Thursday, September 17, 2009

Basil

When the beans are still spreading like wildfire, the tomatoes are finally coming in, and the CSA has upped the weekly amounts of red peppers and potatoes to almost 3 pounds, little things like herbs often slip into the background. But my patch of thick, pungent, knee-high basil demands notice. It has thrived in spite of our barely month-long summer, my mile-high beans that blot out the sun on one side, and the baseballs that regularly attack from the other. And notice I have; I've even elevated basil to a main ingredient in appetizers, salads, pasta dishes, pizza...

Basil Dinner Salad

This is just your basic garden salad with one big change: substitute 1/3 of the lettuce with basil leaves. If you make lots of garden salads, use your own recipe. If you want a few ideas, here's mine, serving about 4 as a side dish.

About four cups of lettuce and about 1 cup of basil leaves (the basil leaves are much flatter than the lettuce, so weight-wise it's 2/3-1/3 but volume-wise it's 4:1), washed and spun dry.

2 large tomatoes cut into 1" chunks or 1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2-3 carrotts, peeled and sliced

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

1 red pepper, seeds and white inside removed, cut into 1/2" squares

Serve with a balsamic vinaigrette


Basil Caprese Salad or Sandwich
serves 4

all Caprese salads have basil, but maybe not quite this much.

4 large tomatoes, sliced
2 8-oz fresh mozarella cheeses, sliced
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Sea salt
pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Cover your serving platter or each plate with one layer of mozarella, one layer of tomatoe, and one layer of basil. Use enough tomato to completely cover the cheese and enough basil to completely cover the tomatoe. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. sea salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1/2 T olive oil, and 1 T balsamic vinegar. Repeat.

To turn this into a sandwich, stack the layers on a piece of bread, but do not repeat.

Early Fall Garden Pasta with Prosciutto
serves 4

1 package of your favorite pasta (I like thin fettuccini for this)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a fast boil, put in the pasta and abotu 1 T olive oil. Cook until al dente (8-12 minutes, depending on the type of pasta), drain, return to pot, and stir in 2 T butter.

While the water is coming to a boil

Cut 1/4 pound sliced prosciutto into 1/2" squares
Cut 1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes in halves
Wash, spin dry, then roughly chop 3/4 cup basil leaves

After the pasta is drained, stir the above along with 2 small or 1 large jar of artichoke hearts

Serve with grated parmesan or romano cheese


Of course, the traditional thing to do with tons of basil is make pesto--I'll be experimenting with various pestos this week!