Sear, Simmer & Stir

Life, style & food in the District

Pepper Jelly Goat Cheese Gratin & Arugula Pesto Orecchiette

Spring is the season of cleansing. It’s the time of year when we trade-in heavy sweaters for cardigans, boots for espadrilles, and yes, comforting casseroles for salads. As the weather warms, our bodies start craving lighter, fresher foods – Because let’s be honest, there is nothing worse than walking the city in sunny, 90 degree weather after eating a hot, heavy meal.

This weekend, we were lucky enough to have family and a very good friend in town – And what better way to spend time with loved ones than over a fresh, spring meal?

Naturally, the weekend packed much more than just hosting our out-of-town guests. Throw in some yoga, some writing, a few gallery assignments and cleaning the apartment, and bam… Suddenly, the ability to spend an entire day in the kitchen preparing a delicious, homemade meal was not even a possibility. And even if I wanted a hot meal (which I didn’t), there was no way I could pull it off.

Instead, I planned a “room temperature meal” – Something that could be mostly prepared and assembled on Friday night, and then pulled out of the fridge and slightly warmed-up on Saturday night.

For the dinner, I made a goat cheese and pepper jelly gratin with crostini for an appetizer (inspired from a much more complicated variation I saw in Food and Wine) and a fresh arugula pesto dish.

While I love a good basil pesto, this arugula pesto really hit the spot for a springtime meal. It is light, it is seasonal, it is inexpensive and it is spicy (naturally)! And like a traditional basil pesto, this dish is incredibly versatile – it tastes good served hot, cold or at room temperature.

I served the pasta alongside a cold kale and apple salad and some lemony beans (thanks to some recipe advice from my lovely natural chef/friend, Rachel B.).

Hope you enjoy these SIMPLE, FRESH and SEASONAL dishes as much as we did! Can’t wait to dig into the leftovers tonight… straight out of the fridge… nice and cold… just how I like my warm-weather eats.

Peace & love and happy spring cooking!


Pepper Jelly Goat Cheese Gratin

1 log of goat cheese (the size you need depends on how many you need to feed)
1 jar of your favorite pepper jelly
1 French baguette
Olive oil
Sea salt

Cut a baguette into thin slices and place on a baking dish, lined with parchment paper. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cook for about 10-12 minutes in a 450 degree oven, until slightly brown and crispy.

In the meantime, spread the softened goat cheese in a gratin dish and top it with a generous layer of pepper jelly. Put the dish in a 400 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes to warm through. Then, turn on the broiler and cook the dish under the broiler for about 5 more minutes, until slightly browned and bubbly.

Serve immediately with the crostini and some wine (of course).

Arugula Pesto Orecchiette

1 cup of chopped walnuts
2 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 cups of fresh arugula
1 cup of shaved Parmesan cheese
1 pound orecchiette
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes  (or more, to taste)

Combine the walnuts, garlic, Parmesan, salt and red pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add in the arugula and combine until smooth. While the processor is running, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, until the pesto is smooth. Set aside.

Cook the orecchiette al dente and drain. Save about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and add to the pesto to loosen the sauce and to flavor with the starchy water. The hot water also makes the parmesan get all melty, gooey and super happy. Add salt and pepper to the sauce to taste – Pour over the pasta, toss and serve at your desired temperature.


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This entry was posted on April 22, 2012 by in Appetizer, DC Eats, Main Dish, Sides, Vegetarian.

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