Tag Archives: basil

Basil Pesto

I’ve grown basil every summer for many years–sometimes in a garden, but lately in a large pot, since I don’t have space for a garden right now. I love making homemade pesto with my basil! It’s really easy to make and there’s nothing like cutting fresh basil from your own garden or pot to make it. What probably takes the longest time in making this recipe is picking the basil leaves off the cut stems…but even that task is enjoyable because you get to sniff the wonderful aroma of fresh basil while you’re doing it! Here’s a simple recipe I use…it’s a good starting point, and you can adjust the amount of certain ingredients (like the garlic, for example) to suit your taste. You can use a food processor or blender–a food processor probably works best, but a blender will work, too.

BASIL PESTO by NancyC

Makes 2/3 to 3/4 cup

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves. packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. pine nuts (I often substitute pecans or walnuts, because they’re less expensive)
  • Dash or two of salt, to taste (optional)

In a food processor or blender, add the basil, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic; blend or process until smooth (the mixture is on the thick side, so if you’re using a blender, you may have to stop the blender and stir with a spoon to help it along). Add the Parmesan cheese and nuts (and salt, if desired) to the basil mixture, and blend well. Spoon it out of the blender or food processor into a small bowl (or covered container if you’re going to use it later).

I mostly eat pesto spread on a thick slice of crusty bread. It’s also really good on the Asiago cheese bagels you can buy at Panera Bread or Atlanta Bread Company. If you’re a sourdough bread fan like I am, it’s good on that too!

Do you grow your own basil too? What do you like to make with it?

Sharing at Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me MondayFiesta Friday

Advertisements

Tomato Basil Avocado Soup

nclrTomBasAvoSoup2nm

This cool, summer soup sounded good to me because it didn’t involve any cooking, and it has been so hot these past couple of days! This is a “raw food” recipe. You may have heard about all the health benefits there are to eating raw. I’ve read a little about it, although I’m no expert on the subject.

I found this recipe over at Beach House Kitchen and modified it slightly. I loved the way it tasted! I actually liked it much more than I thought I would. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since I love all the ingredients in this soup…tomatoes, red pepper, onion, garlic, basil, avocado…but I think my favorite ingredient is the sun-dried tomatoes. They really make this soup wonderful!

ncTomBasAvSoup1nm

This soup is so easy to make, too–all the ingredients are mixed in a blender, then you just pour it out and serve. It’s the perfect super-easy, super-healthy summer meal!

TOMATO BASIL AVOCADO SOUP adapted from Beach House Kitchen

Makes two cup-size servings (3/4 cup per serving; for two “large bowl” servings, double the recipe)

  • 4 medium size tomatoes, cut into fourths
  • 1/2 of a sweet red pepper (seeds removed), chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (use the ones that are packed in oil in a jar–I used julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, so I didn’t need to chop mine)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of a medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup well-packed basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 of an avocado, cut into chunks
  • dash of salt to taste (optional)
  • additional basil leaves, whole or chopped, for garnish

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ingredients are well-blended and mixture is just slightly chunky (you may have to stop the blender once and help the mixture along with a spoon). Pour into soup cups or bowls, garnish with additional basil leaves, whole or chopped, and serve immediately.

NOTE: This soup doesn’t take long to blend, especially if you have a high-power blender–it just took mine a minute or two to blend all the ingredients. If you have a lower-power blender, it may take a little longer. 

ncTomBasAvoSoup3nm

This is only the second cold soup I’ve ever made–I’ll have to try more of these out! Have you made any cold soups? Or have you tried out any raw food recipes lately?

Pizza Margherita from “Thursday Night Pizza”

I have a confession to make…I have never made homemade pizza! I’ve been wanting to make some, though, and very recently I had the opportunity to review a cookbook/guide to pizza-making called Thursday Night Pizza, written by Fr. Dominic Garramone, and published by Reedy Press. So this was the perfect time for me to attempt making pizza from scratch.
Father Dominic hosted a popular PBS show, Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, for several years and has tested his pizza recipes for the past twenty years on his fellow monks at the Saint Bede Abbey. After all that testing, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with any of his recipes! The book includes instructions for making 3 different pizza doughs, 8 sauces, 2 pestos, and several dozen recipes for pizzas (including some pizza appetizers and a few dessert pizzas).

The hardest thing was deciding which recipe to try first…there’s the the Four Cheese Tomato-Top Pizza, Italian Beef Pizza, Carbonara Pizza, Spicy Thai Peanut Chicken Pizza, Spinach Pesto Pizza, and Muffaletta Pizza, to name a few. I finally decided on the Pizza Margherita, because all the ingredients–fresh basil, tomato, mozzarella, and garlic–are favorites of mine. In the cookbook, it’s described as “A classic pie that is both rustic and elegant in its simplicity.” I like rustic and simple! 🙂

Now as far as the pizza crust goes, Father Dominic says homemade dough is always the best, so I used his recipe for Italian style dough (for a thick crust) on page 32 of his cookbook. It’s not that hard to make, and the crust was really good! However, when you make homemade dough, it does add a few hours to your pizza-making process; if you don’t have the time, you can use pre-made pizza crust, like the Boboli brand, or whatever type of crust you prefer. For the Pizza Margherita, a thick crust works best. Father Dominic also recommends using a pizza stone instead of a pan if you have one, and I did have a round pizza stone. But if you don’t, just use a pizza pan.

Here’s the recipe…

PIZZA MARGHERITA (from Thursday Night Pizza)

  • Recommended crust: 8-12 oz. of Italian style dough (from page 32) OR pre-made thick pizza crust
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, diced and drained
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed and minced
  • 3 or 4 large leaves of fresh basil, cut into strips (I found some fresh basil at my grocery store; even in winter, more stores are carrying fresh herbs now and you definitely want fresh basil for this)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces (I bought an 8-oz. block of mozzarella and shredded it with a grater)
  • some cornmeal, for dusting your pizza stone or pan

Using your fingertips, hand-stretch the pizza dough to 12″ to 14″ and place on a pre-heated cornmeal-dusted baking stone or pizza pan. Toss diced tomatoes with garlic. Top the dough with the diced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Bake at 500 degrees until the crust is lightly browned and the mozzarella is fully melted (about 10-12 minutes). Remove from oven and top with strips of basil before serving.

If you like adding extra seasoning to your pizza, you might want to add a dash of salt or pepper to suit your taste.

This is a really nice and thick, cheesy pizza. And if I can make homemade pizza, I know you can, too! The recipes in Thursday Night Pizza are easy to follow, so don’t feel intimidated about trying any of them out!

Italian Panzanella

If you’re in a “salad rut” and wanting to try something new, try this Italian Panzanella! When I saw this recipe and photo over at MarthaStewart.com, it looked and sounded so good and healthy! As I looked over the ingredients, I discovered that I liked everything that was in it. So I tried it out the other day…I thought it was really good. I had never made anything like it before, but it was very easy to put together. Martha’s website mentions that the cannellini beans and provolone cheese, mixed with the veggies, make this a “well-balanced vegetarian meal.” I’m not a vegetarian, but I do like to eat healthy, so I give this recipe a “thumbs up!” This makes 4 servings.

ITALIAN PANZANELLA

  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups large cubes of Italian country bread* (or your favorite bread)
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces provolone cheese, diced (buy the cheese unsliced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Whisk together vinegar and oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add beans, cubed bread, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and cheese. Toss these ingredients with the vinegar and oil mixture; cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours. Stir in the basil just before serving.

*Italian country bread has a chewy, coarse texture that holds moisture well without becoming soggy. Also known as pan bigio, it is typically made with whole wheat flour or a mixture of white and whole wheat flour.

Linked to Vegetarian Foodie Fridays.

Creamy Lemon-Basil Pasta

Basil has been growing so well in my garden this summer and I’ve been making lots of pesto. You can mix pesto in with pasta for a nice meal, but I’ve seen some different ideas for creamier basil sauces and decided to experiment. Sometimes I add extra lemon juice to my pesto for extra lemon flavor, so I thought a lemon-basil sauce would be good to try. It turned out nice and creamy, and it’s great served over whatever type of pasta you like to use. I used penne pasta, but angel hair pasta would be good, too. After putting some of this sauce over your pasta, just sprinkle on some parmesan cheese, add a few cherry tomato slices, a few basil leaves, and you’re all set to enjoy a great meal! This recipe makes about 4 servings.

CREAMY LEMON-BASIL PASTA

  • 1 (13.25 -ounce) package of your favorite pasta (I used whole grain penne)
  • 3 cups well-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3-1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • extra shredded parmesan cheese for garnish
  • 4 cherry tomatoes (or small regular tomatoes), sliced, for garnish
  • basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Prepare pasta according to package directions. In blender, add basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, nuts, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and salt; puree ingredients until smooth. (NOTE: the sauce is not cooked, so it won’t be warm, but you can remove the sauce from your blender and put in a microwaveable container to heat it before spooning over pasta if you want. I just used it right from the blender without heating it.)

Divide pasta onto 4 serving plates and spoon the creamy lemon-basil sauce equally on the 4 portions. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese and top with tomato slices. If desired, garnish with additional basil leaves. (Note: If you like a lot of sauce with your pasta, you may want to double the recipe, or make an extra half portion).

Another way you can serve this is to mix the sauce in with the pasta and toss, evenly coating the pasta. Then you can serve it either in one big pasta bowl or on individual plates, garnishing with parmesan cheese, tomato slices, and basil leaves.

This could also be used as a veggie dip, because it’s a thicker sauce. You could serve it in a small bowl with a platter of fresh veggies for a healthy and tasty appetizer!

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Mouthwatering Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday.

Garden Update: Late Summer

I thought I’d better post a summer garden update before summer is over! 🙂 Even though we had a lot of hot, dry weather this summer, my flowers and herbs did pretty well. I have a lot of sun in my yard, so I always try to buy plants that do well in full sun. The plants I’m showing here all bloom most of the summer.

Here’s my basil, which really did great this year! I’ve enjoyed making a lot of pesto from the four small plants that I bought back in April, which have grown to be quite large. And I recently tried a new recipe with my basil, Creamy Lemon-Basil Pasta, which you may want to try…

One of my favorite bushes is my butterfly bush. It blooms most of the summer and the blooms have a light, pretty scent. They look a little like small lilacs…

Here’s a view of the entire bush–it’s so pretty when it’s in full bloom…

I have some flocks in my garden that I love seeing come up every year…

The daisies come up every year, too, and multiply like crazy! I planted a small patch of them from seeds, and now I have large clusters of them in many different places in my yard…

I have two lavender bushes–one in the front yard and one in the back. I love the smell of lavender, and I collect the buds and dry them so I can make lavender sachets and enjoy the scent all year long!

I’ve had these pretty yellow flowers in my yard for about five years…they come up every year and friends have asked me what they’re called, but I can’t remember their name! If any of you flower experts out there know, please tell me!

Last but not least, here’s a photo of a zinnia. They are such vivid, pretty flowers! I grew some from seeds that a friend gave me…

Well that concludes the “Late Summer” Garden Tour! Hope you enjoyed viewing all the summer plants!

Basil Mayonnaise

The first time I had basil mayonnaise was over 10 years ago, when I bought a jar of it to try out at Williams-Sonoma. As soon as I tasted it I was hooked! It was my new favorite thing to spread on bread and use in sandwiches. Unfortunately, after I had been buying it and using it for several years, the company that made it discontinued it. I tried another brand but it just wasn’t as good. Basil has been growing really well in my garden the last few years, so I decided to try making my own basil mayonnaise. And it’s really good. I like to spread it on crusty bread and top it with tomatoes. It makes a good veggie dip, too. And you can make it in practically no time!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3-1/2 cup basil leaves, firmly packed (the more leaves you use, the stronger the basil flavor–I make it with 1/2 cup!)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
  • dash of salt and pepper,  or to taste (optional)

Put the mayonnaise, basil leaves, and lemon juice in a blender or small food processor; blend until smooth (you may still have some small bits of basil in the mayonnaise if using a blender). Add in garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste, if desired, and blend well. Use immediately or store in a small container for future use.

You can make a great sandwich by spreading 2 slices of bread with the basil mayonnaise, then topping one of the slices of bread with slices of tomatoes and some mozzarella cheese. Place the other bread slice on top, and cut in half.

If you like basil and pesto, you’ll want to try this out!

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Just Something I Whipped Up, Market Yourself Monday.

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Salad

Fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella…three of my favorite things to eat, in one great salad! This is another quick and easy tomato recipe that I adapted from my old cookbook, The Tomato Cookbook. Also known as a Caprese Salad, it makes a nice lunch or light dinner. I’m so glad my garden tomatoes and basil are doing well…it’s great to just go out into the backyard and pick your meal fresh from your garden!  I don’t use any bug sprays on my plants; instead, I planted a big bunch of marigolds (from seeds saved from last year’s garden) near my basil and tomato plants, and have found that marigolds really do help keep the bugs away. Little by little, I’m learning how to do things the organic way. 🙂

TOMATO, BASIL, AND MOZZARELLA SALAD

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 5-6 medium size)
  • 12 ounces Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. each (or to taste) of salt, pepper, and sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • dash of red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts (optional)

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, and arrange on a serving platter. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar if desired. Scatter basil leaves over the tomatoes and cheese (if using large basil leaves, you can chop them if you want; if using smaller basil leaves, just keep them whole). Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes and cheese. Add a dash or two of red wine vinegar if desired. Sprinkle on the toasted pine nuts if desired (to toast the nuts, put them in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until they are a pale golden color). Serve your salad with warm Italian ciabatta bread, garlic bread, or your favorite crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

Linked to Just Something I Whipped Up MondayMarket Yourself Monday, and Rednesday.