VIDEO: How to Make Pesto Sauce

RECIPE: Homemade Pesto


My mom always made the best pesto sauce.  Growing up in New York, we would spend these long, leafy summers in Woodstock, in a house on a big mountain.  Everything about the place, the whole town, was just summer.  Buzzing bees.  Big swimming pools with decks that gave you splinters in your feet.  Black raspberry ice cream cones.  And the best farmstand ever.  I would buy warm, seedy watermelon juices there every day, and my mom would buy bunches of basil.  What is better than basil in the summer?  She would make homemade pesto sauce, full of nuts and cheese, and toss it with pillows of ricotta-stuffed ravioli.  We would eat on the deck of the wood-sided house as the hot sun sank down.  With memories like that, I’m not surprised pesto is still one of my favorite foods.

Reader and friend Jenn asked for a video on how to make pesto.  Great request.  It’s one of those things that’s so easy; after someone has shown you how to make it once, you’ll make it a million times.  Here’s my easy pesto rule-of-three: 3 cups of basil, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons pine nuts, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, and 1 clove of garlic.  Blend it in a food processor, and you have perfect pesto.

If you want a good pesto pasta, boil up some fusilli.  Toss it with the pesto, and add some of the pasta cooking water to loosen up the pesto around the pasta.  But don’t stop there.  Toss some gnocchi with pesto and a pat of butter and extra Parm.  Use this pesto in last week’s Working Girl Dinner, and roast fish or shrimp or scallops in pesto sauce.  Toss pesto into a pot of steaming mussels.  That’s good.  Or spoon a dollop over grilled steak.  Or, one of my college favorites, mix the pesto with a touch of mayo, spoon onto whole wheat toast, and sandwich sliced tomato.

Watch to learn how easy it is to make homemade pesto!

Need a food processor to make your pesto?  Click here to buy the one I like.

Homemade Pesto


  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and spun dry

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Salt & Pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Scatter the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast 5 to 10 minutes, until you can smell the nuts in the oven, and they have turned golden brown.  Let them come to room temperature before you use them!

Put the nuts, garlic, and basil in the food processor.  Whiz them up until they are finely chopped.  Add the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Whiz until smooth.  Add in the cheese, and run the machine one final time to combine everything.


To save money, use chopped walnuts instead of pine nuts, and substitute spinach for half the basil.


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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Watch

French in a Flash: Green Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese Dressing

RECIPE: Green Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese Dressing
Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese Dressing

Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese Dressing

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

In my slightly undietetic mind, creamy salad dressing makes lettuce worth eating.  I once knew a woman who ate naked salad, and claimed it was because “she didn’t like dressing.”  She was lying!  To me, to herself, and to her itty-bitty waist.  That’s mind over matter.  Her mind could run a marathon around mine.

Normally, I always go for chunky blue cheese.  But lately I’ve been having really wonderful creative cheesy dressings–most recently with cheddar and avocado.  I love salad with goat cheese–the traditional crispy or warm goat cheese Parisian bistro salad.  Who doesn’t love that?  So I made a blue cheese dressing with fresh chèvre instead of blue cheese.  It is tangy and creamy and just ever-so-slightly tart and acidic.  And instead of a blog of creamy cheese, it enrobes every leaf of lettuce in the salad.

With the chèvre poured over torn greenleaf lettuce, topped with garden tomatoes, snipped chives, and toasted walnuts, the salad has a definite bistro feel, but it’s easier to make, light but decadent, and a bit off the beaten track–like the avocado cheddar dressing I saw last week.

Green Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese Dressing
serves 4

Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese DressingINGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons half and half

  • 1 teaspoons white wine vinegar

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 10 cups roughly chopped greenleaf lettuce (about 2 small heads)

  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges

  • 4 teaspoons finely snipped chives

  • 6 tablespoons roughly chopped toasted walnuts


In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese mayonnaise, half and half, and vinegar until mostly smooth.  Season to taste with salt and a lot of black pepper.

Toss the lettuce lightly with the dressing.  Save whatever is leftover in a closed container in the refrigerator.  Top the salad with tomato wedges, chives, and walnuts.  Serve immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Individual, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, Vegetables, Vegetarian

The Secret Ingredient (Coconut) Part I: Double Coconut Rice Pudding

RECIPE: Double Coconut Rice Pudding
Coconut Rice Pudding

Coconut Rice Pudding


Down in Florida, we think coconuts are dangerous.  Flying through those gusty summer hurricane winds, they’re like cannonballs or exploded fuselage, flying through the air with the greatest of speeds.  You don’t want to be in a coconut’s way, oh no.  Or standing underneath one when it gets ripe enough to plummet down from its palm and clock you on the head.  That’s for sure.

Yes, coconuts are dangerous.  They are also dangerously delicious.  And what better to do with a menace to society than to eat it—take it off the streets for good!  This month I had no idea what secret ingredient to do.  I thought I had no secrets left.  That I had spilled them all.  But then it hit me, like a coconut on the head, and I want to do two months of it.  We’ll see.  It’s one of those few ingredients that really is sweet and savory, and that can taste so all-American, and also so ends-of-the-earth exotic.

Coconut comes in many forms.  This rice pudding uses coconut milk, and dried coconut, plus a few extras like rice and sugar and cream to make this creamy coconut concoction inspired by Thai coconut rice and coconut ice cream.  It’s luscious, not too sweet, decadent, exotic, and comforting.  How’s that for a dessert!

Double Coconut Rice Pudding
serves 6

Coconut Rice PuddingINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup Valencia rice

  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dried flaked coconut, plus 6 tablespoons

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


Put the rice and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepot.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer the rice until tender, about 18 minutes.  Drain in a fine mesh colander.

Put the rice back in the pot with the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and dried coconut.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds and the pod to the rice.  Cook on the lowest heat, uncovered, until thick: 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the cream.  Remove the vanilla pod, and discard.

Spoon the pudding into 6 serving dish, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Place a wide sauté pan over medium heat, and add the remaining 6 tablespoons dried coconut.  Toast the coconut, stirring often, until just golden, but not brown—less than 90 seconds.  Take out of the pan immediately so it doesn’t burn, and sprinkle over the cups of rice pudding.


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Categories: Desserts, Easy, Eat, Fruit, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian

Working Girl Dinners: Pesto-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Super-Garlicky Spinach

RECIPE: Pesto-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Super-Garlicky Spinach
Pesto Roasted Fish

Pesto Roasted Fish

This week my newly engaged best friend Jamie, medical student and very-beginner-chef extraordinaire, joins me in a make-up free, unscripted session in the Working Girl’s kitchen.  Just to prove to you that you don’t even need to know how to shut off the oven to make the perfect dinner (check out the last minute of the video and you’ll see what I mean).  Just make sure you find someone to shut it off after you’ve eaten.

I love this idea: spoon store-bought (read: good) fresh pesto sauce onto fish before you roast it.  The garlic and basil and nuts have all the flavor already mixed in, and the olive oil roasts the fish so it gets crispy around the edges, and stays so moist.  Plus, the olive oil already tastes like garlic and basil.  It’s no-brainer simple.  To go with it, I show Jamie how to do the world’s easiest vegetable: sautéed spinach with garlic.  When the camera was off, she turned to me in astonishment and said, “That’s so easy.  I could really do it!”  Yes!

Pesto-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Super-Garlicky Spinach
serves 2

Pesto Roasted FishINGREDIENTS

  • 2 6-ounce pieces of Chilean sea bass (ask for center cut, skin removed)

  • ¼ cup store-bought fresh pesto sauce (in the refrigerated section of the supermarket)

  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 8 ounces baby spinach, preferably organic

  • Salt & Pepper


Preheat the oven to 475°F.  Take the fish out of the fridge 15 minutes before you want to use it.  When the oven is hot, place the pieces of fish slightly apart on a small parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper, and rub all over with the pesto sauce.  Bake until the fish is opaque and flaky, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the spinach.  In a wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook about 30 seconds.  You don’t want it to brown.  Add the spinach; it will look like too much for the pan, but it will wilt down.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir with tongs until the spinach has just wilted, about 2 minutes.

Make a bed of the garlicky spinach on a serving dish, and use a spatula to place the fish on top.  Sometimes, I pour a little of the basil oil that bakes off the fish to the spinach.  Yum.


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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners

An Almost Free Lunch: The Costco Hot Dog

Costco Hot Dog

Costco Hot Dog

There’s nothing like Costco on a Saturday.  The free samples could keep you going like a wind-up robot until at least dinnertime.  But I don’t stop there.

My friend’s father recently asked me if I’d ever had a Costco hot dog–not one I bought there to make at home, but a concession stand hot dog.  I told him I always see grandparents eating lunch there, but it had never occurred to me to actually stop and sit and eat in Costco.  Who does that?

I do.  I went to the concession stand, and it turns out that for $1.50 you get a more-than-quarter pound hotdog on a potato bun with a 20 ounces refillable soda.  Legend has it that the price has been the same from sometime between 1965 and 1985.  I tell my mom I’m taking her out, and I only have to put down less than $3.50 with tax.  Not too shabby.  The roll is steamed and warm, the hot dog is juicy but snappy and thick.  It’s seriously all the things a hot dog should be.  And you can refill your soda for that price!  The dogs come with sauerkraut (don’t ask for extra; it’s rationed!) or onions, but I don’t like to adulterate perfection.  Some deli mustard, and that big cup of seltzer.  Who knew thrifty could be so delicious?

Available at Costco stores nationwide

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Categories: Finds

French in a Flash: Olivey French Lentil and Barley Salad

RECIPE: Olivey French Lentil and Barley Salad
Lentil and Barley Salad

Lentil and Barley Salad

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

This is the kind of food that makes me what to shout, “Look, Ma, I’m eating healthy!”

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which I love, and it’s great, but it’s also inevitably gluttonous.  My days in Paris are not usually filled with thoughts of vitamins and minerals.  Maybe that’s why French food has such a reputation for being fatting–even though French women don’t get fat.  It’s because when we Americans get there, we can’t keep our hands off the croissants and macarons and gratins!  Not that I think we should.  Far from it.

But French food’s unhealthy reputation stateside is a huge misnomer.  The French people I know are some of the healthiest eaters.  They respect portion control, and listen to their hunger.  They eat balanced meals.  And they eat seasonably, with a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits and grains.  And lentils, the French legume, makes a frequent appearance.

This week, I wanted to show that being back from France didn’t mean I had to miss out on French food, or on recalibrating to a healthy equilibrium.  This salad is made from French Puy lentils and barley, dressed with fresh thyme, lemon, and tapenade, and tossed with parsley and scallions.  It can be served warm, or at room temperature.  And it goes perfectly with roast salmon, my virtuous food.  I try to always keep in mind, and in mouth, that virtuous can also be delicious.

Olivey French Lentil and Barley Salad
serves 6

Lentil and Barley SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and dry

  • 1 cup du Puy lentils, rinsed

  • 4 cups vegetable broth, divided

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 1 bay leaf, in half

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon tapenade

  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • 3 scallions, finely chopped


Put the barley in a medium saucepot over medium-high heat, and toast, stirring often, until the barley smells toasty and little golden spots appear on the grains.  Add 2 cups vegetable broth, and 2 cups water, 1 garlic clove, half the bay leaf, and salt.  Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Then, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the barley is tender, about 40 minutes.  Drain excess liquid, and discard bay leaf and garlic.

Put the lentils in a separate saucepot with a lid, and cover with 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 garlic clove, half the bay leaf, and salt.  Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Then, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender, but have not lost their shape, about 30 minutes.  Drain excess liquid, and discard bay leaf and garlic.

While the barley and lentils are cooking, whisk together the tapenade, lemon juice, half the lemon zest, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper, to form a vinaigrette.

Toss the barley and lentils gently with a silicone spatula in a large bowl with the vinaigrette, parsley, scallions, and remaining lemon zest.  Serve warm, or at room temperature (it's best at room temperature), especially next to a big piece of roasted salmon.


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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, Starches, Vegetarian

GIVEAWAY! Lunch in Paris


Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

I was just in Paris a few weeks ago, and Mr. English had to miss our train and stay back in London until dinnertime.  Hate to admit it, but I wasn’t totally disappointed!  Sorry, love.  I got to do two of my favorite things entirely undisturbed: go shopping at Petit Bateau, and have lunch in Paris.

There are only some cities where you can feel completely comfortable eating by yourself.  And Paris is the best place of all the places.  The chairs at all the cafés face out into the street.  Even if you are eating with someone, there’s no way they’re as interesting as the mismatched couple sauntering by, he with a dirty grin, she with an Hermes bag.  Or the old friends that embrace just the second longer than is natural, and you think to yourself how you will be just like that with your best friend when you’re eighty.  Or the other American darting across the street that you could have spotted a mile away.  It’s as filling as the meal.  And the meal, well that’s another thing altogether.

Croque Monsieurs I eat early in the morning or late at night, though it’s a lunchtime Parisian staple.  For lunch, I love French onion soup, asparagus vinaigrette, even a bowl of mussels.  A big pizza I can carve with a fork and knife.  Or falafel in Le Marais.  Or picnic food.  In the Luxembourg gardens or on the Pont des Arts, I like to bring a baguette and a wedge of cheese or a pot of caviar d’aubergines, and a bag of fruit.  Or I like to have a tartine of meats and Poilâne bread in the Place Dauphine, watching the petanque players.  Will I ever get tired of talking about those petanque players?  Not likely, because I never get tired of watching them!  But my favorite place to have lunch in Paris?  On tip of the Ile de la Cité, with cheese crèpe bought at L’Avant Comptoir and transported hastily to the spot where I sit with my legs dangling over the wall towards the Seine.  Those naughty little sparrows are company enough for me, as I watch the tourists on the Bateaux-Mouches, the pompiers on their flotillas, and the lovers strolling on the banks across from me.  I like to imagine all that has gone on on the river, for hundreds, even a thousand years.  Lunch in Paris is such a treat.  And I don’t like sharing my treats.

When I was asked to review Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard when it first came out, it reminded me just of lunch in Paris.  Because it was a treat.  Written by an American who fell in love with a Frenchman (who can blame her) and picked up and moved to Paris without even knowing the language, or what she wanted to be, or who her friends were, she sheds such comedic insight on Americans and French and the differences that make them so attractive to each other.  It is poignant, and romantic, and deliciously filled with the recipes that pepper any life in Paris.

With Lunch in Paris just out in paperback, Elizabeth’s publisher has agreed to give away a copy of this truly lovely book to one French Revolution reader.  This is our first giveaway–I hope the start of many!  So, do us all a great service, and tell us where the best place to have lunch in Paris is, in the comment section of this post.  That way, we’ll all have a destination next time we’re in town.  I will pick one at random at the end of two weeks, and you’ll get the book in the mail!  I can’t wait to discover all these new Paris places!

This giveaway has closed and the winner has been contacted. Thanks so much for all your wonderful Paris comments!

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Categories: Finds