Tequila Cilantro Pesto

I LOVE cilantro. Love. It’s my favorite color (not that that’s unique), and it just smells so fresh and amazing. It smells like warm weather and sunshine. And anyone who knows me knows how I feel about warm weather. And hot weather. Oh yeah, and it tastes fantastic too. So I made it into a pesto and added some bite–tequila!

pesto1This particular evening I slathered it on tortillas to make “green tacos” with chicken, spinach, and avocado. But I could also see covering some chicken with it whether baked in the oven or cooked on the grill. Or on pizza. Or pasta. You know, the usual pesto recipients. Depending upon what you want to use it for, just adjust the amount of olive oil or use reserved pasta water to create the consistency you want.

pesto5If I wasn’t hoping a certain toddler was going to partake in the pesto (no, he didn’t have any–no tequila for this two year old!), I would have also added in some chile pepper. Although, as long as I glob sour cream on it I don’t think he would care….

Tequila Cilantro Pesto

Adapted from Simply Recipes

2 cups packed cilantro leaves

1/2 cup almonds

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt

dash of cayenne

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon tequila (more if you want!)

If you want to be super fancy, toast those almonds in a dry skillet on the stove until fragrant. Toss the cilantro, almonds, garlic, salt and cayenne into a food processor and pulse. With the processor running, stream in the olive oil, lime juice and tequila. Taste and adjust seasonings, tequila, or oil accordingly.

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Beer Shrimp Scampi

I love the ridiculously buttery shrimp scampi that you get out at restaurants.

beershrimpscampi2I don’t often order it though, because shrimp scampi is a super simple meal that I can make at home and it doesn’t take any time at all. Also, I’m 92% positive that this shrimp scampi is way healthier than any I would order out–even with the beer! And I added broccoli too! Something green!

beershrimpscampi3So who said anyways that shrimp scampi always needs to be made with wine? It ain’t so! Many different beers work with the light flavors in shrimp scampi: a pale ale, a lovely hefeweizen, or a saison would be wonderful. And as much as I love cooking with wine, we’re not the biggest white wine drinkers. We’re big, bold, dry, red people in this house. So the chances of me having a beer that works with the flavor profiles of the dish, and finishing that beer once I’m done cooking with it are much more likely.

beershrimpscampi1If only some parsley had been ready to harvest from my Simon & Garfunkel garden…

Beer Shrimp Scampi

Adapted from Simply Recipes

1 lb angel hair pasta

1/2 lb broccoli florets, frozen or fresh

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined

1/2 cup beer

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Either throw in the broccoli for the last couple minutes of cooking time, or steam above the cooking pasta in a steaming basket. Reserve some of the cooking liquid.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter together over medium high heat. Saute the garlic and red pepper flake for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then add the shrimp. Add the beer and stir. Increase the heat to high and let the mixture boil for 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and continue to cook on the highest setting until the shrimp are perfectly pink. Turn the heat off and mix in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli into the skillet and toss altogether. Add the reserved cooking liquid and/or more beer if you need to create more sauce.

Pasta alla Alcohol: Penne alla Vino

Welcome to the creation of my new series: Pasta alla Alcohol! Pasta is the perfect vehicle for intoxicating your eats, and each month I will choose a new type of beverage to incorporate into a tasty pasta dish! In the works is vodka, tequila, beer, and even gin. But for now, we will start with the most basic of basics: red wine.

I tried to investigate the merits of adding red wine to pasta sauce, but I didn’t get very far. I will just take it on merit that people have been doing this for a very long time-and I certainly won’t take issue with it.

If you don’t groove on greens, just leave them out. I’m just trying to get some veggies in wherever possible. I also highly recommend dousing the finished product with parmesan cheese, and serving with some homemade garlic butter breadsticks. Yes.

Penne alla vino

Adapted from Ina Garten

16 oz. pasta

1 medium sized onion

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup red wine

28 oz. can tomatoes, I like crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce

1-2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon cracked red pepper

1 bunch of spinach, washed and dried

salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and add back to the pot.

Preheat a large skillet with some olive oil and dice the onions. Cook onions over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Mince the garlic and add, cooking 1 minute. Add the red wine and turn the heat up, scraping any onion previously stuck to the pan, and allow the red wine to cook off until most of it has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and seasonings, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Rest the spinach on top of the sauce, as much as will fit, and put the cover back on. Let the spinach wilt down and stir it into the tomato sauce before adding more. When all of the spinach has been wilted in, check for seasonings and combine with the cooked pasta.

*If you are not into the greens, just leave them out and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes.

Ultimate Irish Macaroni and Cheese

While I have become increasingly obsessed with craft beer and homebrewing, there is still a special place in my heart for Guinness. It’s dark-but light!-and velvety and smooth. It’s comforting. Guinness is good for me. Especially when combined with chocolate. Or cheese!

I decided to make the ULTIMATE macaroni and cheese by starting with Kerrygold butter, spiking my bechamel with Guinness, and using Kerrygold’s Aged Cheddar and Dubliner as the chosen cheeses to melt in. Combined with whole wheat pasta, it made for an extremely earthy macaroni and cheese. I topped with panko, but it probably would have been even better with toasted Irish soda bread crumbs…

Ultimate Irish Macaroni and Cheese

1 box whole wheat pasta (usually about 13.25 oz. Cause that makes sense…)

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 bottle of Guinness (it’s ok if you sneak a few sips)

1 cup of whole milk

1 teaspoon mustard (dijon or spicy brown)

1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

7 oz. Dubliner

7 oz. Aged Cheddar

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get your water boiling for the pasta. Whenever the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and let it cook together for a few minutes, until the butter has become a thick paste. Whisk in the Guinness and milk and cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened, about 7 minutes. Turn the heat down low and add in the mustard and worcestershire sauce. Slowly add in the cheese, melting each batch completely before adding more. Adjust seasonings.

Take off the heat and combine with the pasta in a 2 quart baking dish. Top with panko and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Pumpkin Ale Pasta

My best friend is getting married ridiculously soon!! She is absolutely the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. And she loves all things pumpkin. So I hope when they’re back from traipsing around to fabulous places on their honeymoon, that she makes this Pumpkin Ale Pasta, and they enjoy all things pumpkin together.

I have made many a pumpkin pasta sauce before, but with wine or just stock. Why not make it with a pumpkin ale and intensify all that wonderful pumpkin flavor?

And as always-it’s about flexibility. It’s ok to leave the sausage out, or the mushrooms, or the greens-but I really enjoy the flavors together. I wanted to use fresh kale, but if you’re like me and go to the grocery store at an inappropriately early hour, then there is no kale to be found. Spinach will do. And if you’re super fancy like me, you’ll garnish with some sun-dried tomatoes. And parmesan–because cheese makes everything better.

Pumpkin Ale Pasta

Inspired by Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, and my obsession with pumpkin ales

1 lb. pasta

1 lb. sausage (I used a combination of sweet and hot Italian turkey sausage)

1 medium onion

1 pint mushrooms

2-3 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped, or, 10 oz. box of chopped spinach

1 cup pumpkin ale

1 cup chicken stock

15 oz. can pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)

1/2 cup heavy cream

cinnamon

nutmeg

chopped sundried tomatoes

parmesan

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt and cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large pot (I like to toss the pasta with the sauce in the pot) brown sausage. While sausage is cooking, chop onion, mushrooms and garlic. Remove sausage from pan with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add onion and mushrooms to the pan and saute 3 minutes or until cooked. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds.

If using fresh kale, you can either boil it with the pasta, steam it above the pasta, or saute and wilt with the onion and mushrooms. You can also defrost a 10 oz. box of spinach, squeeze out the water and add at any time.

Pour in the pumpkin ale. Let it foam and reduce slightly. Add the chicken stock and pumpkin and stir to combine. Let it bubble a little bit. Add cream and seasonings. If you haven’t already, add your greens.

Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta to the pot and toss all together. Top with a sprinkling of sun-dried tomatoes and grated parmesan.

Drunken Pasta

Pasta cooked in wine instead of water? Genius. Pure genius.

Look at the beautiful color in that pot! We used cabernet sauvignon, but any dry red will do. Just DON’T use “cooking wine.” (What is that stuff??) One of the glorious things about this method is that you don’t need a substantial sauce-all that cabsav flavor is cooked into the pasta itself! Reinforce that flavor by using some of the cooking water. I chose to pair my pasta with mushrooms and spinach because they can soak up more of that wonderful wine.

Of course, I also recommend buying one of the larger bottles of wine, only using 3 cups in the cooking process, and enjoying a glass along with dinner. Or while you cook. Or both. With this method you end up with a deep yet subtle wine flavor that permeates the entire dish. And it’s a pretty color. Now, the real question is–what liquid will I cook my pasta in next…?

Drunken Pasta

1 750 ml bottle of red wine, or 3 cups

1 16oz. package of pasta

1 10oz. box frozen spinach

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 8oz. package mushrooms, sliced

1/2 tsp. cracked red pepper

parmesan cheese

Pour wine into pot and supplement with water. Bring to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions and drain. RESERVE SOME PASTA WATER. Defrost spinach in the microwave and squeeze out the liquid. Preheat a skillet big enough for the pasta (we’ll be adding it in later) over medium heat. Saute mushrooms in some olive oil. Add chopped garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and the cracked red pepper. Add the spinach and heat through. Add some reserved pasta water to create a sauce for the pasta, about a cup. Toss in the pasta and add more reserved water if needed. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Plate and sprinkle on parmesan cheese.