Life Lately: Late Summer Edition

  1. Living my best life with sparkling rosé and Ollie Irene mussels on a weeknight
  2. Solo Summer Friday trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art
  3. Railroad Park views
  4. Certain proof of aliens at the George Ward disc golf course
  5. At-home happy hour
  6. Homemade kimchi getting put to work in Carolina Gold rice bowls alongside Korean BBQ-marinated ribeye and crispy roasted broccoli

Pistachio Pesto

I’ve never attempted homemade pesto before, but a $4 basil plant from Home Depot wasted no time doubling in size over the course of a couple weeks and using it up quickly became necessary. This recipe uses pistachios instead of pine nuts and the cilantro adds a lot, yet you’d never guess “cilantro” when trying to pick apart the flavors later. The verdict? I think a few more basil plants are in order so that this can happen more often.

Recipe from Food.com:

1½ cups fresh basil
½ cup cilantro
1 cup shelled dry roasted pistachio nuts
2-3 cloves garlic
¼-⅔ cup olive oil or ¼-⅔ cup pistachio oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest of or 1 teaspoon lime zest (used lemon zest)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese or ¼ cup grated asiago cheese (used asiago)

Put all of the ingredients in the food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Start with ¼ cup oil adding more if you need.

Use gratuitously at every meal like I’ve been doing or freeze the leftovers for later. My current top 5 favorite things to do with pesto (I may or may not have eaten/plan to eat all of these in a week’s time):

1. Italian eggs benedict: English muffin or grits topped with pesto, prosciutto, and poached egg.
2. Pesto chicken salad with almonds.
3. Pesto pizza with mushrooms, mozzarella, and truffle oil.
4. Penne with sauteed shrimp and pesto cream sauce (pesto mixed with half & half).
5. Wrap with roasted turkey, pesto, and provolone.

Chuck’s: Raleigh’s half pound, flat top revolution.

I am not the first person to chronicle the definitive sweep that Ashley Christensen’s food establishments have made throughout downtown Raleigh, nor will I be the last. This does not, however, keep me from pretending that I am a loyal and self-appointed ambassador of the brand, specifically Chuck’s, as I eat my way through the menu and rave to anyone who will listen. This place belongs on blogs everywhere, from the minimalist, old school butcher boutique-y decor (you’d think this isn’t possible but it is) to a menu that is just big enough to make you feel like you have options, yet small enough that you’re worried about what might happen after you’ve tried them all (which you’ll want to).

We in the South undoubtedly live in an all-inclusive food culture: your two eggs for breakfast come with bacon or sausage, homefries or grits, and biscuits seem to never entirely disappear from the table. These breakfasts are the choose-your-own adventure of food… everyone at the table can order the same meal without ever settling on the exact combination as the next person. Most AC restaurants do not follow this tradition of “all entrees include,” which can be initially disappointing but clearly does not seem to bother fans of bacon-onion jam on a Chuck’s burger or a plate of Beasley’s chicken and waffles.

the “Last Word” burger

At first glance, the menu seems a bit bizarre highlighting toppings like hazelnut vinaigrette, tortilla dust, bacon-onion jam, and banyuls aioli. Seven signature burgers can be ordered in the full house-ground, half pound size with a 5 ounce “little Chuck” suitable for smaller appetites. “The Dirty South” comes exactly how it sounds: unforgivably messy and infused with Southern staples like crispy onion, Ashe County cheddar, and smoked pork shoulder chili. From a more classic perspective, “The Big House” drips with thyme-caramelized shallots and Tennessee sorghum-dijon that adds just the right amount of bite. Every burger is cooked on a flat top grill to their version of medium-well (more pink than what you may expect, unless otherwise ordered) and I have yet to find an option I didn’t care for now that I’m through half of the menu. And the Belgian fries? One half pound with aoilis and sauces enough to convince you that not all fried potatoes are created equal. Try the malt vinegar aioli or the sweet chili sauce and try to stop after just a couple.