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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

I’ve just returned from a week of travel, and the refrigerator is a tad bare.  But I’m hungry.  And we need to eat lunch.  There’s half a shallot from last night, some feta cheese that is still good, a jar of roasted red peppers, and four eggs.  A rummage through the fruit drawer leads me to two lone grapefruits.  Ladies and gentlemen – we have a lunch!

It is very interesting how some of the most delicious things that I’ve eaten for lunch have been discovered through the use of odds and ends ingredients and the benefit of a well stocked pantry and spice cabinet.  I will never forget the day the kitchen sink eggwich changed my life… 

Anyway, as I was sauteeing the red peppers, shallots and garlic, I added a little pinch of dried basil and a little pinch of dried oregano.  Everything was smelling fragrant and delicious.  I started feeling sassy and added a splash of dry sherry to deglaze the pan and WOW.  Sherry and eggs and shallot and garlic and feta and basil and oregano and roasted red peppers equate to very, very tasty and wonderful scrambled eggs.  The salty feta is such a wonderful counterpoint to the other flavors.  I think my humble little eggs felt very fancy with the addition of that dry sherry.

Now if we ever have any fancy people show up for brunch, I’ll serve them these scrambled eggs; they’re the best I’ve ever had.  In the meantime, I plan to add this to the regular rotation, finished with two juicy little grapefruits drizzled with honey or any other fruits hanging out lonely in the fruit drawer.  A handful of lettuce tossed in vinaigrette will also make a very tasty addition. 

scrambled eggs – fancy pants style

serves two

  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • one small shallot or half of one large shallot, chopped
  • one roasted red pepper, chopped
  • four eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked with a splash of milk, salt and pepper
  • a pinch of dried basil
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • about two tbsp of dry sherry
  • about 1/3 cup of crumbled feta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to thinly coat; add the garlic, shallots and roasted red peppers, and cook until just beginning to brown – stir regularly to prevent the garlic from burning
  2. slowly pour in the sherry, stirring to coat the vegetables (you should hear the sherry sizzle in the pan)
  3. reduce the heat to low and add the eggs, stirring constantly around the edge of the pan to gently “scramble” the eggs
  4. when the eggs have reached their desired consistency, gently stir in the feta
  5. garnish with some chopped chives or parsley if you have fancy people dining with you
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eggwichBoy howdy, I’ve been eating some good lunches this week!  I mean, they must be good to make me say things like, “boy howdy.”  Hot damn, even!  My knack for saving things in the freezer in the manner of eighty year old grannies combined with my need to use up any leftover ingredients manifested themselves today into the best eggwich that I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  An absolute work of impromptu eggwich art.  A sandwich so good as to inspire a spontaneous and uncharacteristic “boy howdy” must be shared. 

I didn’t ever eat eggwiches before Jon turned me on to them.  In fact, does anyone else use the term “eggwich” or did we just make that up?  Either way, I love them now and today’s eggwich is going on the menu of my imaginary cafe.  We had some left over fresh mozarella and pancetta from a pizza earlier in the week; these precious ingredients cannot go to waste.  Those plus some french hamburger rolls from the freezer, some thin slices from a red onion, a few frozen artichoke hearts, and a little schmear of mayonnaise spiked with dried basil amounted to rich, creamy, delectable, gooey eggwich heaven. 

These are some of the best flavors in the world – salty bacon, runny yolk, basil, mayonnaise (or just fat in general), artichoke hearts, fresh mozarella cheese – all on a chewy, soft french roll.  Hallelujah!  I love this eggwich.  I wanted to make out with this eggwich.  I know it’s weird, but I don’t care.  Are you ever this in love with your food?!  We ended our lunch with some fresh green grapes – it was a perfect finish to the richness of the sandwich.

I hope you are inspired by this kitchen sink eggwich.  You should make it exactly as is and discover what kind of random, joyful expletives burst out as you devour every perfect bite.  OR – you should make your own kitchen sink eggwich with your left over ingredients and tell me all about it.  Either way – bon appetito!

best ever impromptu kitchen sink italian eggwich

  • two eggs
  • a few slices of pancetta, quartered
  • a tbsp or so of mayonnaise
  • one tsp or so of dried basil
  • three artichoke hearts, chopped
  • a few thin, half moon slices of red onion or shallot
  • one garlic clove
  • two balls of fresh mozarella cheese, torn into smaller pieces
  • two french hamburger buns
  1. warm whole hamburger buns in a 400 degree oven for five minutes; remove them, cut them in half, rub a little garlic on each cut side and add the torn mozarella cheese; cook for five to seven minutes more or until bread is soft and cheese is gently melted but not brown
  2. meanwhile, mix chopped artichoke hearts, dried basil and mayonnaise together; season with a pinch of salt and ground pepper
  3. heat a skillet over medium heat and crisp up the pancetta with a small drizzle of olive oil; remove and drain on a paper towel
  4. add eggs, one at a time, to warm skillet and cook them over medium; the yolk should be a little runny (cook for a minute and a half and then gently flip over and cook for about one more minute on the other side)
  5. assemble the sandwiches with the mayonnaise, egg, pancetta and red onions – glory!

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figs with goat cheeseMy friend Becky is near and dear to my heart.  She is smart, compassionate, soulful, thoughtful – I’m thankful to know her.  She was born on Cinco de Mayo; we celebrated Cinco de Becky last week with “tapas” at her house.  It is so wonderful to know people who LOVE food.  It’s even better when these same people all bring food to a party. 

We ate so good.  SO GOOD.  We had so much food at this party that we didn’t end up cooking it all!  Lots of little crostinis, crispy with a creamy and delicious red pepper spread (I ate four pieces myself – FOUR), asparagus wrapped in serrano ham, tangy pork riblets, sweet and smoky Japanese style chicken and beef on skewers (who doesn’t love meat on a stick?), and tamarind margaritas (one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had). 

Being the quasi-purist that I am, I had to make things that seemed at least a little shroomsSpanish, so I made some mushrooms sizzled in a smoked chipotle and smoked paprika butter, little crostinis of serrano ham, manchego cheese and fig jam, and little crostinis of caramelized figs with goat cheese and basil. 

The shrooms will be soft and browned – the butter will give them this smoky richness that is outstanding.  The serrano ham marries so well with the assertive flavors of manchego and the sweetness of the fig jam.  The figs with goat cheese were kind of a last minute addition in an effort to use up some dried figs that were sitting in my pantry.  I reduced them down with some dry sherry, sherry vinegar and brown sugar.  W-O-W.  Those figs in combination with tangy goat cheese and the freshness of the basil will make you sing. 
ham and manchegoIt makes me happy to share these tasty little bites with you.  You should make them immediately and eat them.  Invite some friends over and ask them to make something extremely delicious and call it a party!

 

 

 

 

mushrooms sizzled in smoky spicy butter

  • a couple of tbsp of butter, softened
  • 1 heaping tsp of dried chipotle powder
  • 1 heaping tsp of smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • 12 oz or a few packages of whole mushrooms, either shitake or cremini (don’t use button mushrooms – they have too much water)
  • little wooden skewers if you’d like (be sure and soak them in water first)
  1. mix the spices with the softened butter to form a delicious, spiced compound butter
  2. gently sautee your mushrooms in a skillet or sautee pan over medium high heat until they have released their juices and are softened
  3. removed them from the pan and place into a bowl or on a plate and cover so that they can steam a little
  4. skewer them, if you want
  5. heat some of the butter over medium high heat and sizzle the mushrooms for two to three minutes, watching butter so that it doesn’t burn (if you are using skewers put the butter and shrooms in the pan in batches)

little serrano ham and manchego crostini with fig jam

  • one baguette
  • a few tbsp of fig jam
  • a small wedge of manchego cheese
  • 6 or 7 thin slices of serrano ham or prosciutto de parma
  1. cut the baguette on a bias and toast the slices under the broiler (spread with a little butter before going into the over if you’re feeling naughty)
  2. smear a thin layer of the fig jam on the toasted bread, top with a thin shaving of the manchego and a piece of the ham – could this be any easier? 

little crostinis with sherry glazed figs, goat cheese and basil

  • one baguette
  • a handful of dried figs
  • fresh goat cheese (I prefer a “log” for this)
  • a few leaves of basil, cut “chiffonade” style
  • about 1/2 cup of sherry, depending on how many figs you have
  • about 1/2 cup of good quality sherry vinegar, depending on how many figs you have
  • about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, packed
  1. bring figs, sherry, sherry vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt to boil over medium high heat in a medium sized saucepan
  2. reduce and simmer over low heat until liquid is very syrupy and almost gone, careful to prevent burning (taste as you go and adjust the amount of sherry/vinegar/sugar to taste) – this will take about 25 to 30 minutes
  3. meanwhile, cut the baguette on the bias and toast the slices in the broiler
  4. top each piece of bread with a little medallion of goat cheese, a fig or two and a generous sprinkle of the basil

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lemony herby honest chicken - eat immediately

lemony herby honest chicken - eat immediately

We ate some wonderful roasted chicken breast tonight.  I sit and write this full and content – pleased with the unique satisfaction that comes from a full belly of something comforting and savory.

I have been traveling so much lately and have been yearning for something simple and delicious, cooked in my own kitchen.  Sunday is market day, and I wandered the crowded aisles thrilled to be shopping for a week’s worth of meals.  I love the energy of the market; today the produce was as abundant as the shoppers, diverse and overflowing.  I passed some beautiful parsnips and springy baby vidalias and the thought of a simple roasted chicken came to mind – one dish in the oven emanating lovely fragrance throughout my home – minimal dishes – snuggly time with my husband and my Bill Bryson book – yes, please. 

This impromptu, market-inspired dish is so simple it’s ridiculous.  Chicken, parsnips, carrots, baby vidalias – all very rustic and honest ingredients.  An elegant little sauce elevates the beautiful flavors of the vegetables with just enough sweet, tangy, herby goodness to keep things interesting.  The chicken will be perfect; juicy, succulent and tender with crispy skin.  A hit of balsamic vinegar in the last ten minutes of cooking adds a subtle sweetness and extra layer of flavor that takes this humble dish to the next level. 

It may seem unusual to cook everything on the very top shelf of the oven at such a high temperature – don’t deviate!  This and a generous amount of olive oil is the secret to delicious oven-roasted chicken breast.  (Stay tuned for chapter two of fabulous roasted chicken breast.)  I prepared just one skin on, bone in chicken breast to split between two hungry people, but you could go for as many as you like.  The recipe below is for one chicken breast – adjust the amount of chicken and veggies according to your taste and serving size. 

fabulous roasted chicken breast and honest veggies with a lemony, herby sauce

  • bone in, skin on chicken breast
  • four medium parsnips, peeled and cut into two inch pieces, larger pieces halved length wise
  • four skinny carrots, peeled and cut into two inch pieces, larger pieces halved length wise
  • one bunch of baby vidalias (about three), bulbs halved and green parts cut into three inch pieces (if you can’t find baby vidalias, substitute with a regular sweet onion and a bunch of green onions)
  • 1 heaping tsp each of dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and marjoram (use fresh if you have them – just be sure and keep it diverse!)
  • zest and juice of one lemon (use a meyer if you have it)
  • a couple tbsp of butter, melted (omit if you’re feeling skinny)
  • three to four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • generous splash of balsamic vinegar
  • generous tsp of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  1. mix herbs, salt and pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, melted butter and olive oil in a small bowl – the mixture should think but not pasty – easily pourable
  2. place all chopped veggies and chicken breast(s) in a large, glass baking dish or similar
  3. gently separate the skin from the chicken breast, carefully cutting so as not to detach skin from breast, and generously rub some of the herb mixture all over the chicken (make sure to rub plenty under the skin)
  4. pour the rest of the lemony, herby sauce all over the veggies and toss
  5. generously drizzle more extra virgin olive oil over the entire dish and season again with a little more salt and pepper
  6. place uncovered in a 500 degree oven on the very top rack and roast for 20 minutes
  7. remove from oven and splash some balsamic vinegar on the vegetables only
  8. return to oven and roast for 10 minutes more

Serve with all of the pan juices poured over the chicken and vegetables, and also with some crusty bread to soak up the amazing juices.

Be sure and roast with the skin on, even if you don’t plan to eat it.  This will help to keep the chicken moist and flavorful and cannot be omitted. 

If you have a little extra time, why not do a quick salt water brine for your chicken breast a few hours before cooking?

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making dough - serious business

making dough - serious business

My Aunt Valerie has a little crush on Jamie Oliver.

  I sent her his latest cook book for Christmas and when my cousin received the package, something in my message caused him to think that Jamie himself sent Valerie the cookbook as a gift.  For one moment, just one moment, he had her convinced.   

Jamie Oliver makes my favorite pizza, and I had it at Valerie’s house for the first time (I also had it again today for lunch!).  It is tremendously delicious – so simply but literally a flavor explosion!  Despite ineptitude with dough, we had a fabulous time cooking and singing and spilling.  Dough and crust – they both intimidate me.  Don’t over mix… don’t let it get too warm… to sift or not to sift?  Eh…  Anyway, I made a well in the flour, poured the water too fast and spilled flour all over the kitchen.  We just giggled a lot and started over.  My extraordinary (not to mention fastidious) husband was right behind us cleaning it up; he is a dream indeed. 

Sometimes I think that I savor the meals at Valerie’s so intensely because there is a lot of love and laughter cooking alongside the food, but this pizza is special.  This pizza is magical.  There is something so fresh about the ingredients and flavors, even without the homegrown basil and tomatoes that we had that evening.  After the dough fiasco we commenced the compilation of this beautiful pizza; bright and simple tomato sauce, loads of freshly torn basil, globs of airy mozzarella (the real stuff), a little salt and pepper…  into the oven it goes.  All of this seems very ordinary until Valerie announces a secret ingredient and makes a very dramatic trip to the refrigerator, turning to present a gloriously green bunch of  – ARUGULA. Tangy and peppery, this secret ingredient adds a fabulous dimension to this pizza.  

We did a little dancing in the kitchen while our pizza baked, and when it came out of the oven we topped it with that beautiful arugula (tossed with lemon and olive oil) and tangy bites of soppresata.  Have mercy.  Sopressata, basil, cheese, arugula, lemon – these flavors are at once explosive and harmonious.  So, so good.

We carried our little pizza to the patio and thanked God for the abundant blessing of delicious food and the company of people we love.  The scent of lemon blossoms and mint were the only thing competing with the fragrance of our supper.  I enjoyed every single drippy, messy bite of that lovely pizza, eating en plein air on a clear night surrounded by the twinkly lights in the mountains of Southern California.  

valerie dancing in the kitchen

valerie dancing in the kitchen

 

jamie’s pizza (slightly adapted, perhaps)

 

  • pizza crust (your favorite style; whole wheat, grilled, flat bread – choose your favorite)
  • fresh mozzarella (select the kind in water, if possible)
  • a good bunch of fresh basil
  • tomato sauce (I like to simmer plain tomato sauce with a little garlic and a splash of wine, but purists may love the bright flavor of tomatoes alone – try fresh in the summer!)
  • 6 to 8 slices of good quality soppresata
  • a bunch of fresh baby arugula (or rocket, as Jamie says)
  • lemon (meyer if you have it)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  1. prepare your dough and cover with a generous ladle of tomato sauce, torn globs of mozzarella, tons of fresh basil (don’t hold back!), and freshly ground salt and pepper
  2. bake according to the dough that you have prepared, careful not to burn the basil. if cooking time is longer, consider adding basil later in the baking process
  3. right before pizza comes out of the oven, toss the arugula with some lemon and olive oil (whisked to combine) and roughly cut the sopressatta
  4. top the pizza with the sopressata and arugula

 

Thank you, Jamie.

 

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This is one of the best ways that you will EVER eat fish.  This is Giada’s recipe with some of my own modifications, and it is originally supposed to go with swordfish or white fish, but I put it on salmon all the time.  I make a batch of the pesto and then divide a few other portions into bags and freeze them for future dinners.  We have a great grill pan that goes over two burners; I put the fish on one end and some asparagus or squash and zuchinni on the other.  So easy and SO, so good.  If you don’t have a grill pan, obviously just use a regular sautee pan for the fish and roast the asparagus.  If I can use a meyer lemon and a tangerine in place of a regular lemon and orange, I always do; it really makes all the difference.

Fish with Citrus Pesto

  • one bunch of fresh, washed basil (about three cups torn – if you have less, no big deal)
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts (I just dry toast in a little pan on the stove, over medium, until warm and fragrant)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 orange or tangerine, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • some freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan (ONLY use freshly grated, as in you just grated it off of a block of cheese!)
  • a few boneless, skinless fish fillets
  1. add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, salt and pepper to a food processor or blender, and pulse or blend until well chopped and combined
  2. slowly pour olive oil into the mixture as you continue to blend or process
  3. pour mixture into a bowl and stir in grated parmesan
  4. rub your fish fillets with olive oil and salt and pepper, and grill or pan sautee for about 3 minutes per side (turning only once) depending on the size of your fish, over medium to medium high heat (a delicious crust should develop on the meatier fish varieties)

GRILLED OR ROASTED ASPARAGUS

  • one bunch or more of asparagus, rinsed with woody ends snapped off
  • extra virgin olive oil (or garlic infused olive oil)
  • freshly ground sea salt and pepper or garlic salt
  1. if using a grill pan, simply give the asparagus a good douse in olive oil and seasonings, and put on the grill for about 10 minutes, turning periodically
  2. if roasting, give the asparagus a light coat of olive oil and seasonings, and roast for 20-25 minutes (depending on size of asparagus) at 425 degrees

If asparagus is very out of season or overly pricey, I often substitute summer squash and zuchinni.  I just slice them into quarter inch rounds, season them the same, but squeeze a bit of lemon on towards the end of either method of cooking.  They are especially tasty on the grill.  Finish them with a little bit of freshly grated parmesan.  If roasting, up your oven temperature just a little.

If you make this pesto ahead and freeze some, you can have dinner ready in less than 15 minutes.  Lovely.

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