A Mouthful in Montauk: Egg Yolk Pesto and Sausage and Peppers with Feta

Ah, wilderness. Oxygen. I was fortunate enough to escape the city Memorial Day weekend to Montauk.

I woke to the sound of trees rustling – actual trees – and the chatting of birds over the comforting low hum of the ocean. Aside from my feeble attempts to tan (I swear, I can tan) I knew the days would consist of meal plotting by day and evenings with hungry, sandal-clad friends and family…

Sometimes, there is no competing with hamburgers and hot dogs. My mission: feed the masses with large mounds of summertime flavor. I wanted something that would scream, “Look at me, I’m delicious…and you can have seconds without awkwardly asking for someone to throw another dog on the grill.”

The first day was spent on the road, scouring the countryside for fresh produce. So many choices. We settled in on a charming and thriving farm stand across from a field of horses. The moment my foot hit the parking lot gravel, I smelled berries and basil. Basil. I love this time of year.

Back home with a fresh bounty of fruit, veggies, and pastured eggs, I felt invigorated. Cold pasta salad would do the trick for the evening, but I hoped for classic, yet rich, flavors. The huge bouquet of basil beckoned. I made pesto with egg yolks.

The egg yolks started whirling in the blender and as the oil slowly poured in, I knew I was on my way to mayonnaise. But, instead of worrying too much about thickening, I just kept going. This was a sauce. A dressing. An aioli. No pressure.

I squeezed lemon for acidity, chopped garlic for bite, walnuts for depth and added nutty Parmesan. Then, the star of the show, the beautiful basil, made it into the blender, slowly revealing a fresh creamy, green dressing. I love traditional pesto, but I have to admit, the yolks added a wonderful richness. I’m definitely doing this again. Oh, and don’t be afraid of the yolk. Just think of Caesar salad.

By day two, I knew we needed something bolder. After two days in the sun, we realized we would not suddenly turn into Pamela Anderson, gracefully running on the beach in a red bathing suit. (Especially after bagels ravenously consumed every morning.) Insecurities subsided. We needed sustenance. We needed sausage.

My wonderful in-laws have a rule. No barbeque is complete without sausage and peppers (or, in their fantastic Bronx accents, “sawsidge and peppehs”). It is always a good idea. But I wanted to kick it up a notch since I had the time to focus on this one dish. I thought to bring a little Mediterranean flavor to the mix – balsamic vinegar for sweet acidity and a generous sprinkling of parsley and feta on top.

It was scooped onto plates by itself and into numerous hot dog buns. All but one, polite helping was left. Success! Was it just the sausage? Maybe. I can’t take credit for something so fantastic on its own. But this new rendition of a classic certainly gave us something different. Eat your heart out Pam.

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Egg Yolk Pesto

3 14-ounce packages of penne (or pasta of choice)
2 egg yolks
2 large bunches of basil
1/2 juice of large lemon (approx 2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup walnuts
1.5 cups olive oil
1 cup parmesan
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
salt and pepper

Cook pasta in large pot of salted water, drain and set aside. Before draining set aside 1 cup of hot pasta water.

Add egg yolks to blender or food processor and begin to blend. While blending, add lemon juice and slowly drizzle in oil. Add garlic and half of walnuts. Working in batches, throw in clean leaves of basil by the handful until incorporated into mixture. (Use handle of wooden spoon or similar utensil to assist with this process). Add remainder of walnuts and parmesan. Once fully blended, taste and add salt and pepper.

Pour pesto onto pasta in large bowl and combine so pasta is thoroughly coated. If mixture is too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. If desired (and for lovely color) throw in tomatoes. Serve at room temperature or chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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Sausage and Peppers

2 lbs sausage in casing (I used 1 lb hot Italian sausage and 1lb sweet Italian sausage)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves minced garlic
3 large Spanish onions, sliced
5 bell peppers, sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
8 ounces feta, crumbled
salt and pepper

In large frying pan, add olive oil until hot and sear sausage links over medium high heat (approximately 3 minutes on each side). Once links are all browned nicely on each side, remove from pan and set aside in bowl, leaving residual oil and fat. Throw onions into pan and turn heat down to medium. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to color and soften. Pour in balsamic vinegar and stir, being sure to deglaze any residual bits from bottom of the pan. Mix in bell pepper and cook for additional 5-10 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, slice sausage links in 1/2 inch width pieces. Add garlic and sausage to pan. Cook for additional 5-10 minutes until sausage is cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour onto serving platter and top with parsley and crumbled feta. Enjoy by itself or in a good roll.

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