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Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto, Lemon and Fried Chickpeas

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto

A couple days ago, we left Berlin to visit the gardens of Sanssouci Palace a few miles outside Berlin. The palace used to be the Prussian king, Frederick the Great’s summer residence, built in the 18th century. The building itself is beautiful but the terraced garden is stunning. I love being there in summer, when it’s all lush, green and in bloom but there’s a certain melancholic mood woven into the misty air on a cold, grey day that fits this time of the year perfectly. It’s pure silence, no leaves left on the trees, the marble sculptures high up on their pedestals looking down on us, wrapped in jackets and scarves on our way to another one of the park’s winter attractions, a Christmas market and its warming mulled wine.

When we got home I felt so frozen that I promised myself I’d make a rich soup the next day. I cooked canned chickpeas and potatoes in broth, puréed it into a velvety, smooth soup and sprinkled it with fresh rucola pesto, lemon zest and fried chickpeas. It’s a great winter soup, thick and refreshing, and just right before tomorrow’s feasting begins.

I wish you a wonderful and peaceful Christmas with your loved ones. Enjoy the moments of love, joy and good food! xx

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto

 

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto, Lemon and Fried Chickpeas

For 2-4 people

For the soup

olive oil
medium onion, chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
potatoes, peeled, cut into cubes, 250g / 9 ounces
canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained, 250g / 9 ounces, reserve 4 tablespoons for the topping
vegetable broth 900ml / 3 3/4 cups
bay leaf 1
salt
ground pepper
nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
ground cumin 1/8 teaspoon

For the pesto

rucola (arugula) leaves 60g / 2 ounces
parmesan 25g / 1 ounce
pine nuts 25g / 1 ounce
olive oil 75 ml / 1/3 cup
salt 1/8 teaspoon

For the topping

freshly squeezed lemon juice
olive oil
lemon zest
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

You won’t need all the pesto for the soup but I don’t like making pesto in small batches. We used the remaining pesto to spread on toasted dark bread, which we enjoyed with the soup.

For the soup, heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onion on medium-heat for a few minutes until golden and soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and chickpeas, stir and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the broth, add the bay leaf, and season with a little salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

While the soup is cooking, purée the ingredients for the rucola pesto in a blender or food processor. Season to taste and set aside.

For the fried chickpeas, heat a splash of olive oil in a small, heavy pan on high heat. Add the reserved chickpeas, close with a lid immediately (the chickpeas will pop) and fry for 1 minute or until golden. Take the pan off the heat.

When the potatoes are soft, discard the bay leaf and purée the soup in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cumin to taste, bring to the boil, and simmer for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Divide the soup between bowls, drizzle with a little lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkle with rucola pesto, lemon zest, crushed pepper and the fried chickpeas.

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto

 

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto

 

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto

 

chickpeapotatosouprucolapesto6

Spinach Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich with Black Olives

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

The combination of mozzarella di bufala and pesto has been with me for as long as I can remember cooking. No matter if it’s been praised or put down in the media, I always loved its honest simplicity. The little mounds of fine buffalo milk go so well with the fresh sharpness of green herbs, all these concentrated leaves packed with flavours, like basil, rucola or parsley. Mixed with nuts and seeds, parmesan and garlic, this dish offers one of the purest Italian pleasures in the kitchen.

Sometimes, one needs a little change without moving too far away from the original formula, a new variation which can lead to surprising results, nonetheless very satisfying. My pesto was next on this list! I replaced the traditional herbs with another tasty leave, baby spinach. Their fine aroma of iron, its distinct bitterness which isn’t fully developed in the young leaves seemed like the right choice. The obligatory olive oil and parmesan made it nice and smooth but the fresh garlic had to stay out as I was worried that it would be too overpowering. I added some rucola (arugula) instead which gave the spinach a boost, nutty sunflower seeds instead of the sweet pine seeds, a hint of nutmeg, salt and pepper and it was done. It also tastes fantastic with pasta!

My pesto made quite a dramatic appearance on my Italian ciabatta sandwich. I topped it with aromatic black olives which turned them into a stunning Mediterranean beauty. What can I say about the first bite, it was juicy, fresh and green, the soft milkyness in contrast to the oily depth of the black fruits. It was great!

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

Spinach Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich with Black Olives

You can also use the pesto recipe for pasta.

For 2 sandwiches you need

ciabatta bread (with or without black olives), cut into thick slices
mozzarella di bufala, torn into bite sized pieces, 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
black olives 4-6
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping

For the pesto
fresh baby spinach 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
rucola 25g / 1 ounce plus a small handful
sunflower seeds 2 tablespoons
olive oil 100ml / 3 1/4 ounces
parmesan, grated, 25g / 1 ounce
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
salt 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of nutmeg
pepper

Purée the ingredients for the pesto in a blender until smooth, season to taste.

Arrange a few rucola leaves on 2 slices of bread and lay the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with the pesto, olives and the crushed black pepper. Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

Potatoes with Rucola Pesto and Peas

Potatoes with Rucola Pesto + Peas

A couple vegetables thrown together and mixed with a thick and aromatic pesto, I love these dishes, easy and uncomplicated! You can eat them warm or cold, as a salad, side or main and they are just as perfect on a brunch table as they are for a light dinner with a glass of rosé wine and some crunchy bread. In a month we’ll be in Malta and these are the kind of recipes I like to prepare for lunch when the temperature gets closer to 40°C (104°F) and I can feel it slow down the pace of my kitchen activities. You never know how many people will meet at the table, 2, 6 or 8, but a full bowl of potatoes, peas and rucola pesto will please even the biggest Mediterranean family!

This recipe is just as nice with pasta but this time I went for potatoes, the pesto gives them a Southern touch which suits them well. My first idea was to use basil but then I remembered the rucola (rocket) pesto I had made for my Easter lamb chops, so I changed my mind. The rucola adds a soft spiciness, a contrast to the sweet peas. I sprinkled some crushed black pepper on top and my coarse sea salt from Gozo and we ate most of it for lunch, still warm, but the cold leftovers were just as nice!

Potatoes with Rucola Pesto + Peas

 

Potatoes with Rucola Pesto + Peas

 Potatoes with Rucola Pesto and Peas

For 3 as a main or 4-6 as a side dish you need

potatoes, peeled and cooked, 800g / 28 ounces
peas 100g / 3.5 ounces
coarse sea salt
crushed black pepper

For the pesto
rucola (rocket), just the leaves, 80g / 3 ounces
parmesan 20g / 3/4 ounce
pine nuts 20g / 3/4 ounce
olive oil 75 ml
a pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients for the pesto in a blender.

Cut the potatoes into cubes. Blanch the peas in boiling sugared water for 1 minute and rinse with cold water for 1 second.

In a large bowl, spread out the potatoes and peas and dollop the pesto on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and crushed black pepper.

Potatoes with Rucola Pesto + Peas

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto and Mediterranean Mashed Potatoes

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

My young sister in law came to visit us and brought a big appetite with her! She loves food as much as I do but she enjoys eating more than cooking so whenever I’m cooking and pottering about in my kitchen she joins in with excitement. She gives me a helping hand or sits at the table patiently to see what’s in the pots and pans as soon as I lift their lids. When I visit her at her home in Malta, we always make lots of pesto together. We walk through the garden with the two beautiful orange and lemon trees packed with fruits and pick the herbs growing around them, plenty of basil, parsley, peppermint and rucola. When I touch the leaves and they spread their smell in the warm air I can already taste the pesto! Everything grows so fast and strong under the Mediterranean sun that I can’t stop myself from picking bowls full of fragrant leaves to fill big jars with my pesto which we still manage to empty within a couple days. We mix it with dried tomatoes, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino, black or green olives and eat it with pasta, on bread or potatoes and in salads. Every pesto tastes different, it’s never the same, that’s what I love about it!

Since we have our own personal pesto tradition, I wanted to make some while Julia is here. I already made one with ramp (and she emptied the jar with her fingers) and now it’s rucola! I sprinkled the pesto on some juicy lamb chops, sautéed for a minute on each side and served them with mashed potatoes. For the mash, I just chopped the cooked potatoes with a knife until they had a lumpy texture and mixed olive oil and sea salt in, no butter or milk, I wanted to keep it light and Mediterranean!

The lamb was great together with the spicy rucola, the meat’s juices mixed in perfectly with the herb, but the secret star of this meal was the mashed potatoes together with the pesto which I hadn’t even planned to mix together. The big pot of mashed potatoes and the bowl of pesto were emptied within minutes!

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

 Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto and Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil

For 4 people you need

lamb chops, 4-8 (depending on if you have a starter before), around 100g / 3.5 ounces per person
olive oil for frying
rosemary 1 sprig
garlic, cut in half, 1

For the mashed potatoes

medium sized potatoes, peeled and cooked in salted water, 12
olive oil 40ml
sea salt

For the pesto

rucola (rocket), just the leaves, 60g / 2 ounces
parmesan 20g / 3/4 ounce
pine nuts 20g / 3/4 ounce
olive oil 75 ml
a pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients for the pesto in a blender.

In a big pot, chop the warm potatoes with a knife until they have a lumpy texture adding the oil constantly, season with salt.

Warm a little olive oil in a pan over high temperature together with the rosemary and garlic. Lay the lamb chops in the pan, turn the temperature down to a medium heat and sauté the meat for 1 minute on each side until it colours. Don’t overcook them as the meat should remain juicy. Depending on the size of your pan you have to cook them in batches and keep them warm under a plate or wrapped in aluminum foil but keep in mind that they will continue cooking when they are covered.

Place the meat on warm plates sprinkled with the pesto and serve with the mashed potatoes.

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

 

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

 

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

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