Fresh Basil Pesto Pasta

Fresh Basil Pesto Pasta

Have you ever had fresh basil pesto? If so, then you know what a delicious additive it is to so many Italian dishes. Or by itself, just top off a cracker and cheese for a tasty snack. I would “pair” it with a red, white, or pink wine, or maybe a brown beer. Or if you feel spirited, maybe some blue antifreeze colored wine cooler. If you are not in the mood to travel to Italy to procure such a treat, just make it yourself! I have sampled manufactured jarred pesto sold the local supermarkets, and it has a flavor that I can only describe as a mixture of lawnmower shavings and a salt lick. I assure you I have never knowingly consumed either of the two. I can only imagine that the chef is mindful of that “millennium shelf life”, and added a lethal amount of salt to keep it as fresh as the decade it was made.

Through the years, I have cooked pasta with varied results. To test cooked pasta, I have bitten through it to judge the texture, threw it on the ceiling to see if it stuck, and have even consulted a local shaman. All of these methods worked to a varying degree. What I have found to be the best method for cooking pasta is to follow the directions on the box. These pasta masters are a clever group, and when all else fails; follow directions. It has never failed. Try this recipe; it is well worth the effort.


  • 8 oz fresh basil leaves, (2 packages of Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (save another ½ cup for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • One box Packaged Pasta (linguine)



1 Measure and pour pine nuts in a frying pan, set heat on high, keep the nuts moving as not to burn them. When they are toasted, they will release their flavorful oils. Remove from heat, stop toasting process by pouring them into a large room temperature plate. This will stop them from burning. Save 1/4 cup for garnish. Place the basil leaves and 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times. Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

2 While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Divide in half, saving some for other purposes such as added to cheese and crackers, or add to a pizza. Yum!

3 Cook pasta per package directions. Save one cup of pasta water, Drain in colander, mix (carefully fold) one half of pesto you just made into the pasta in a large saucepan or sauté’ pan, or whatever, add pasta water as needed. The cooked pasta will suck out all moisture in the pesto, so adding the pasta water back will make it hydrated one more. Serve with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. This is the stuff dreams are made of.



The triple J- Jamaican Jack Jerk Burger

As I was surfing the net the other day, which equates to slogging through every digital advertisement on Earth, I came across a recipe for a burger with Jamaican spices. It immediately brought back fond memories of our trip to the Island mon! (every Jamaican sentence must be followed by the term “mon”, which translates from the American term “man”. The Canadians in turn end their statements with “ehh”. Folks in my hood end with “hungh”, real loud!

One of my fonder memories was the transportation on the Island.

Simply getting from Point A to Point B is one of Jamaica’s most exciting adventures. Since Jamaica is part of the British Commonwealth, cars drive on the left side of the road, and the local drivers have a unique way of negotiating the highways and narrow streets in the townships: the faster the better.

On the way from the airport in Montego Bay to the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, (a must check out!) our bus driver told us, “We will be passing right through the next town.” He wasn’t kidding. He only slowed to about 40 mph down narrow streets as we rocketed past unflinching pedestrians. Meanwhile, the white-knuckled tourist passengers braced for an impact that never came.

All this was done with one-handed steering, since the driver’s other arm was busy pumping a clenched fist to the pounding pulse of loud Reggae music.

But I digress.

As I checked out the ingredients I immediately saw room for recipe improvement! Ha!

I soon found myself constructing a new and improved version worth mentioning as follows. This is an easy one, and tastes great!

Prep and cooking time sober, One hour

Prep and cooking time “in the bag”, all afternoon. Can’t find anything.



Jamaican Jack Jerk Burgers Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 6 burgers. Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 3 habanero chili peppers, minced (be a man, use it all!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion, including greens
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 shot of pancake syrup (small squeeze = 1 tbsp.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 thick slices of Jack Cheese
  • 2 pounds ground beef, at least 15% fat
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • Pinch of chopped thyme
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp of orange juice from orange you will be zesting
  • 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 In a food processor, put the vinegar, water, habanero chili, green onion, garlic, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, molasses, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Pulse until finely chopped.

2 Using your hands, gently mix the jerk mixture in with the ground beef in a large bowl until just incorporated. Do not over-mix. Shape into patties, about 1/2 inch thick and wider than the diameter of your hamburger bun. Chill about 30 minutes or until you are ready to cook. (Remember to wash hands with soap and water after handling, you will thank me later)

3 coleslaw-In a medium bowl, mix the cabbage, red onion, thyme, mayonnaise, citrus juice, zest, salt and pepper.

4 Prepare gas or charcoal grill for cooking over high direct heat. Place the patties on the clean, well-oiled grill grate. (if you find one, please send me a photo, as I have not seen a clean grill grate since childhood) Grill the burgers for about 3 minutes per side, (until you see juices leach through) add cheese, cover with a lid until cheese has melted. If you don’t have a grill, you can use a large frying pan on the stove top. As the burger has so much flavor anyway, a grill is nice, but not mandatory.

Serve burgers topped with the coleslaw, with or without hamburger buns.

This is a burger that pairs with Red Stripe beer, Jamaica’s national pastime!


Mango Habanero Salsa

Mango Habanero Salsa

This is a great sweet and hot salsa! I first had it from a jar from the local market. Their chef had decided to add small pebbles for added texture. A bold ingredient, definitely leading edge!
Besides the crunch of small rocks, it tasted pretty good for a jar salsa, I knew I could improve on this.

WARNING! Use less habanero peppers if you do not have the stomach of a Rhino!

Easy to make, but there are a few precautions I will state here and now that should not be ignored.
Besides the obvious, do not handle the habaneros with bare skin. I used a fork to keep them on the cutting board, a knife to excise the stem area, and a contained chopper to get the job done.
At no time did I touch them.
After I had the wife wash them, and out of personal kindness, I told her she should boil her hands right away and not touch any part of her body she has become fond of.
Second, and this is a biggie, I had all leftover jalapeño peppers excess matter in the sink. I should have scooped it out and disposed of properly.
I did not.
At the time, the garbage disposal appeared to be a good idea. Big mistake. The pepper innards were vaporized mechanically and formed a cloud of invisible doom in the kitchen. After what seemed like a lifetime, the coughing and gagging in the house subsided into a rhythmic asthmatic wheeze. Eyesight was restored later.
Breathing and eyesight can not be overstated. As always in my recipes, avoid my mistakes at all cost.

This salsa goes well with chips, or as a dip, or thrown on anything you can think of.
Add to Chicken or steak?
I say thee yeah!

4 Tomatoes (cored)
6 oz crushed pineapple in pineapple juice
mango puree (2 mangoes)
1 fire roasted red bell pepper (1/2 cup)
4 jalapeño peppers (cored)
1 diced onion
1 tsp sugar
6 habanero peppers (or less, say about 2)
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 good squirt lime juice concentrate( a bad squirt would involve lack of concentration or astral traveling)
1/2 tsp garlic powder


Dice up everything except the Mango and Habanero peppers. Add to a medium sized container with sealable lid. (as to refrigerate after assembly)
Add sugar,salt,cilantro, lime juice concentrate and garlic powder.
Extract all the fruit from the mango (exclude skin and pit) and blend in a mixer to puree, add to mixture.
Per instructions above ( have an expendable family member do this part), finely chop habanero peppers.
Try two peppers at first. Have same expendable family member test it out.
If they show no signs of seizure or organ failure, add two more. Be sure to ask them how they feel. Reassure them that you have plenty of beer.
Ask them if they can still feel their lips. If they respond in the affirmative, it may be enough peppers. You be the judge!

Mexican Pizza

Mexican Pizza

A few weeks ago, a neighbor’s teenage offspring was present during a recent pizza night at Miguel’s Kitchen (My house) and made the comment. “So, do you just throw anything on a pizza dough and see what sticks?” After a brief silence, and a giving him well placed hip check into the living room wall, I explained that this was certainly not the case, and it’s hard to chew pizza with no teeth. The nerve.
Anyway, this may sound like a “see what sticks” pizza, and I assure you it is not, but rather a well thought out , meaningful recipe of gourmet quality and south of the border zest. This is easy to make and tastes great!


Everything you had left over from Taco Night.
chopped onions
chopped Tomatoes
Taco seasoned ground burger
slice jalapeño peppers
shredded Jack or cheddar cheese
salsa or hot sauce
sour cream
1 cup Mozzarella cheese per pizza
pizza dough

*Make your favorite pizza dough. Mine just happens to be the exact same recipe as the pre-made down at Trader Joe’s. So… I do ALL the work?
Again, I think not. Buy package and divide into two. You can make 2 skillet pizzas from one TJ package. If you want a scratch pizza dough recipe, my friend Maria sent me a great one. (Bottom of post)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread dough out in preheated 12 inch skillet. (heat skillet on top burner for one minute, wait a few more before spreading dough) Spread mozzarella cheese on dough. Add taco night leftovers, as much or little as you see fit.
Bake in oven for 17 minutes. Remove from oven,  Let rest 2-3 minutes until mozzarella sets.  Slice and add sour cream to individual slice. Enjoy!
Word to the wise.
That skillet gets real hot, have a care when handling it!


•    2 cups flour
•    1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
•    1 cup warm water
•    2 tablespoons olive oil
•    2 teaspoons white sugar
•    1 teaspoon salt
Blend yeast in water and add  the sugar and olive oil. Put 2 cups of flour in large glass or plastic bowl then add the wet ingredients and stir with a fork. , when the flour is wet then add your 1 tsp of salt.  (In Italy we say salt is added far away from the yeast)
When you have a ball you can put it out on your counter dusted with flour and begin to knead the dough until it is pliable and not sticky,  add flour if need be. (This should only take a few minutes) put back into bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in your oven with just the oven light on. Let rise until double the size.