Tag-Archive for ◊ basil ◊

11 Sep 2013 Caprese Garlic Bread (with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil)

caprese bread

It’s just garlic bread, folks, but it’s garlic bread with an upgrade! After running across this recipe at Two Peas and their Pod,  I decided I needed to make it! I quickly sent texts to a few friends and invited them to come over for a light supper and four replied “YES”!  I served this bread, a platter of cold shrimp, some sliced melon, iced tea and lemon meringue pie. It’s  great having friends who are good with spur-of-the-moment things 🙂

The bread was very good!  The Balsamic Reduction highlighted the simple tomato, cheese, and basil topping.  I made a few changes to the original recipe:  I used my own garlic bread base, I adjusted the cooking time for the balsamic reduction and I baked the tomatoes on the bread instead of laying them on after cooking.  BTW, do not skip the balsamic reduction, it’s fabulous!

I hope you have some backyard (or farmer’s market)  tomatoes on hand, because store bought tomatoes just aren’t invited to this party! And the photo above shows a bit too much cheese.  I bought fresh mozzarella from Costco and it came pre-sliced, so I just went with it.  Turns out I used double the cheese!  Oooops!  No one complained though 🙂  The recipe below has the correct amount of cheese listed but if you want to up it a bit, that’s up to you. One other piece of advice, the tomatoes shrink when baked, so pile them on the bread.  I think I could have added another slice of tomato to each row!

Caprese Garlic Bread

AKA: Garlic Bread with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil

  • 1 loaf sourdough bread, horizontally cut in half (french bread would work, too.  The original recipe called for ciabatta, but I am in the SF Bay Area and sourdough rules around here!)
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus and extra tablespoon or so for garnish)
  • 3 Tablespoons dried onion, if you have it
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil (or 2 Tablespoons fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 Tablespoons fresh)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. While you are getting all the ingredients together and doing the prep work, make the balsamic reduction. Place 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring the vinegar to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about half. How do you know when the vinegar has been reduced by half? Keep the measuring jug near the pan.  Every once in awhile pour the hot vinegar into the measuring cup.  If it’s not at 1/4 cup yet, pour it back in the pan and continue boiling. Keep doing this until the vinegar has been reduced to 1/4 cup. This will take about 10-15  minutes. Set the reduction aside to cool.  You won’t  need to use it until just before serving.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In a small bowl combine butter, garlic, dried onion, basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese.  
  4. Cut the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Place both sides of the loaf on a large baking sheet with the cut side up. Spread the garlic butter mixture over both sides of the cut bread.  Spread to all the corners and completely to the outer edge of the bread.
  5. Place the mozzarella cheese slices on top of the bread, making sure the cheese covers the bread completely.
  6. Top the cheese with the sliced tomatoes.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper, to taste. If desired, sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese over the tomaotes.
  7. Bake the bread at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  8. Remove the bread from oven.  Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of the bread and drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  9. Cut into slices and serve.

That’s all there is too it!  Enjoy the last of your summer tomatoes!  They are special, aren’t they? And thanks for dropping by today!

22 Aug 2013 Salmon in Parchment

salmon

Every once in awhile you run across a recipe that changes everything!  This is one of those recipes.  Cooking salmon in the microwave, with veggies.  How simple is that? How convenient is that? This main dish is simple, delicious  and healthy.  You’ll need a salmon fillet, a cup of fresh julienne veggies, a large piece of parchment paper, a little liquid, and a microwave. Chop and prep, five minutes in the microwave, then BOOM, a tasty, spot on healthy dinner of salmon and veggies!

I can’t get enough of this!  As much as I love, love, love the combination of veggies below, I often have to switch up the veggies and change the sauce to accommodate what I have on hand. The method always works, it’s always good and it never heats up the kitchen.  PLUS, dinner can be ready in ten minutes flat!

Fully Customizable Microwave Salmon & Veggies in Parchment

Recipe by Polly Ferguson, based on a recipe by Alton Brown

  • 1 (8-ounce) salmon fillet, pin bones removed
  • 1/3 cup julienne fennel bulb
  • 1/3 cup julienne leeks, white part only
  • 1/3 cup julienne carrots
  • 1/3 cup julienne snow peas
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander (this could be customized too—curry powder, cumin, or any other powdered spice you are partial to and that would complement the veggies and the salmon could be used)
  • Herbs: 6 basil leaves, chopped finely (or any mixture of herbs from your garden, or spices from your cabinet, that appeals to you—parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, rosemary, green onion, chives, fresh ginger, tarragon, lemon pepper, garlic, chili powder, curry powder, herbs de province, paprika, etc…)
  • Other Stuff: 1 tsp. grated lemon or orange peel, diced pineapple, jalapeño, (maybe even some brown sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup, or a sprinkling of ground coffee or mustard…, pesto or marmalade…)
  • Liquid: 1 tablespoon dry vermouth, OR orange juice, OR white wine… (just don’t use lemon juice, major Yuck!) I’d really like to experiment with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, rice wine, melted butter (!), dry sherry, coconut milk, Asian Fish Sauce or beer 🙂
  1. Take a rather large piece of parchment paper and fold it in half  like a book. Lay fennel, leeks, carrots, and snow peas on parchment in the center of the paper and on one side of the fold.
  2. Mix together salt, pepper, and ground coriander (or whatever spice mix appeals to you). Sprinkle vegetables with 1/2 of the spice mixture.
  3. Lay salmon on top of vegetables and sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture.
  4. Top salmon with choice of herbs, sprinklings, and 1 tablespoon of desired liquid (wine, vermouth, orange juice, teriyaki sauce…)
  5. Fold empty side of parchment over fish and starting at top, fold up both edges of parchment, overlapping folds as you move along. Once you reach the bottom tip, twist several times to secure tightly.
  6. Place on microwave safe plate and cook for 5 minutes, on high in microwave (or until fish reaches 131 degrees if you have an instant read thermometer and wish to use it–I don’t). Let the package sit for 2 minutes.
  7. Open parchment carefully and serve for a complete meal. Serve from the parchment package, if you’d like. If I am feeling fancy I take the skin off the salmon fillet, place the veggies on the plate, and put the salmon on top and sprinkle with a garnish of  green onion, parsley or snipped basil.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! :)

06 Jul 2013 Turkey Burgers with a Greek Flair

Turkey Burger

Want a new, different and totally tasty burger to add to your repertoire?  Here it is! A Turkey burger with a Spanakopita Flair.  This recipe was inspired by Rachael Ray’s, Spanakopita Burger from her book, 365: No Repeats.  I made her recipe “as is” last year, and it was good, but this year I made it my way (below), and loved it.  I grill these burgers, but pan frying works, too.  I am sure some cucumber raita would go well on these burgers but we ate them the traditional American way, on a good bun with sliced homegrown tomatoes, a bit of crunchy lettuce and ketchup. Make the patties as big or as little as you want. I made 8 patties, approx 6 oz. each, but I love those little slider buns that are available now and think hosting a BBQ and serving a variety of burgers would be fun.  You could make slider sized regular hamburgers, these Greek Turkey Burgers, and maybe a Salmon burger. Don’t forget the sides of watermelon, corn, and a pasta salad, and grill some of that zucchini that I know is taking over  your garden.  S’mores for dessert, of course.  How about my Peach Iced Tea or Blueberry Lemonade to drink? Done!  Send out the e-vite!

My son’s girlfriend just took a bite of my his leftover and warmed up Turkey burger.  Her exact words were, “WOW. That’s fantastic!” Yup 🙂  And she scored big points with the boyfriend’s mama!

Turkey Burgers with a Greek Flair

  • 1  1/2 lb – 1  1/3 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
  • 18-24 (2-3 oz) Kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/2 cup very finely diced or grated red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, if you have some on hand
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (the feta and olives are already salty so you can skip the added salt if you are salt sensitive)
  • 4 oz. applesauce (1 individual serving cup) OR 1/2 peeled apple, grated
  • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (any breadcrumbs or Panko will work)
  • 1 egg, beaten

To serve: Buns, and choice of toppings.

  1. Place the ground turkey in a large bowl.
  2. Remove the defrosted spinach from the box and squeeze, and I do mean s-q-u-e-e-z-e ALL the water from the spinach.  I did not say drain, I said squeeze.  Take about 1/3 of the spinach into your hand and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until totally dry.  Repeat until all the spinach is in little tight balls.  Fluff the balls up and add to the ground turkey in the bowl.
  3. Add to the turkey mixture the feta, olives, red onion, garlic, oregano, basil or parsley, salt and pepper, applesauce or grated apple, and the bread crumbs.  With a fork lightly mix the ingredients until everything has been uniformly distributed.
  4. Divide the mixture into 8 equal parts. Pat each part into a flat patty, just slightly bigger than your hamburger buns.
  5. Grill, or pan fry until done, about 3 minutes on each side, but this all depends on how hot the grill/pan is.
  6. Toast the buns!  (I love toasted buns)
  7. Serve with your choice of condiments–ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, riata, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled red peppers…

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you enjoy these burgers, we sure did!  They’re VERY tasty 🙂

19 Jan 2011 Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have a proliferation of “Pho” restaurants in your community.  If you do have a Pho restaurant nearby, I encourage you to try it out.  You’ll be rewarded with a huge bowl of broth and noodles, to which you add fresh basil, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, peppers, chili sauce, and freshly squeezed lime.  The broth is quite tasty, and with the addition of all the toppings, the Pho has a very fresh taste.   On your first visit to a Pho restaurant, stick to Beef Pho or Chicken Pho, with the parts of beef and chicken that you are familiar with.  There are some other types of Pho which might be a bit challenging to an uninitiated American palate.

Having fond memories of Pho, I wanted to make it for myself.  I wanted to have a clear, rich, fat-free broth. I thought it would be great to have some of the broth on hand, and be able to boil it up and stir in some fresh ingredients whenever I wanted to.  I also think Pho would be a great dish to make ahead and then take to share with friends and family at a snow condo or beach house.   I found this recipe adapted from the cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen at Steamy Kitchen.  It’s great!  I served it to seven friends, and three family members, and they all though it was great, too.  SCORE!

Before you make this dish, you should know how to pronounce it, “pho”  is pronounced “fuh” and not “foo” or “foe” or “poe” or  “puh” — that’s fuh-sho’!

If you have made your own chicken soup before, Pho is no more bother.  Follow the recipe below and make sure you buy good bones, start the day before, rinse and blanch the bones, have three hours to let the bones simmer. Then you can let the broth sit in the refrigerator overnight so that the hardened fat can be removed before finishing the pho.

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

The broth

  • 2 onions, peeled, sliced across into 4 slices
  • 4″  of fresh ginger, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 5-6 lbs of good beef  knuckle bones (beef shanks/knuckles $1.99/lb)
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

In the soup bowls

  • 1 rice noodles (dried or fresh)
  • cooked beef from the broth
  • ½ lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thinly as possible.

On the side

  • fresh mint leaves
  • fresh cilantro
  • sliced fresh basil
  • limes wedges (2)
  • 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
  • bean sprouts (about 1 lb)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha hot sauce

Char:

Turn broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet. Brush just a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Parboil the bones:

Don’t skip this part! Fill your biggest pot (12-qt capacity would be ideal) with cool water. Boil water first, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth:

Add ginger, onion, spices, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside. Continue simmering broth for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning – this is a crucial step. If the broth’s flavor doesn’t quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce and 1 teaspoon of regular sugar–and another pinch of salt, if needed (I over-salted my broth, so be careful). Keep doing this until the broth tastes perfect refrigerate broth overnight and remove hardened fat the next morning.

Prepare noodles & meat:

Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible – try freezing for 15-30 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Cut or shred the cooked meat from broth and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Guests will garnish their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles – for some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 – 45 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed.

Serving:

Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, bean sprouts, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. The hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests garnish their own bowls with the mint, basil, cilantro, peppers, lime, and sauces.

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do. It’s a chin dribbling, big bowl of healthy, comfort food with a fresh & crunchy twist.  One of my favorite foods I believe. I have my fingers crossed that I will taste the real thing in Vietnam next year.  I hope this measures up. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

21 Nov 2010 Basil Mashed Potatoes

I hope you are going to the Farmer’s market this weekend.  I was there last week, and there were still large bunches of fresh basil for a dollar. Spend a dollar.  Buy a bunch of fresh basil. Get some potatoes, too (Yukon Golds or white boiling potatoes).  Then try this recipe for Basil Mashed Potatoes. Thank you, Ina!  I found this recipe in Ina Garten’s (The Barefoot Contessa) new cookbook, “How Easy is That?“.

This recipe is for a savory mashed potato side dish.  No gravy needed.  This is a versatile side dish that will pair nicely with any number of main dishes. Serve it with your next meatloaf, roast chicken, pork chop, salmon fillet… Next time I make Shepherd’s Pie, I am going to top it with these potatoes.  Won’t that dress up a casserole that can sometimes be a bit bland? Last week,  I made some rather boring vegetable soup.  It perked right up when I stirred in some leftover Basil Mashed Potatoes. You’ll be amazed with what 2 cups of fresh basil will do to 2 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes.

Full disclosure: making mashed potatoes can really mess up a kitchen and dirty a lot of dishes.  Basil mashed potatoes dirties one or two more pots than regular mashed potatoes, but you don’t even have to think about making gravy…!

Basil Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes or white boiling potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ¼ to 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (add to taste)
  • Directions

    1. Fill a small bowl with ice water and set aside.
    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the basil leaves to the boiling water and cook for exactly 15 seconds.  Remove the basil from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice water.  Drain the basil and set aside.
    3. Add the peeled and quartered potatoes to the same pot of boiling, salted water.  Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain well.
    4. In a small pan over medium high heat, bring the half-and-half and Parmesan cheese to a simmer.
    5. Place the drained basil in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Puree the basil, then slowly add the hot half-and-half and Parmesan mixture and process until smooth.
    6. Mash the drained potatoes.  Slowly add the hot basil cream and beat until smooth. TASTE.  Add salt and pepper as needed.
    7. Place mashed potatoes in serving bowl and sprinkle with a little extra grated Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  So glad Ina was here with me!!!

    24 Sep 2010 Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

    Who eats jarred spaghetti sauce?  I hope no one.  I don’t. Not ever.  Well, I’ve had a spoonful here and there, so I do know how bad it is.  Too much vinegar.  I like wine, tomatoes, onions, fresh mushrooms and fresh meat in my spaghetti sauce.  I’ve never used a recipe.  I learned from watching my Dad, who learned from watching the Galloping Gourmet (I think he also got permission to drink during the day from the Galloping Gourmet, but that’s a whole other story.)

    My daughter, Abby, has asked me to write down my “recipe” for Spaghetti Sauce.  I put the word recipe in quotes because when I make spaghetti sauce, I just go for it.  It’s never really the same twice, but it always works out  (I’m not Italian, so I make no claims to an authentic Italian sauce).   Last week, when I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce, I carefully wrote down what I did so Abby can make her own spaghetti sauce while she is away at college.

    If you haven’t made spaghetti sauce before, perhaps this “recipe” can be your starting point. Use this as a guide to add and subtract ingredients to suit your tastes. Over the years the amount of meat in my sauce has decreased.  I’d like to cut it my 1/3 more, but my son would get upset.  We all like mushrooms, so I use a good amount.  I don’t like green or red peppers, so I leave them out completely.  One thing I wouldn’t change is the “Super Six”, the must-haves for seasoning spaghetti sauce:  sautéed onions, garlic, celery, parsley, basil and oregano.

    After the sauce is made, I let is sit overnight and then we usually have it for dinner. And, if I give in to the pleading of my older daughter, I’ll make a tray of lasagna, too, and then we’ll eat that for the next few days.  The remaining sauce I freeze in 3 or 4 cup batches.  This recipe will makes 10-12 cups of sauce.

    I hope you never buy jarred sauce again.  Nasty stuff.  Too many preservatives.  Not enough flavor. This is so much better, so much better.

    My Mom Polly’s Spaghetti Sauce

    Olive oil, as needed for sauteing
    2 large onions, coarsely chopped
    2 cups diced celery
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    ¼ cup minced parsley
    2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes (recently I have use the “Muir Glen” brand, but for years I used whatever was on sale at the grocery store.  If you have them, use blanched, chopped tomatoes from your garden.  If you don’t like  chunky spaghetti sauce, then substitute the same amount of tomato sauce.)
    2 16-oz cans tomato sauce
    2 cups water
    1 tablespoon dried basil
    1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 teaspoon salt (add more later if needed)
    1 teaspoon pepper
    1 ½ lbs to 2 lbs of ground beef (or a mixture of your choice of ground beef, sausage, pork, veal.  Use at least 50% ground beef.  I have used ground turkey before, and don’t recommend it. I found the flavor to be too mild for this robust sauce)
    1 lb sliced mushrooms
    2 cups red wine (any robust red wine), optional, of course

    Heat about 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet.  Stir in chopped onions and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize. Stir in chopped celery and sauté for another 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley and sauté for another minute.  Do not let the garlic brown or burn.  Pour mixture into a large stock pot, and turn on heat to medium.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, basil, oregano, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30 -60 minutes, stirring occasionally (the longer the simmer, the richer the sauce). Meanwhile, in the skillet, add another tablespoon or two of olive oil and sauté the sliced mushrooms.  Add the mushrooms to the tomato sauce after the sauce has simmered at least 30 minutes.  In the same skillet that browned the onions and the mushrooms, add the ground meat.  Brown the meat, and then drain the fat off (to drain put the cooked meat in a colander over a bowl).  Stir drained, cooked meat into the tomato sauce, along with 2 cups of red wine, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.  Taste, and more salt, pepper and brown sugar if needed. Serve immediately over hot noodles and topped with grated Parmesan cheese, or let cool, refrigerate, and chill overnight. Warm up only as much sauce as needed for your next meal.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, I always like it when you stop by!  Leave a comment and say HI!