Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

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Classically, it's absolutely pouring on the kids first day of summer, and I'm going a little nuts. Loretta and the dog are following me around the house like shadows, there have been a few sibling tiffs, the house is already a disaster (more time at home=more mess), and the sunny glow of yesterday's "School's Out!" celebration is fading a bit.

Our plans of strawberry picking disappeared with the rain. I'm disappointed and found I was looking forward to the kitchen tasks--washing, stemming, freezing, jam-making. So I found something else to relieve my get-in-the-kichen itch. If I examine my fridge for more than one second, there's always something that can be done.

In this case, Yancey bought a giant bag of washed cilantro for my taco and maragaritas birthday party. It was taking up valuable real estate and I'd be hard-pressed to use it up before it turns. Except if I get my food processor out. Now it's all packed in one jam jar and ready to use.

And so many uses! Dalloped on nachos or burritos or spread on a sandwich or omlette. Or mixed it with a little sour cream or yogurt for dip, adding a bit of lime and more salt. Or toss it with hot pasta, a little bit of cream, put the pasta in a baking dish, top with sharp cheddar and tortilla chips, and broil it. Yum.

And whatever you do, don't go buy pine nuts. I haven't purchased them in years since the price went up so much. Walnuts are my favorite for pesto, but I really liked the mild nuttiness of sunflower seeds. Despite the rain today, I really do feel the bounty coming on. Stay tuned for more fridge cleaning.

Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto
Pesto means "to pound, to crush." It doesn't mean basil sauce! Summertime is perfect for making pesto out of spinach, parlsey (and of course basil), and any semi-hard cheese and most nuts work beautifully. 

6-8 cups washed and dried cilantro with stems 
1 large garlic clove
coarse salt to taste (I use quite a bit since undersalted pesto is always disappointing)
1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/2 c. grated parmesan or sharp white cheddar or a mixture (as I used)
1/4 c. olive oil 

Combine all ingredients except for olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Add olive oil through the feeding tube in a stream until ingredients have emulsified. Add more of anything to taste. Will keep in the fridge for quite awhile.

Pico de Gallo

pico de galloWe're just home from Sun Lakes with grandparents. Our last hurrah. Wyatt was acutely aware that summer's over. Whenever I tried to ask him how he felt about school starting, he'd say, "Mom! Don't talk about that yet."

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Serious routine is about to kick in around here. Homework, being on time to the bus stop, diligently trying to get stains out of Wyatt's white polo shirts, Loretta starting preschool.

If I start to get overwhelmed by it all, remind me of Sun Lakes and Dry Falls. Remind me of the Ice Age floods that barreled through the desert, turning arid acres into an astonishing patchwork of lakes and canyons. Remind me of the forces that put human endeavors in their puny place, of the deep, cold water that is always there.

And remind me of end-of-summer bounty, like bright red Roma tomatoes and peppers, waiting to be diced, doused with lime, and spooned onto rice and beans or into tortillas. Goodbye, summer. Thank you for filling us up.

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Pico de Gallo
Makes 2 cups. Sometimes called "salsa fresca," this is the sort of condiment I assume everyone knows how to make. You, kind readers, have asked me not to make those assumptions, though. You can add diced cucumber to this, use any kind of spicy pepper, use the cherry tomatoes growing in your garden, or sub mangos or pineapple for the tomatoes.

10 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 jalapenos or other spicy peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 c. washed and finely chopped cilantro
Generous pinch of kosher salt
Juice of one large lime

Gently mix everything together in a medium bowl.

Grilled Steak with Peppers and Chimichurri Sauce

juicy biteIt's been a Divide-and-Conquer Week. Me waiting at the door for Yancey to come home so I can leave for my meeting, both of us with various evening commitments, handing the kids off like batons. So we eschewed all chores yesterday and had a family day.

We went to Mercer Island Thrift Store, which is a secret I shouldn't be sharing. If you are a woman who wears shoe size 8, look no further for designer boots, cast off after one season by fashion-conscious soccer moms. Love that place. We found a great $5 bike for Loretta, went on a bike ride around Mercer Slough, stopped at Overlake Blueberry Farm, and saw a coyote meandering through the blueberry bushes. If I was a coyote, I'd be hanging out there, too.

grilled peppers

Halfway through the bike ride, our thoughts (okay--my thoughts) turned to dinner. It was agreed that we'd have grilled steak and corn, some green beans from the garden. Occasionally I buy a couple steaks from Bob's, and there is nothing easier or more delicious. I'm always hankering to spice things up, though, and often do it with a little sauce like this. I had some beautiful peppers that we grilled up, too--I'm not sure what kind they are--anybody know? They're fairly spicy, not as mild as ahaheims.

Spear a bite of steak with grilled pepper, drag it through vibrant green sauce, reminisce about the day. All of us in one place. Ah.

deliciously carniverous


Grilled Steak with Peppers and Chimichurri Sauce
Serves 4. Chimichurri is a classic Argentinean sauce to accompany grilled meats, and I've been seeing it everywhere these days. This version is based on what was in my fridge, but it often includes yellow onions, other herbs, and citrus juice instead of/in addition to vinegar. Usually there's crushed red peppers or fresh chile in it, too, but I've left that out here because things were spicy enough. Any leftover sauce is delicious drizzled on potatoes on burritos. If it thickens up in the fridge, just thin it with a bit of water.

2 1 lb. tri-tip steaks
coarse salt
fresh ground pepper
1 lb. fresh peppers (mild or spicy)

For sauce:
1 bunch washed and dried cilantro
1/2 bunch washed and dried Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove
big pinch of coarse salt
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper and let sit while you make the sauce.

To make sauce, pulse cilantro, parsley, garlic, green onions, and salt in a food processor until a paste forms. Add vinegar and olive oil and pulse until a sauce forms. Add more salt to taste if you want.

Heat grill to high. Brush peppers with olive oil, and grill until blackened all over, turning a few times, about 7 minutes. Put peppers in a paper bag, close the top, and let them steam for 10 minutes to loosen the peels. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop them. (I wear disposable plastic gloves for this task if I'm working with spicy peppers. Learned my lesson the hard way.)

Now grill your steak to your liking. When it's done, tent it with foil and let it rest for 7-10 minutes, then thinly slice it. Serve with grilled peppers and chimichurri sauce.