Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cheesy Crusty Pesto Garlic Bread

You know what's perfect for that really warm summer day when all you want to do is have a cool lemonade and read a book and relax?! The thing that makes it JUST perfect for me is something made with cheese. I know! Cheese is my Achilles heel. 

Is it completely my fault that I can't resist the beautiful gooey, golden, nutty roasted deliciousness? No, please don't answer that. 

Let me just tell you what I did yesterday afternoon. I indulged in a wee bit of naughtiness.......hey, now, not that kind of naughtiness, I mean cheating on my diet kind of naughtiness!  

I ended up making this 

Just make it and see why I'm at a loss of words to describe this aptly. 

Serves: 4-6

Time taken: 20 mins

Complexity: **

You'll need

1 baguette
4 tbsp pesto
Your fave toppings - I used tomatoes and olives
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese (I used the stuff out of the box, our secret!) 
Italian seasoning (optional) 
No need to use salt if you're using parmesan cheese.
Your pinch of love


Preheat your over at 200C or 400F 

Slice your baguette into half lengthwise. Now before cutting, observe. The baguette has a base /flat side and a rounded top. Cut right through the rounded top edge and straight through. You'll always have a perfectly halved baguette that way

Smear 2 tbsp of pesto over each side. If you do not have pesto, just blend together 1 cup of basil leaves + 1/2 cup parsley leaves + 3 garlic cloves + half cup olive oil in a food processor till you get a coarse paste. 

Place baguette halves over each other and roll into foil. Place in oven for 7-10 minutes. This is what will give the baguette a crunchier crust and let all the pesto flavour seep in deep. 

Remove from the oven, carefully. Unroll the foil, spread your toppings, grate your cheese over it. If you have fresh mozzarella, just divide chunks over the bread. Sprinkle in your pinch of love.

Replace in the oven, for 10 mins or till the cheese turns golden yummalicious. Divide the garlic bread, serve hot with your homemade Drool-worthy Marinara sauce. Pesto adds just a zing to the usually simple cheese garlic bread. Indulge! 

Drool-worthy Marinara Sauce

Since you know me so well my dear readers, you also know that I have a torrid affair with the la Cucino Italiana. But shhh.... this has to be just between you and I, only because a girl never kisses and tells

So for a very easy, quick and healthy evening snack, I ended up making some beautifully cheesy, crusty, laden with toppings garlic bread. I know what you're thinking, 'thats not healthy!' But well, my brain thinks cheese, cheese comes from milk, milk has protein, therefore cheese is healthy. Period. 

Naturally to accompany that gorgeous golden deliciousness I needed a dipping sauce and what better than a time tested Marinara. I mean, come on! Its a match made in heaven, isn't it?! On to it then, shall we? 

Serves: 4

Time taken: 1 hr- 3 hours (you need to let the sauce simmer man) 

Complexity: **

You'll need

3 medium sized tomatoes, finely diced/ pureed 
1 medium red onion, finely chopped ( would have used yellow if it was on hand)
5-6 cloves of garlic finely minced
3 tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning (Oregano, garlic powder, basil, parsley, little salt, little chili) 
1 tsp sugar/ 2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp red chili flakes
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper
Pinch of love


Take a wide pan/ skillet and add your olive oil to it. Even before turning on the heat, add your minced garlic to it. Turn on the heat, and let the garlic saute till golden in colour

Add the onion as soon as the garlic begins to sizzle and is turning golden. Do NOT let the garlic burn, pretty please. 

Saute till the onions start turning golden. Caramelising onions renders a beautiful depth of flavour and a hint of sweetness to the marinara. This sauce is so simple in nature with such few ingredients but its the different layers of flavours that makes it so complex and special. 

So just keep patience and let them onions keep getting coloured on a low heat. This is 7-8 minutes into the caramelising process

Let them turn atleast 3-4 shades darker.... this will take about 12-15 minutes. Keep moving them around so the garlic doesn't burn. 

Add in your choice of herbs now. I added oregano and basil.

Next add in the red chili flakes. Adding the dry herbs now gives them a chance to get sauteed in the oil and infuses the flavour better. 

Saute it all for about 30 seconds or so and then add in pureed/ crushed canned tomatoes. Increase the heat to medium high for about 5 minutes. 

The tomatoes will ooze a lot of moisture. We want most of that to evaporate. See how much moisture there is

After about 5 minutes, keep an eye on it the whole time, the water has almost evaporated

And now we're going to do the opposite. Add about 2/3rd cup of water. The previous step gives the tomatoes a chance to cook out and takes away that raw edge. 

Let it heat for about 2-3 minutes and then puree the entire thing with the help of an immersion blender or a regular blender. Transfer it back to the pan

Add in the black pepper. This is the consistency we want for our sauce. But we need to cook it more. The more it simmers, the better those flavours come out. 

Mix that in and then add Balsamic vinegar (I was making this batch at night and these pictures are taken in the fluorescent light of the kitchen. The colour of the sauce is bit off especially here. It should be a reddish- orange at this time). The balsamic vinegar just adds a sweet depth and plays so well with the sweet acidity of the tomatoes. You won't be able to taste it in the final dish, but you'll have people wondering about that mystery ingredient that makes your marinara oh-so-special. 

Add in 1/3 cup of water and cover the pan with a lid. Let this simmer for about an hour to hour and a half at the least. The more this sauce simmers, the richer the flavour. Keep checking in between and if you think the water has reduced too much, keep adding a couple tbsp at a time. This is how my sauce looked after about 1.5 hours

Sprinkle in your pinch of love. Add in the salt and taste for seasoning. Perfect, right?! 

Serve with an additional drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and garnish with fresh basil leaves. 

(This photo is from a batch I had made previously, I use the recipe time and again and it makes for the best pizza sauce ever!) 

Use this sauce as your pizza base, as your pasta sauce... Add a couple tbsp to your mayo and make your sandwiches fancier, your salads richer...the possibilities are endless! Indulge! 

(Recipe to Garlic Bread here