re a mostly-vegetarian eater like me.

Brown lentil shepherd’s pie is DELICIOUS. I’m not going to say “it tastes just like regular shepherd’s pie,” because that would be a lie. It tastes like lentil shepherd’s pie. And when you use the right vegetables, herbs and seasoning, you can get a fantastic texture and flavour. So much that you would look forward to eating lentil shepherd’s pie, and wouldn’t even think about the “regular” version, or to compare the two.

IMG_7937Part of the deliciousness of my recipe was the mash. I oven roasted local fingerling potatoes and parsnips, kept the skins on, and added a splash of milk, along with Ran-Cher Acres chives goat cheese, and a bit of homemade roasted garlic oil.

For the lentil layer, I started with dried brown lentils, and cooked them like the package directions told me to. I haven’t cooked with lentils much. This worked.

Then I sautéed garlic, onions, and Brussels’ sprouts. When those are looking good, you add some tomato (canned works), corn, peas, veggie stock, and throw the lentils back in to simmer.

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You could use different herbs here (rosemary would be nice), but I only had some basil, so that’s what went in. I also squeezed in a generous portion of Sriracha, because I knew we’d love a little zing to our lentil shepherd’s pie. I was right.

Once this is reduced and thickened, seasoned to your taste, and the flavours have melded, you just spoon it into a baking dish, top with the mash, drizzle a little olive oil and bake it for 20-30 minutes, around 375, until the top is starting to turn golden brown.

IMG_7972Yum. The the best decision I made with this dish was to use the Brussels’ sprouts, as they added a needed crunchy-firm aspect. The dish had a little heat, too, just the right amount. We both had seconds.

One cool thing… if I hadn’t added the goat cheese and milk into the mash (you could sub out for almond or rice milk), this dish would have been vegan. And still hearty.