Small-Time Cooks

I decided to take some time off from the detective game. A few large colleagues of mine didn’t take to being followed. I didn’t like the way they argued with me. It was no brains and all brawn, if you get my drift. I decided to kick back with Maria and enjoy some cooking.

After a weekend of watching baseball and relaxing, Maria and I were back to work in the kitchen. Maria had some good pesto at a local Italian place that she wanted to make again, and I wanted to use some fresh peaches and strawberries to make a pie. The weather may have been great, but the food was better.


Serves 2

about 10 large basil leaves

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus enough to cover the tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon pine nuts

3-4 sun-dried tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes and soak them in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the oil. In a food processor, blend the ingredients together until fine. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and tomatoes very finely and mix. Add in the olive oil a Tablespoon at a time, and season with salt and pepper. The pesto will be very strong, so cook on medium high for about a minute—until you smell the garlic beginning to cook.

Meanwhile, prepare a half to two thirds of a pound of pasta. Either toss the pesto with the pasta and serve, or spoon on top of pasta on plates. Top with a cheese like Parmesan, Asiago, or Gruyere. If you like, sauté some chicken with some olive oil and about a teaspoon of pesto. Slice it into strips and add on top of the pasta.

Strawberry Peach Pie

Makes 1 pie

1 pie shell

6-7 fresh peaches

8 fresh strawberries

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch ground cardamom

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

You can find the pie shell recipe in last week’s column. Slice and peel the peaches, and slice the strawberries. Combine in a bowl and mix with the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Cardamom is an Indian spice that is used in many main dishes, but it is especially delicious in desserts. It is extremely potent, so too much will overpower everything else. Add only about an eighth (or less) of a teaspoon to the pie. Finally, sprinkle in the cornstarch evenly throughout the pie filling. The cornstarch will solidify the liquid that the strawberries and peaches give up when heated and will help the pie to set more quickly. Spoon the filling into the pie crust, and top with the rest of the pie shell. Cut holes in the top and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden. Let set and cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

The pesto is vegan; just don’t top it with cheese. The pie filling is vegan (if you use vegan sugar), but most pie crusts are not. If you don’t want to go the pie direction with the delicious filling, it would be amazing to serve the filling warm over vegan lemon sorbet. Just heat the filling in a saucepan for a few minutes on medium heat until the fruit begins to give up its juice and thickens with the cornstarch. Serve over the sorbet while still warm. You could also blend the fruit; add the cinnamon, sugar, and cardamom; then chill for a nice smoothie.