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Tag Archives: basil

Basil ‘n Lemon Pesto

10 Oct Basil Pesto

My beloved basil plants have just completed their season here.  If you’re lucky enough to grow herbs in a climate where it’s still warm, you’re probably not seeing the sad demise of your plants.  Alas, mine are pretty much seeing the end of their days.  I salvaged what was left of my basil plants, brought them indoors, and stuck them in water until I could figure out what to do with them.  I thought about blanching and freezing the leaves.  Or drying them for future use.  In the end, I decided to whip up a batch of pesto, which I know will keep in the fridge awhile and comes in handy for all those weeknight meals.

Basil Pesto

We usually have fresh lemons around, so we make lemon-basil pesto.  It is so refreshing, and gives the pesto that perfect lemony tang.  If you prefer plain basil pesto, just omit the lemon.

Basil Pesto

Pack in those basil leaves.  Goodbye, garden, until next spring!

Basil Pesto

Of course, good extra virgin olive oil.

Basil Pesto

Voila!  That’s it!  Now we’ve got a nice reserve of beautiful pesto, ready to go when needed.

Basil Pesto

Pesto is awesome in so many pasta and chicken dishes.  It’s supposed to be good in some fish recipes, too.   I used to avoid pesto, for some reason.  I suppose I thought it was greasy…probably from less-than-ideal  restaurant experiences.  What a difference when you make it yourself!  Pesto is actually pretty healthy when I get to put in my own fresh ingredients.

Basil Pesto

No need to ever buy jarred pesto sauce.  A little goes a long way, and this keeps nicely in fridge awhile.  I am generous with the salt in my pesto, because once it marries with all that pasta, the richness of the sauce thins out and becomes lighter.

The great thing about pesto is how versatile and flexible it is.  If you don’t want to use pine nuts, other nuts can often work nicely.  Sunflower seeds are a decent alternative, if you’re allergic to nuts.  You can make it more or less garlicky, depending on how much close social contact you’re expecting to have in the next 24 hours 😉  If you’d like the color to be greener, simply add some flat leaf parsley to the mix.

Here’s our favorite basic (and easy!) pesto recipe.  Enjoy!

RECIPE (makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3-5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 small lemon (or half of a large lemon)
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (only add upon serving)

DIRECTIONS

Put basil, garlic, and nuts in food processor and pulse several times until chopped.  Add olive oil and lemon zest with juice.  Process until smooth and well blended.  Transfer pesto to large bowl and season with kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste.

If using immediately, add in Parmesan cheese and mix together well.

If saving for future use, just transfer pesto to airtight container (if desired, divide into 2 separate containers) and drizzle with bit of oil on top or place cling wrap directly on pesto to seal out air.  Simply thaw and mix in the Parmesan cheese when you want to serve it up!

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Grilled Peach Caprese – a Sweet Twist!

14 Aug grilled peach caprese

It goes without saying that tomato & mozzarella caprese has an abundance of adoring fans during the summer months.  We’ve had our share of caprese made with luscious heirloom tomatoes around here.  But last week, I just wanted something a little different.  If you’re like me, you’re driven to switch things up often just for the fun of it.  I can’t say I enjoy drastic changes when it comes to  really big things, but when dealing with the likes of fashion or food, I love to change it up once in a while.  Hmm, I wonder if that is why I can’t seem to wear the same hairstyle longer than a season or two.  A year at the most.  Back to food.  Grilled Peach Caprese – oh, my goodness… you really, seriously have to try this.  This is so easy that it begs to be made at least once before summer’s end.

Grilled Peach Caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – choose large, fresh, juicy peaches

Not only is it absolutely gorgeous as an appetizer or salad (or in my case, the meal itself), but it is both healthy  and delicious!  How can it get better than that?!

Grilled Peach Caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – the freshest mozzarella ball and fresh basil

This is reminding me of that lovely Mango Caprese, which was also crazy delicious.   Caprese has such diversity, I love it.  This grilled peach number is fantastic with the simple basil white vinaigrette.  Slice into this refreshingly sweet and savory caprese, while sipping a cool, crisp wine.   These are the little pleasures of summer.

grilled peach caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – use high heat to quickly grill up the peaches – easy!

The sweetest, juiciest fresh peaches will obviously turn out the best results.  Use the best fresh mozzarella you can get, and of course fresh basil.  Y-U-M.

grilled peach caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – beautiful and tasty

I stacked my peach caprese for presentation, but it’s just as lovely layered whichever way you want.  And it stays just as delicious no matter how you’d like to present it 🙂  Enjoy it while fresh peaches abound!

RECIPE (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

2 large ripe (but not overly ripe) peaches, sliced with skin on, almost 1/2 in. thick
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 bunch fresh basil

For Vinaigrette:
4 T white balsamic vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 TB minced fresh basil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch coarse kosher or sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Mix together all ingredients for the vinaigrette.  Can be made ahead and set aside in fridge.

Heat grill to high.  When grill is very hot, set peach slices on top and cook just until grill marks appear.  Don’t over cook.  Set aside to cool off a bit at room temp.

Layer slices of grilled peaches, slices of mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle generously with vinaigrette.
Enjoy!

Wine Pairing Note:  Excellent with a crisp (non-0aked) Chardonnay, Viognier, or Riesling.

Bruschetta with Roquefort Cheese and Peppers

28 Jun

We’ve been loving our Gourmet Dinner Club for the past three years.  It’s made up of several foodie-couples who adore cooking and eating.  We somehow get our acts together and pull off a four course meal with appetizers, salad, main dish, and dessert, complete with specific wine pairings to match each course.

On one of those fun nights, I made this Bruschetta.  Much of it can be prepared ahead of time, which is a huge plus that anyone who hates last-minute scrambling will appreciate!

Sauteed sweet peppers, garlic, basil, and Roquefort cheese over french baguette

We dig out our cute linens, our “good” dishware, and always the Riedel stem ware.  OK, yeah, it’s a little bit on the frou-frou side, but oh soooo much fun!  Bonus: We get to use our “good stuff” more than just once or twice a year!  If you have some food loving friends, chat about starting some kind of dinner club.  Whether you go with a casual or upscale style, it is absolutely loads of fun.  Oh, if you have young kiddos like we do… totally get a sitter.

Smoked salmon is also a deliciously savory accompaniment to have.

Add whatever other toppings you like to those crispy baguettes.  Have fun with it!

RECIPE (serves 6-8)

INGREDIENTS
1-2 French baguettes
extra virgin olive oil
2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1/2 tsp sugar
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup sliced basil leaves
1/4 lb Roquefort cheese (can also use Gorgonzola)
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
kosher salt to taste

DIRECTIONS
Seed and thinly slice the peppers.  Heat 2-3 TB olive oil over medium-high.  Saute garlic until aromatic and soft.  Add peppers and saute until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add sugar and saute for a couple more minutes.  Last, stir in basil for a minute.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  This pepper mixture can be made an hour or two ahead of time and set aside to warm later.

Heat oven to 375F.  Slice baguette evenly into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Brush each slice with olive oil on top.  Place in a large pan lined with parchment paper (important for even toasting and to avoid burnt bottoms).  Toast just until lightly browned, about 8-9 minutes.

Spoon pepper mixture on each baguette slice.  Top with crumbled cheese.  Return to oven for another minute just to warm up.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!
Source:  Chew Out Loud,  adapted from Ina Garten

Mango Caprese With Basil

19 Jun Mango Caprese with Basil

I lived most of my life in Los Angeles, where fresh tomatoes can be found year round.  Here in Minneapolis?  Not so much.  When my Gourmet Dinner Club met up in April (think rain/snow), I wanted to make a fresh caprese for the salad course.  With farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes still far in the distant future, I went for a substitute… mangoes!  Bon Appetit showed off an idea of mangoes paired with mozzarella, and I gave it a whirl.  The result was outstandingly delicious!  The best part is you can prepare most of it ahead of time and assemble when you need it.

Mango Caprese with Basil

Mango Caprese with Basil – mangoes are delicious year-round

Super ripe, sweet mangoes.  Little radiccio leaves for that slightly bitter crunch.  Fresh, savory mozzarella.  And tons of freshly picked basil over homemade basil dressing.  Oh my, the basil vinaigrette is unbelievable.  This is soo good, soo refreshing, and a crowd pleaser!

mango caprese

Mango Caprese with Basil – use the ripest, sweetest mangoes you can find

Needless to say, the Gourmet Dinner Club loved this one.  The best part is that most of it can be prepared ahead of time, and assembled right when you need it.  I love that.  Being able to prepare most of a dish ahead of time is awesome.  I plan to make this again soon.  I still love you, tomatoes, but sweet mangoes are giving you a run for your money.

RECIPE (4 servings)

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus some whole leaves
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T white balsamic vinegar
radiccio leaves, thinly sliced (I used round Chioggia radiccio)
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and thinly sliced
8-oz fresh mozzarella cheese ball, sliced into 1/4 in. thick slices
salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the vinaigrette:  Blend chopped basil, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar until it is well blended and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This can be done ahead of time, even the day before.

To assemble:  Overlap mozzarella, mangoes, radicchio, and basil leaves on plates (all except basil can be pre-sliced ahead of time).  Drizzle with the basil vinaigrette.  Pass around leftover dressing.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Bon Appetit

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