What’s Cooking

There is something weirdly soothing about baking, isn’t there? Last week (last month? last year? It all runs together. . .), I decided I needed to make some biscuits. I’ve never made homemade biscuits before. These were a bit of a flop, really.

I think my yeast was a little too old, so they didn’t rise too much. And the recipe (which I’m not sharing) must have called for too much better, because melted butter was literally pouring out of the little dough heaps as they heated up in the oven.

But I learned something valuable. Even not-very-well-made homemade biscuits are freakin’ delicious. There will be more biscuit baking in my future.

Also on the baking front, I decided to bake some bread. This was less about craving a homemade baked good and more about avoiding the grocery store for a little while longer. We had run out of packaged bread and it seemed like the rest of the family felt that this was evidence that I was going to have to break down and shop again soon, and I was like, “Ha, HAH! I will be baking some bread, so let’s keep self-isolating for a few more days.”

In the past, I’ve dabbled in bread baking with limited success. I just didn’t love any of my recipes. This time, I was looking for a very, very simple recipe, and I found this one from Gather for Bread. It didn’t necessarily look all that promising mid-project:

But look what I made! Two very beautiful and unbelievably tasty loaves of bread!

Everyone loved this bread. And I also realized that maybe the reason why I never loved the bread I tried baking before is because I just don’t love bread from a bread machine. I like the crusty, rustic stuff. This had crispy crust and it was soft and moist inside. It was super-yummy.

The next morning, I was still excited about the bread, and I decided that it presented the perfect opportunity for me to try to replicate the avocado toast that I loved so much recently. And, honestly? It was pretty magnificent:

I know what you’re thinking: is there a piece of toast there at all? And yes, there is, but it is hidden under a fried egg, avocado, tomatoes, pickled onions, and feta cheese. It was a lovely “treat yo self” breakfast.

Meanwhile, another comfort food that I’ve made recently is homemade pesto. My family loves-loves-loves my pesto more than any other pesto anywhere. I am not saying that it’s the best pesto, and it’s probably not a purist’s pesto, but it is one of their favorite things for me to make, so I’m going to tell you about it. Except I can’t exactly give a recipe, because I definitely don’t follow one. I just throw a lot of stuff into the food processor, and then when it’s almost right I ask whichever family member is nearby (as the pesto fragrance fills the kitchen, they migrate toward me) to taste some and let me know what else it needs.

Here’s what I throw into the food processor:

Basil. I’d say I usually use c. 2 cups of fresh basil leaves? Pretty much, if Hannaford has the bags with the big bunch available, I will buy a bag to make some pesto. Because we’ll throw it into sandwiches or on leftover pasta or rice, and also I have seen daughters eat spoonfuls, which I can’t officially endorse, but I understand the impulse.

Garlic. I usually throw in some jarred minced garlic instead of fresh garlic, because the fresh garlic can be a little intense, and this is coming from a garlic-lover. But I add maybe a couple of teaspoons? I really just throw some in and see how it tastes after the initial chop-chop-whir.

Olive oil. Pesto usually calls for quite a bit of oil, and I can’t bring myself to add that much, but some is good. One to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil is what I’ll usually throw in.

Liquid that isn’t oil. I almost always add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, fresh squeezed when I’ve got it and bottled when that’s all I’ve got. I’ll also add some sometimes, mostly when I feel like I need more liquid, but I fear things are getting too lemony and/or too oily.

Nuts and seeds. The classic pesto has pine nuts, but generally, I’m too cheap to just have pine nuts on hand in my pantry. My favorite nuts for pesto actually are walnuts or cashews or both. And if I have sunflower seeds in the house, those are going in, too. I add a ton of this stuff: at least a quarter cup, and when tasters keep asking for more, it could potentially approach a cup of nuts and seeds altogether.

Cheese and/or cheesiness. We almost always have chunks of Parmesan and Romano cheese in the house, sometimes Asiago, and so I grate up some of whatever we’ve got. My personal favorite is Romano, but I know Cute W leans toward the others a bit more. Usually my tasters want more, so I make up for the lack of olive oil with too much cheese. I almost always add some Nutritional Yeast as well — maybe 2 to 4 teaspoons. It’s a fairly intense flavor, so I add it carefully, but it adds a certain je ne sais quoi that I don’t like to miss.

I dump all that stuff into the food processor, and then I pulse it ’til it’s pretty well pureed, like so:

This isn’t chopped up quite well enough–you can see cheese gratings and nut chunks–and it’s too dry, too, so I’m sure that after I took this picture I added some more oil or water or lemon juice and pulsed it a little more and by that time some daughter showed up and told me that she loved me. Because when I make pesto they remember that they love me.

I hope that you’re all safe and sound and well.


  1. Aliza

    I hope you’re safe, sound, and well too. I am very excited about your pesto post. I am an excellent cook, but I consistently fail at pesto. I cannot hold a candle to Buddhapesto which is pretty pricey, so I would really, really love to find a way to make my own. Katie, is your pesto as good as Buddhapesto? That picture (and you know I love you and do not want to throw you ANY shade) does not look promising. That pesto does not look green, Katie. Is it your lighting, or is your pesto not bright green?

  2. Hey Aliza. I know I’ve tasted Buddhapesto, but I couldn’t remember, so I asked Josie. She said that she remembers that she likes it very much but not more than ours. The color is pretty much the same color as the basil leaves — I think it looks a little dark partly due to my poor photography and partly because I forgot to make the pesto right away — the basil leaves get darker if you don’t use them right away, and I forgot about them for a day or two. Good luck!!

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