Monday, August 30, 2010

Roasted Tomato Fettuccine

Another milestone has been reached in the Emerton kitchen.  I have a new sous chef and she makes great pasta.  Once again, we followed Marcella Hazan's recipe which is basically using two eggs to every 1 cup of flour.  Depending on the size of the eggs you have, I've learned mine must be huge, you need to increase the flour to egg ratio.  Stella's been helping me make pasta since this past spring, but today was her first forage into the whole process.  The flour well, the nesting of the eggs, and the mad dash to reign it all in when the walls of the flour cave in, all a labor of love.  We decided that we should try a thicker version of pasta, not rolling it out to the # 6 or 7 setting we usually try for, but rather stopping at #5.  And Stella decided fettuccine was the way to go for tonight's preparation.

My tomatoes have finally begun to ripen.  Usually, we are at the end of our harvesting season by now.  But this year, with our cool weather for the better part of our summer, it's taken much longer for the tomatoes to turn.
4 medium to large tomatoes, sliced thickly
few tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves smashed
Drizzle some olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Lay sliced tomatoes on top, then sprinkle with sugar and drizzle some more olive oil on top.  Place into a 425f oven and roast for 12 minutes.  Flip the tomatoes over, add the 2 garlic cloves, and roast for another 10 minutes.  Let cool.  Puree half the tomatoes with the garlic cloves and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into the blender as you puree.  Chop the remaining tomatoes and set aside.  You may not even really need to chop them... they will be pretty fall-apart tender.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water with some kosher salt and olive oil.  With this fresh pasta, only 1-2 minutes are needed to cook the pasta.  Drain pasta, reserving a bit of the cooking liquid.  Toss pasta with the pureed and chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil.  Add a little of the cooking liquid if it's too dry.  Shave some parmigiano reggiano on top.  Sweet, simple, fresh. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pappardelle with Braised Chicken, Saffron Cream and Dungeness Crab

Speaking of chicken... what freezes better than chicken?.... Costco chicken.  When arriving home from a weekend away, we can't help but discuss dinner options on the way home.  Take-out is always the first option.  But then, depending on the weekend away, and when we arrive home, I start to think of freezer options.  It seems I always keep a steady supply of chicken from Costco.  Tonight, I defrosted some boneless, skinless, organic chicken thighs for a pasta dish I saw in the September issue of Bon Appetit, Paccheri Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream.

Of course, if you know me, you know I wouldn't be able to help but make a few alterations.  First, I did not have the thighs with bone and skin that the recipe called for, so, boneless, skinless would have to do.  I didn't braise them for the hour the recipe calls for, but rather, only about 10 minutes.  I also used only 1 cup of chopped sweet onions and 3 garlic cloves.  And, instead of paccheri pasta, I used pappardelle, which was what I had on hand.  Instead of stirring the pasta into the sauce, I ladled the sauce over the pasta.  Then to top it off, I added a bit of dungeness crab on top.  

Our friends had put out a crab pot in the bay and the kids rowed the boat out and checked the pot periodically over the weekend.  The big haul was Saturday, and so, we fortuitously received half the loot to bring home.  I shelled the crab and could not help but be greedy and use some of it tonight.  

Again, I began to say, "I'm sorry, but this is so good", when Maggie interrupted me and said, "Do not apologize!"  And she's right.  I should, instead, say "thank you!"  Another great day, another great meal, one should be able to ooze with satisfaction!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Winner Winner White Wine, Lemon and Fig Chicken Dinner

Another day, another chicken.  This one was a winner.  Once she saw I was cooking chicken, Maggie asked, "is there gravy?"  But of course!  

I started by taking a whole chicken and cutting it up into 8 pieces.  Salt and pepper the chicken and brown in a large pan over medium high heat.  No need to add any oil to the pan as the fat from the skin of the chicken will suffice.  Place the pieces skin side down in the pan to start and flip once or twice to brown all sides.  Do this in batches and place browned chicken onto a baking pan as you will finish the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400f.  Once you have browned all the pieces, place about 1 tbsp of flour into the pan and stir to cook the flour a bit.  Then add in 2 tbsp fresh rosemary and 2 chopped garlic cloves.  Stir until fragrant.  Deglaze with about 3/4 cup of white wine and bring to a boil and reduce a bit.  Add in 3/4 cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer for about 7 minutes.  Add in 1 tbsp of honey and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and bring to a simmer and reduce until slightly thickened.  Finish with juice and zest of half a lemon and 3 figs quartered.  Cover and let rest for a few minutes until figs are softened.  Stir to incorporate.

Take chicken out of the oven.  Ladle sauce around the chicken, not on top, so that the skin remains crispy.  I served with roasted baby potatoes and broiled broccoli crowns.  A perfect combo of lemon tartness and sweetness of the honey and figs.  Winner, winner!

The Unearthing

Many of my potato greens have died back, and so it was time to harvest.  I was a little scared that my past periodic digging would leave me little else to find when I finally went to unearth the crop.  I would call it going to my potato refrigerator.  But happily, I managed to uncover this bounty doing a partial dig, working around the plants that were still green.  There seems to be many more baby potatoes to be grown, so I am hoping a fall harvest is in my future.

The only unfortunate result is that a good portion of the potatoes have what looks to be potato scab.  I'm not sure why this has occurred, but it is not supposed to affect the quality of the potato, just the look of it.  I read the disease can be present in barnyard manure, which I did not use this year.  And the earlier potatoes I harvested did not have this problem.  I can only guess that the subsequent soil and compost I added to my planters for mounding around the potato plants had some form of barnyard manure in it.  So, pretty potatoes, I do not have.  But tasty ones, they are.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Duck Meets the Grill

I was trying to remember if I'd ever grilled a whole duck on the barbecue before.   My first thought was too much fat, resulting in too many flare ups, resulting in a charred black duck.  But I'm sure my master griller, Chris, will be up to the challenge.  To help us along, I decided to debone the duck so that it can lay flat and cook evenly.  It is pretty much exactly like deboning a whole chicken.  The one tool that will make your life much easier is a good filet knife.  It is indispensable in all deboning and filleting work.  Once you use one, you will discover it is life changing.  

My garden potatoes are ready to harvest, but I wonder what I will find given my consistent periodic digging for a few to cook up.  Today I hunted for a variety of yukon gold, pontiac red, and yellow fin.  I made whipped potatoes which were absolutely divine.  To confess, I must say the added ingredients could make any potato heavenly.  I boiled them in chicken stock with a couple of smashed garlic cloves.  When the potatoes were tender and the stock almost evaporated, I added cream, butter and whipped with a hand mixer.  Then I stirred in grated gruyere and finished with sauteed scallions.  Pure satisfaction in a single bite.

I marinated the duck in the following for about 2 hours:
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup port
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sweet hot mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp salt

Grill slowly over low heat to avoid flare ups.  This is not an item to put on the grill and walk away.  Care and attention needed.  The duck was quite fabulous as well.  Maggie said the skin was her favorite.  She's an Emerton.  I loved the sweetness, the cooked perfection, and the ducky flavor.  

You will have to excuse the perhaps explicit photos, but I thought I'd share a few of the deboning process.
Start at the back by making a slit straight down the middle.
Work your knife using the tip only and slide it gently along the bone of the duck.  With a sharp filet knife, you will not need to exert much strength and it will be easy to slide the blade just along side the bone.  When you get to the joint of the leg or wing, find the soft spot in between the bone and socket and split it apart with the knife tip.  I take the bone of the leg with the leg first and then remove the bone after separating the whole duck from its skeleton.
If you've ever watched 'Alien', you will recognize the duck's skeleton on the left.  This may be enough to put you off meat, but I must say, you get used to it.  I remember my mom going through a no meat phase when my parents owned their restaurant.  After working with so much meat on a daily basis, it was enough to turn her off for a while.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Steamed Rock Fish with Scallions, Ginger and Shiitake Mushrooms

It occurred to me I had perhaps not done a steamed fish yet.  I am always in awe of how a good restaurant steams a fish with such delicacy, yet accomplishing such fabulous flavor, capturing the essence of the fish by producing the perfect sauce to showcase it.  After a consult with my mom, I completed my plan on how to proceed.  

One challenge of a whole steamed fish for me is the pot in which to steam it.  The one I got was no small fish, but I managed to squeeze it into a small enough dish to fit into my wok.

1 Cleaned whole rockfish weighing about 2.5 to 3 pounds
1" piece of ginger, julienned
2 scallions, julienned
1 tbsp cooking wine 
kosher salt and ground white pepper

Rinse your fish and dry with paper towels.  Make 3 long slits on each side of the fish.  Sprinkle fish with salt and white pepper inside and out.  Lay some ginger and scallions on the bottom of a shallow dish, place fish on top, and place remaining ginger and scallions on inside and top of fish.  Drizzle cooking wine on top.  
Steam fish for about 20 minutes or so, testing doneness with a fork.  I used a wok with a lid, setting the fish dish on top of a smaller dish inside the water to steam.

While fish is steaming, make the sauce.
5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water ahead of time until softened, julienned
1" piece of ginger, julienned
3 scallions, julienned
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil
thickening agent made of corn starch and water

In a little bit of oil, saute ginger and half of scallions until fragrant.  Add in shiitake mushrooms and fry a few minutes more.  Then add oyster sauce, soy, sugar, and chicken stock and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Thicken just slightly with corn starch / water mixture.  Right before serving, add in the sesame oil and toss sauce to combine.

When fish is cooked, remove fish from cooking liquid to a fresh plate.  Discard cooking liquid.  Ladle sauce on top of fish and garnish with remaining julienned scallions.  
For this type of preparation, I wish the fish was a little more tender and delicate.  It would have been perfect for a spicy, richer sauce.  Nonetheless, the fish was quite good.  Firm but most importantly, fresh.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reunited and Back to a Favorite Steak and Pomme Frites

After a long holiday, I am reunited with my kitchen.  Initially, we were going to pick up take out on our way home, but I said if we get home early enough, I will make dinner.  And I'm glad I did.  Standing in my kitchen, dog milling around, television on in the background and me prepping our dinner... all seemed right in the world again.  

As a creature of habit, no matter where we go, home always seems the best.  We had a wonderful holiday away; 16 days in total.  This has never occurred in my life before.  Sad, but true.  After a week or so, I'd begun to let slide the basic upkeep of me.  Pedicure lost in the sand somewhere, forgetting to pluck my rogue eyebrow hairs, refusing to dry my hair, and forget about applying any makeup.  Beside the fact I was without my home kitchen inventory, I had lost interest in making a complicated meal.  This is the beauty of the extended vacation, particularly if you have never had one before.  But back to reality and I'm glad for it.  For without reality, there is no other.

So, we are back to a house favorite tonight with a little sauce, a large steak, and a good helping of french fries.  The sauce is a slight variation in my version of entrecote sauce.  
1 tbsp bacon fat
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup creme fraiche
freshly ground pepper

Melt fat in small saute pan and add shallot.  Saute over medium low heat until softened.  Add in rosemary, thyme, sage, mustard and freshly ground pepper and saute a little longer.  Puree mixture with beef stock in a blender.  Return to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer for about 7 minutes.  Add in creme fraiche and simmer until thickened.  You can make the sauce up to the point of the creme fraiche addition and set aside until ready to proceed.  Grill steak on the bbq to your liking.  The bacon fat added a nice smoky flavor to the sauce, but beware of the extra salt.

French fries are hand cut into slim sticks and soaked in water until ready to fry.  Get your oil to 250f, drain and dry fries on paper towels and par fry until the potatoes are softened.  Do this in batches if you need to.  Heat oil to 350f and fry until crispy and golden.  Salt immediately so that the salt will adhere to the fries.

Home sweet home.  Our summer comes to a quick close soon, as school starts in a week.  I look forward to what fall will inspire.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pan Fried Quail with Mushroom Risotto

A couple of weeks ago, I was back in the neighborhood of University Seafood and Poultry and once again stopped in to buy more deboned quail.  They are always sold frozen there, so whenever I'm close by, I am tempted to buy a few to stock in my freezer.  When packing for our trip up here, I tossed the quail in the cooler, figuring I'd find some good use for it.  And I did.  

Heat oven to 400f.
Salt and pepper the quail, then cover with a light dusting of flower.  Pan fry the quail in a little butter, about 2 tbsp, over medium heat until golden brown.   Drain on paper towels and set aside.  
In the same pan, I made the mushroom risotto in the same way as in this previous post.   The only changes are no veal or pancetta and I used a combination of 2/3 chicken stock to 1/3 beef stock.  I had some flat green beans left from my farm purchase, so I decided to blanche and chop them and add them to the risotto.  
When the risotto is almost finished, put the quail into the oven to finish.  About 5-7 minutes.
Unfortunately, the photo does not do it justice.  I would say the risotto got a little dry as I did not time the quail with it perfectly.  As such, the risotto had to sit a bit while waiting for the quail to finish in the oven.  But nonetheless, the taste was still excellent.  I cleaned my quail getting every last tidbit.  Next time, I will try to better prepare the photo layout.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Lamb Please!

I was contemplating why rack of lamb is such a favorite of mine.  I've come to one conclusion. Because I am a cleaner.  Give me a rib, a chicken wing, a crab, or a lobster and I will clean every bit of goodness off of it.  If we have or ever will dine together, you know what I'm talking about.  Chris describes my bones or shells as looking like they've come through a power washer.  No tidbit left to be desired.  I realize this does not paint a very pretty picture of my dining etiquette, but I cannot tell a lie.  I love to get every morsel, as many times, it is those last morsels that are the best.

Tonight's lamb was marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine, honey, shallots, lemon, parsley, rosemary and salt and pepper.  Only a slight variation from that which I've done before, but just enough to give it a little twist.  Grill on the bbq over medium heat.  I continue to try to get my kids to like lamb and now I'm wondering if that's such a good idea.  After all... all one needs to do is do the math.  More for them, less for me!

Friday, August 13, 2010

We Love Whibley Island

We've been coming to Whidbey Island for the past decade or so much by the grace of our friends who have shared their homes with us.  When our kids were toddlers, they used to say, we love WhiBLEY Island, not being able to get the d and b pronounced in conjunction.  Over the years, it is more and more apparent how special a place this is.  Today marks the end of the first week of our stay here.  And I have officially unplugged.  Without my kitchen and all its inventory, I've been taking a little buffet hiatus of sorts.  Though we are not eating out, not wanting to leave the beach, we are eating simple.  As such, there's not much in the way of cooking to blog about.  Hence a little diversion in order to quench my still desire to write.

In my ever growing love for farmers markets and roadside vendors, I am sharing two great finds in Freeland on Whidbey Island.  We were on our way to Langley on a mission to buy some flowers, when what was on the side of the road but a little self serve flower stand.  For $5, we bought this gorgeous bouquet.  
An old cardboard container with a rubber lid with a slit cut out and a note that said "thank you"  was their check out system.  I wish I had my camera there with me to have photographed the modest stand.  And as we drove away, I wished I had left a note to say thank you to them for such a lovely experience.  My girls asked me, how do they know people will leave them the money?  Trust, I said.  We are all on the honor system.
Then oh happy day.  When we returned, the little farm stand next to where we are staying, was setting up shop.  We have visited this new little stand several times always buying a little something just because.  Also on the honor system, beautiful fresh vegetables are laid out for purchase, variety based on whatever is ready to be harvested.

We walked back with a bag of basil, some yellow potatoes and rockwell green beans which will all be making an appearance in dinner.  We left our money in a tin container asking us to make our own change.

I marvel at these folks who employ the honor system.  In a world where bad news travels like lightening on the information super highway, where it seems we fear to let our children do anything on their own, where our neighborhood newsletter alerts us of thefts in our area, I am so very thankful for Whidbey.  It's a place where my kids roam freely on the beach, where we don't have to lock our door, where the honor system still exists, and where despite my lack of kitchen inventory, we still eat like kings on simply prepared, fresh, locally farmed food.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do What You Can Chicken Fried Chicken

If there's one thing we can all agree upon, I'm sure it would be how difficult it is to come up with a new way to make chicken.  There's a reason why the phrase "it tastes like chicken" is synonymous, with maybe, it's just plain.  A good chicken has its own express flavor.  But more often than not, it's just a non-distinct taste.  Nothing that stands out.  This is most often the reason we all love chicken.  Well, met again with a whole chicken, I reviewed our options with my gals.  Anything with gravy was the only answer they came up with.  I took a mental inventory of my kitchen and realized I had a pint of buttermilk.  Why, I cannot remember.

Earlier in the afternoon, I cut up the chicken into smaller pieces and put them into the buttermilk along with kosher salt and white sugar.  When ready to fry, I removed the chicken from the buttermilk and dipped them in flour mixed with garlic salt.  Without my deep fryer here, I used a shallow frying pan filled 1/3 of the way with canola oil.  I fried the chicken until golden, about 7 minutes and placed the pieces in the oven at 425f to finish cooking.  About another 10-15 minutes.  Easier and time-saving given what I had to work with.  
I had wanted to serve the chicken with David Chang's Octo Vinaigrette, but then realized I did not have a few of the key ingredients.  So, instead, I made a basic soy, vinegar, garlic and ginger dipping sauce from my own repertoire. 
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp white vinegar
1.5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vegetable oil
Very much similar to the octo, I actually had a revelation that hey, I've basically been making something exactly the same most of my adult life.  Just slightly different.  

Was this a new way to cook chicken.. obviously not.  Was it a good way to cook chicken?  Yes!  Fried chicken somehow brings out the quintessential chicken.  Crispy skin, juicy and tender and chicken-y.  Do what you can with what you have.  It doesn't have to be fancy to be good! 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sockeye Salmon with Beurre Blanc

There's something magnetic about the roadside merchant.  Having grown up in a family who was self employed, I might have a special place in my heart for those who pitch a tent and set up shop to purvey their goods.  Maybe it's the possibility that they are offering something just a little more special than what you can get at the mass market.  Maybe it just feels good to support the small guy.  Or, maybe it's just plain old curiosity that makes us stop.  Yesterday, as we were zooming down the highway, fresh seafood signs drew us to a pick up truck and trailer carrying large plastic bins of fresh salmon, oysters and muscles.  Sadly no dungeness crab.. sold out.  But a 5.82 pound whole Sockeye Salmon was purchased for $4.99 per pound.  A great deal!

So, then it was time to test the product.  I decided to do a simple beurre blanc and used this recipe from Epicurious.  I filleted the salmon and grilled on with just a little salt and pepper and a brush of olive oil.  With hopes for a fabulously fresh piece of fish, cooking to medium, just slightly over medium rare, should be all that's needed.  And it was.
If you are on Whidbey Island, driving on SR525, keep a lookout for fresh seafood.  Seen mostly on the weekend, it would be well worth a stop.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gruyere Cream Sauce Linguini with White Shrimp

We're feeling right back at home with a little cream sauce pasta on a sweet Friday night.  A glass of nice Pinot to cut the richness of the sauce, and we are well on our way to a fabulous evening.  This sauce, a family favorite, has seen many versions over the years.. over pasta, over rice, with scallops, with mushrooms.  It's one of those sauces that could make shoe leather taste good.  

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
2 cups cream
2 Tbsp vodka
1 Cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 lb 16/20 white shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp butter

In a large sauce pan, make a roux by melting the butter then adding in the flour until the mixture is golden brown.  Add in the cream and bring to a boil and simmer until thickened.  I would normally cook the cream down until thickened, instead of using the roux to thicken, but I did not have enough cream to do that.  This worked just fine.  Once the cream has thickened, add in the vodka simmer, adding in the shredded cheese and turn off the heat.  Stir to melt cheese.

In a separate pan, melt butter over medium heat, then add in garlic.   Turn up the heat to medium high and saute the shrimp until just pink.  Do not cook the shrimp fully.  Add to the cream mixture.

Cook your pasta and when almost finished, turn the heat back on and bring the sauce to a light simmer until shrimp is fully cooked.  

This sauce is luscious and divine.  I did feel a little tightening of the arteries, but it was red wine to the rescue.  The girls jumped for joy when they saw what was cooking on the stove.  Into every life, a little fat must fall.  We are happy receivers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chard Sweet Chard

At the market today, these beautiful bunches of organic chard from Full Circle Farm could not be passed up.  The leaves looked amazingly tender and fresh, so it was time to get my fiber on.  A daunting vision to my kids.  Their eyes large with could we possibly be expected to eat this mound of greens?  Why, add bacon of course!

I followed this recipe from but substituted bacon for the butter.  We gobbled up the whole bunch and were maybe even a little disappointed at its shrinking nature when cooked.  Really, I could have sat, fork in hand, and made it a meal in itself.  The fresh swiss chard did not disappoint.  All I can say is go out and get some!  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let's Eat Steak

So, after you've had your caprese snack, bring on the steak, right?  Now, I always have a bit of an internal battle over what to do with steak.  If you have a good cut, it feels wrong to alter it too much in any way.  But we are at the Emerton household where sauce is king.  I am raising and nurturing a small band of sauce-a-holics.  I mean once you know how good it can be, it's very much a test of restraint to try and go without.  Today, I shall try to acquiesce to my challenge of the un-sauced steak.  I did say sauced, right? ... not seasoned.

I had two beautiful rib-eye steaks, also known as spencer steak.  Sprinkle steaks with chili powder, kosher salt, and a generous amount of brown sugar.  Top with a few splashes of worcestershire and use a small spatula or knife to spread over steak evenly.  Grill over smoking hot heat.  I'm happy to just introduce my steak to the flame and call it good.  My less barbaric family likes a good medium rare.

I heard local corn will be late this season, but I can't wait.  Here again, when you have something as good as corn in the prime of its season, there's no reason to do anything to alter it.  While I wait for prime local corn, I simply boiled my corn and finished it on the grill brushing it with scallion butter.  For the butter, I sliced 1 scallion and placed it in a pan with 3 tbsp of butter and simmered the butter for about a minute.  Salt to taste.  
Maybe a bit pedestrian, but you really can't beat a good steak and sweet corn.  

The 3 Minute Insalata Caprese

After a good bit of exercise, and once you've passed the hands trembling and nausea stage, you might want to regroup with a little light and refreshing snack.  This one you can't go wrong with.
Grape Tomatoes
Basil Leaves
Ciliegine Mozzarella
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Skewer with toothpick, the mozzarella, basil and tomato.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, then grind some pepper on top.  So simple, it barely warrants a blog.  But so flawless, so beautiful, and the ideal little pick me up, I thought it a good idea to remind us of its perfection.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Almost No Cooking Fusilli Primavera

It was off to Metropolitan Market today hoping something will jump out at me for dinner tonight.  When lost for ideas, I like to go out for inspiration.  Obviously, the buffet seldom closes, so I need to change that and eat out more often to see what's happening out in the world.  But visiting a beautiful grocery store like Metropolitan Market gets one in the mood for cooking, or in today's case, not cooking as well.  

I purchased, one box of Fusilli pasta, crimini mushrooms, Myzithra cheese, and from the ready made counter, edamame peas, marinated gigantes, roasted garlic, roasted cauliflower and a jar of pesto porcini.  How would this turn out?

I cooked the pasta, sliced and sauteed the mushrooms.  When the pasta was cooked, drain and add in all the other ingredients along with the sauteed mushrooms and 2 tbsp of the pesto.  I decided to drizzle a little balsamic vinegar and add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  Finish with a couple grape tomatoes and a sprig of basil.  Serve pasta room temp or chilled.  It was just okay.  Probably didn't need the balsamic.  Nothing fabulous, nothing bad about it.  Good, but not memorable.  Hmph.