Tag Archives: basil

Caprese Salad

 

Isn’t it amazing how the simplest of things can tend to be the most delicious?  Sometimes we get wrapped up in crazy new flavors, seasonings, toppings, ingredients list as long as your arm. But it truly is quality that makes all the difference.  When produce is seasonal, fresh, local, and picked in its prime, there is nothing better. And nothing says “summer” quite like a fresh Caprese salad. Soft, creamy mozzarella cheese, tangy fresh basil, and plump juicy heirloom tomatoes fresh from the vine. OPA!

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High-quality cheese is a delight, while 99 cent slices of pasteurized processed cheese like product is hardly worth wasting the calories and preserving your insides. And you can taste the difference between a true fresh pressed, high quality olive oil and a knock off lower quality oil or mixture. It should taste grassy and strong on its own, maybe tickle the back of your throat a little. That is the anti oxidants working. It is worth investing in some! A little bit goes a long way.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh tomato
  • 1 large ball fresh mozarella cheese
  • Big handful fresh basil leaves
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Optional: Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Slice the tomato and mozzarella into slices, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Layer them alternating on a plate with fresh basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil over it all, and sprinkle on some sea salt. That’s it.

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You can also make this salad on skewers to serve as an appetizer or snack, or use the tiny mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes for an adorable itty bitty version! These flavors also lend themselves very well to bruschetta or pasta dishes.

 

What is your favorite summer dish? Do you have other recipes with the Caprese flavors you’d like to share? Comment below!

Blender Pesto Sauce

 

One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh delicious produce, including fresh herbs.  Basil in particular seems to grow really well near me in CT, last summer it turned into a huge bush of a plant, and this year’s crop looks promising for the same.  As you may or may not know, to keep basil producing you need to harvest regularly to encourage new growth and discourage the plant from going to seed.

That’s great news for those who love basil, like me!  Pesto is such a great, fresh, summer recipe that can be way easier than you may think. Many people are intimidated by pesto, thinking Pine nuts are way too expensive for me, or I don’t want to grate fresh hard cheeses just for a weeknight dinner.

Well, don’t worry this recipe is super low-stress! And super low cost too, if you have your own basil plant. During the summer, even if you don’t have basil of your own, it is super affordable at a farmer’s market as it peaks in production. This recipe uses fresh basil, but you can SO EASILY slip other greens in here!  Try adding fresh chives, green onion, swiss chard, spinach, collards, or arugula. Just keep it less than 1/3 the total volume and use mostly basil.

Basil in the blender

This recipe is made in the blender, which saves you the trouble of chopping or blending yourself. Just add you ingredients, adjust as needed, and whir away. Mix in the cheese just before serving, and you have a super quick, super healthy meal in minutes.

Blender Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Blender pesto sauce in a bowl

Step 1: Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice.  Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.

Step 2: Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.

Fresh pasta and pesto sauce

Step 3: Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out.  Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste.  Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.

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Step 4: Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy! I served this with garlic bread and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan on top. Some swiss chard and arugula is hiding in there, and no one was the wiser, I got two males to eat this and praise how good it was! Give it a try and see if you don’t want this to become a staple of your summer meals.

 

(Oh, and if you still have more basil left over, pesto freezes well, or try making some blueberry basil iced tea to go with the pasta!)

 

Blender Pesto Sauce

Blender Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Instructions

  1. Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice. Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.
  2. Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.
  3. Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out. Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste. Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.
  4. Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy!
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Blueberry basil iced tea

 

July means blueberry season here in Connecticut, and boy am I happy about that! I am thrilled to have a farm share this year from Farmer Joe’s Gardens in Wallingford. Someday I’ll write a whole post about CSA’s and why they are amazing fantastic and wonderful. But for now, let me just brag on these blueberries!

I’m not knocking store bought or frozen blueberries, no matter what form they take blueberries are one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants and nutrients.  But you haven’t truly tasted a blueberry until you have an organic, farm fresh, just picked berry. They are so sweet, yet tart, plump and juicy and delicious! I could nom a whole pint in one night if I’m not careful!

Basil and blueberries

Our farm share also gave us a baby basil plant, which is awesome because I love basil in pesto! I already had a big ol’ basil bush of my own too, so this new plant will become my second harvest in a few weeks.  I harvested a ton of basil in anticipation of said pesto, and then wondered what else I could use it for.

Well, with the weather being as hot as it has been, in the 90s on average across the country, nice iced beverages have been what keeps me going each day.  While I am all in favor of massive volumes of water in general, sometimes you want something with a different flavor. You can of course simply crush some berries and add them right to water to add some flavor.

But iced tea is really what I crave on a midsummer day. So I thought, why not use this fresh pungent basil and plump blueberries together to make a refreshing summer beverage? The flavors seems strange, until you try them together. Then you realize the truth, they were made for each other.

Blueberry basil iced tea

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • Handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups fresh brewed tea

Step 1: In a cup, crush the blueberries and muddle the basil leaves to release the juices. Add the fresh brewed tea and let it sit and brew for 5-10 minutes.

Blueberry basil iced tea with straw

Step 2: Strain into a glass filled with ice and enjoy!

You can definitely mix this up and use other berries such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries. Try other fresh herbs like mint, sage, or lavender. And if you want, you can make this an adults-only tea and add a shot of rum or iced tea schnapps!

 

Blueberry basil iced tea

Blueberry basil iced tea

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • Handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups fresh brewed tea

Instructions

  1. In a cup, crush the blueberries and muddle the basil leaves to release the juices. Add the fresh brewed tea and let it sit and brew for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Strain into a glass filled with ice and enjoy!
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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

 

For those who do not know, late summer is when the garden bounty is rolling in, including tomatoes and herbs like basil. Home gardeners are likely giving away baskets of fresh veggies and herbs to friends, family, and neighbors. Those who know how and have the time & inclination are putting up the excess for the long, cold winter ahead by canning, drying, and freezing.

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I planted a few basil seeds in late April, and had no idea they would take off so well! They were tiny seedlings when I had them in a pot in the window, but when I put them outside they just flourished! Now I have a basil bush just outside my front door. It is wonderfully convenient to just run out and grab a few leaves.

This tomato soup recipe is stunningly simple. Don’t let its simplicity fool you though, it is also amazingly delicious. There is nothing quite so amazing as fresh, local produce simply prepared. Orange goo in a can doesn’t even come close.

With only 3 ingredients, this soup is so easy a five-year-old could probably make it. And, honestly, you don’t even need the basil, you can just make a simple creamy tomato soup by leaving it out. I added it because you can only eat so much pesto in one week. 🙂

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And the final bonus, it is both vegetarian and vegan, as well as gluten free! If you just blended it all, I bet it could be made raw too! It is very healthy, as well as Paleo and Mediterranean. There isn’t a diet I know of on which you cannot eat this soup. If you don’t have or don’t like coconut milk, you can omit it for a regular tomato soup, or use cows milk, almond milk, etc instead.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 can coconut milk (6-7 oz)
  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • Optional: olive oil, salt & pepper

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Step 1: Open the coconut milk and mix it up with a spoon. Pour half into a pot and begin heating. Dice up your tomatoes into quarters and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 10-12 minutes.

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Step 2: You can stop here if you don’t mind your soup a little chunky and don’t want to add basil, it has a nice rustic texture at this point. Would be great served with some whole-grain bread. But if you want it creamy and smooth, pop it into the blender and give it a whirl.

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Step 3: Add the handful of basil, and blend again.

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(Note: be sure to have the lid on the blender firmly. Otherwise, you end up with a hot, orange mess all over your stove. Not that I would know from experience…)

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Pour your hot, finished creamy tomato soup into 2 bowls, top with sea salt & black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. This makes a little less than 1 quart of soup, and can easily be doubled to use the whole can of coconut milk. Simply add more tomatoes.

Enjoy!

Creamy Basil Tomato Soup

Creamy Basil Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 can coconut milk (6-7 oz)
  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • Optional: olive oil, salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Open the coconut milk and mix it up with a spoon. Pour half into a pot and begin heating. Dice up your tomatoes into quarters and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  2. You can stop here if you don't mind your soup a little chunky and don't want to add basil, it has a nice rustic texture at this point. Would be great served with some whole-grain bread. But if you want it creamy and smooth, pop it into the blender and give it a whirl.
  3. Add the handful of basil, and blend again. Pour the hot soup into two bowls, and top with sea salt & black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. Enjoy with some fresh whole grain bread or a nice green salad.
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Fried Green Tomatoes with Basil Mayo Sauce

 

While fried green tomatoes are usually considered a southern dish they can be found in northern homes as well. The northern version is more likely to be made with white flour rather than corn flour or corn meal. Also, green tomatoes tend to be prepared at the end of the season in the north when the remaining fruit is harvested before the first frosts, whereas green tomatoes are picked throughout the season in the south.

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They certainly pre-date the movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, released in the early 1990’s.

“Lovers of tomatoes are very fond of them, sliced green as apples are sliced, and fried in butter.  Some persons are fond of them sliced and fried after being dipped in butter.  The green tomatoes, which the season will not permit to ripen, may be turned to good account by using them fried.”  – The New England Farmer.  Oct. 14, 1836.

Traditional preparation of fried green tomatoes begins by cutting the tomatoes into approximately 1/4-inch (~1 cm) slices. They are then seasoned with salt and pepper, coated with plain, coarse cornmeal, and shallow fried in bacon fat for a few minutes each side, or until golden brown.

Shallow frying is preferred, as the tomatoes do not float in the oil, which allows the weight of the tomato to press the cornmeal to the underside of the tomato. Alternatives include using breadcrumbs or flour instead of cornmeal, and frying in vegetable oil or other fat.

A ‘wash’ may be used; in this case, the sliced tomatoes are first dipped in a liquid before the cornmeal is added. This liquid is usually buttermilk, or occasionally beaten egg. Using beaten egg results in a slightly firmer texture than using buttermilk. ‘Washes’ are used because cornmeal does not readily stick to raw green tomatoes.

Adding the liquid helps the cornmeal stay in place during the cooking process. This also results in the coating on the tomato becoming thicker and less crunchy when compared with tomatoes cooked without a ‘wash’.

These fried green tomatoes were made with the first big, juicey green gems on the vine at the beginning of the season, because I just couldn’t wait any longer for them to redden. You can eat these at any time throughout the growing season, and if you live in colder climates it is a way to use up unripe fruit before the first frosts kill them off.

Served with a tasty, tangy basil mayo, these are amazing appetizers, party bites, or a vegetarian main or side dish. They are best served hot and fresh, as the coating loses its crunch over time.

 Basil Mayonnaise Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic

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Step 1: Rinse the fresh basil well and drain. In a blender, combine the basil, mayo, garlic, mustard, and lemon juice.

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Step 2: Blend well until combined. Place in a shallow dish to dip, can refrigerate up to 3 days ahead of time.

 

Fried Green Tomatoes Ingredients:

  • 3 medium unripe, green tomatoes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups vegetable oil

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Step 1: Rinse the tomatoes well to make sure there is no residue or dirt on them. Slice into 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick slices.

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Step 2: Beat the two eggs lightly. Place the flour, scrambled egg, and cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture onto three separate shallow plates. Put the oil in a frying pan, and heat to medium (just below when it would start simmering).

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Step 3: Dip the green tomato slices one at a time into the flour and flip to coat both sides.

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Step 4: Dip the floured slice into the egg mixture & slush it around to fully coat.

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Step 5: After the eggs, dip into the cornmeal & breadcrumb mixture, and flip to fully coat.

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Step 6: Place the tomato slices into the hot oil, make sure they aren’t touching. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the breading becomes brown and crispy. Flip and fry the other side another 5-7 minutes.

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Step 7: Place on a cooling rack or paper towels to drain the oil. Serve hot with the basil mayonnaise on the side.

Hope this helps you enjoy more of summer’s bounty!

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 medium unripe, green tomatoes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Rinse the tomatoes well to make sure there is no residue or dirt on them. Slice into 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick slices.
  2. Beat the two eggs lightly. Place the flour, scrambled egg, and cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture onto three separate shallow plates. Put the oil in a frying pan, and heat to medium (just below when it would start simmering).
  3. Dip the green tomato slices one at a time into the flour and flip to coat both sides.
  4. Dip the floured slice into the egg mixture & slush it around to fully coat.
  5. After the eggs, dip into the cornmeal & breadcrumb mixture, and flip to fully coat.
  6. Place the tomato slices into the hot oil, make sure they aren't touching. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the breading becomes brown and crispy. Flip and fry the other side another 5-7 minutes.
  7. Place on a cooling rack or paper towels to drain the oil. Serve hot with the basil mayonnaise on the side.
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Fresh Herb Salt

 

This idea came from an old “Midwest Living” magazine article I read while on vacation. In it they had several tips for making fancy kitchen condiments at home. Why buy expensive infused olive oil when you can make it yourself? Don’t let excess herbs go to waste, make your own seasoned salt to use long after summer is set!

A friend of mine has an herb garden that includes basil, so I asked for a handful of leaves and she kindly complied. A few cloves of garlic and some pink Himalayan sea salt, and I had myself the makings of a tasty seasoning! Adjust the type of herb and amounts to suit your own tastes.

Ingredients:

  • About 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup sea salt, coarse

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Step 1: Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until leaves and garlic is finely ground.

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Step 2: Spread flat to dry for 1-3 days. The leaves and garlic have moisture which will cause clumps if you don’t do this step.

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Step 3: You can use as is, or grind the spices together one more time. Use a funnel to pour into a seal-able container.

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And that’s it! Now you have a unique, fresh herb salt to sprinkle on chicken or fish, mix into rice dishes, or use a dash on garden-fresh tomatoes. Change up the type of herb and other ingredients you use for endless possible combinations.

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Other ideas and recipes from the same magazine clipping. Can’t wait to try them all! They would all make a darling gift for someone if put into a cute little re-useable glass or plastic container with a bow.

Caprese Pasta

If you’ve never had a Caprese Salad, you’re missing out. Layer toasted french bread, thick slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, and you have a simple and delicious summer treat.

I decided to adapt that idea into a pasta dish. I have a Basil plant which is on its last leg, some cherry tomatoes from my a friend’s garden, pasta in the pantry, and chicken in the freezer. All I had to buy is the mozzarella.

 
Ingredients:
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (omit for vegetarian)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup pasta (garden mix rotini)
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Handful of basil leaves, rinsed
1/4 cup mozzarella
 
Boil enough water to fully cover pasta. Once at a rolling boil, add in the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, melt a few tbsp butter in a frying pan. Cut the chicken breast into chunks. Fry on low heat until the chicken is fully cooked, no pink in the center. Add in diced garlic cloves and turn off heat.
Once pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes, drain and put back in the pan. Add the cooked chicken and garlic to the hot pasta. Use the now vacant pan and add cherry tomato halves, a little more butter, basil leaves and cheese cut in cubes. Stir until cheese melts and everything is well mixed. Pour over the pasta and chicken. Mix well and enjoy!