Tess. Lotta Photography

“You find peace . . . by realizing who you are at the deepest level” – Eckhart Tolle

Posts from the ‘Kitchen Witch’ category

Kitchen Witch: Uncle Tessa’s Bruschetta

Yum! Tangy bruschetta and a wedge of sharp cheddar–the perfect nosh!

Uncle Tessa’s Bruschetta 

Prep time: 30-45 minutes

I am posting this recipe in honor of my niece, Jillaine. Now a happily married young woman, Jillaine was growing up at the time in my life when I was well imbedded into the punk scene here in LA.

Like my boyfriend at the time, my hair was cropped short, and my typical ensemble was some version of Levis pegged to fit tight, black leather work boots or black canvass lowrider loafers from Kmart, a handmade band t-shirt or a men’s dress shirt pilfered from a thrift store, and a beater leather motorcycle jacket. To the hilariously sharp, smart, and sassy little Jillaine, I registered as a dude.

Armed with her awesome brand of little kid grit, Jillaine defied all adults who tried to correct her when she referred to me as Uncle Tessa. Of course, all her younger cousins, quite assured that the slightly elder Jillaine knew her shit, followed suit. And, to this day, I am Uncle Tessa. I absolutely would not have it any other way.

One holiday season a few years ago, the now adult Jillaine invited family members to give her our go-to fave recipes. She then compiled these into beautiful scrapbooks that she gave to us as gifts (right?! I told you she is clever). This bruschetta recipe was my contribution.

As an assertive antipasto, I enjoy the tangy pop of the cherry tomatoes against the juicy smoothness of peeled tomatoes. The firm red onions and fresh basil show up nicely due to lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. I like it piled high on crusty bread, as is traditional bruschetta. But, being punk rock and all, I add a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, instead of an Italian variety.

Enjoy! And, cheers to you, Jillaine! I will always be your Uncle Tessa.

 

 

Ingredients:

4 large tomatoes – peeled, seeded, and chopped in chunks (when priced right at the grocery store or farmer’s markets, I use heirloom varieties. In general, I use the organic tomatoes-on-the-vine variety).

1 cup cherry tomatoes – halved then halved again and seeded

11 large basil leaves – chiffonade (how to below)

3 large cloves garlic finely chopped (1-2 tablespoons to your liking). Reserve 1/2 tablespoon

1/2 cup diced red onion (or more if you, like me, dig onions)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Juice from 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Loaf of crusty bread

Ready to peel! Super juicy…

Make:

To peel tomatoes: prepare a bowl with ice and water. Bring a pot of water to a boil and, one at time, add the tomatoes with a slotted spoon. Watch them closely and, once the skins split, spoon them out into the ice bath. They are now ready to peel, seed, and chop.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, halving them again to make quarters. Remove seeds.

 

Basil – the queen of fresh herbs!

Chiffonade: pile up basil leaves, roll the pile together, and chop into thin ribbons.

Combine tomatoes with cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss/stir until all ingredients are well distributed, adding coarse salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let flavors develop.

Bread prep: If you are experienced with your chef’s knife, create a garlic paste by piling the reserved garlic on a cutting board with a pinch of coarse salt. Mash the salt & garlic combo by sliding chef’s knife over it, dragging the combo along the cutting board, using a bit of pressure to mash it together. Scoop garlic mash back into a pile and repeat. Combine mash with olive oil in a small bowl and mix with a fork to distribute garlic into oil. Brush on wedges of crusty bread and toast.

Alternatively, if you are not as confident with your chef’s knife, just rub a whole garlic clove on toasted bread and drizzle with olive oil.

Recipe & photography by Tess. Lotta

Kitchen Witch: Bullet Pesto

© Tess. Lotta

Bullet Pesto

Prep: 30 minutes

I grow monster amounts of basil on our back porch garden, and this rad little recipe is my killer pasta sauce version! Super easy, freaking crazy delicious, and nutritious with whole wheat or a quinoa-rice pasta.

I love my food processor, but, some days, I just don’t have it in me for the clean up. Also, though I have worshipped a Vitamix from afar, I keep opting for photo gear for the money (but, my dream will come true, someday).

So, for crazy busy days when I need an easy clean-up sauce, marinade, or dressing, I opt for my juicing blender—mine happens to be a NutriBullet. I have dedicated the larger container that came with it for marinades, soups, and sauces. I love to mark up anything with a Sharpie!

As my father, Joe “Cap” Lotta, would say, “Mangia tutti” – let’s eat!

When blending in a cylindrical juice blender, you may need to add moisture to some ingredients, like nuts, to get them moving.

Ingredients:

Big ol’ bunch of fresh basil (2-3 cups or large size container at the grocery store)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (fresh or the classic off-the-shelf mix)

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 cup raw almonds (1/4 cup if not saving-see below)

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup if not saving-see below)

Coarse salt

Black pepper

Room temperature water

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped (less or more, to your taste)

Dry pasta—I prefer rotini to grab the sauce in the ridges

Make:

Roast the almonds and pumpkin seeds together in a toaster oven or stove top in a skillet, stirring frequently until the aromas are released and the nuts turn a richer, slightly darker color. Don’t go too far, as they get bitter. Set aside to cool. Divide out about 1/4 cup of the mixture for pesto and save the rest to add to salads, etc.

Wash and pull basil leaves off stem. I am not a purist on this; if there is some stem, no big deal.

Pre-blend roasted seed/nut combo into small pieces—add a bit of water, if needed, to get it moving thru the blender. We don’t want nut butter—just chunks.

Add all remaining ingredients, starting with a 1/4 cup olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons water. Blend until you have the consistency you like. You can add more olive oil and/or water, S&P, or cheese to your liking.

Refrigerate for about an hour to let flavors develop.

Cook up pasta and ladle out 2 cups of cooking liquid into bowl or measuring cup just before draining the pasta. Drain pasta and return about half of it to the now dry pot. Add back in about a 1/2 cup of reserved liquid. Stir in pesto to coast pasta, adding more pasta as you stir. I like my pasta thick with sauce. If I have any left, I freeze for another recipe.

Recipe & photography by Tess. Lotta