Tag Archives: basil

Ending the Summer with Orzo with Roasted Vegetables!

It’s hard to believe that the summer is drawing to a close, although I have to say, the cool weather is a welcome change. I keep seeing leaves falling from our many trees, and it’s getting me excited for fall. However, I know, there still are a few weeks left. As your squeezing in those final summer get togethers and Labor Day picnics, take a look at this recipe! Orzo with roasted vegetables is a delicious alternative to potato salad or cole slaw, or whatever you normal take. It’s pretty easy, travels great, and is absolutely delicious.

Peel and chop 1 small eggplant into 1 inch pieces. Chop 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 red onion into 1 inch pieces as well. Throw them all on a sheet pan. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat all of the vegetables in the oil, then spread out on the pan. Cook at 425 for 40 minutes until browned. Turn them once with a spatula about half way through so they don’t stick and get evenly browned.Ready for RoastingGetting ThereDone!

Meanwhile, cook ½ lb. orzo according to the package directions. If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s a pasta, similar in shape to rice. You can find it in your pasta aisle. Once it’s cooked, drain and add it to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables when they are done, and any delicious liquid that may have accumulated in the pan. Make the dressing by combining 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons), 1/3 cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine, then add to the other hot ingredients. Stir, and let them all combine while they cool to room temperature.OrzoRoasted VeggiesJuicing LemonsLemon JuiceOlive OilPepperAlmost Ready

If you’re going to use the salad in a day or so, you can cover and store this salad in the refrigerator before adding the rest. The day you’re going to serve, take the salad out of the refrigerator several hours early to allow to come to room temperature. Add 4 minced scallions (both white and green parts), ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, ¾ lbs. crumbled feta, and 15 basil leaves, thinly sliced.ScallionsBasilPine NutsFetaCombined

Toss everything to combine, and there you go. The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and really is a delicious one. Give it a try at your next get together. I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews, and lots of requests for the recipe!

Tomatoes and Cucumbers…the Fruits of the Season!

Wow, where has the time gone? I can’t believe it’s already August. And I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I’ve had a blog post. I guess vacations, cleaning up the overgrown yard of the new house, and every day life got in the way. So sorry, I’ll do better, I promise!

The warm weather and humidity continues in this area, Heat waves and thunderstorms have been a regular occurrence, it seems like since June. The only good thing is that the produce has been delicious and abundant. During this time of the summer, tomatoes and cucumbers are especially delicious, and they make the perfect summer salad.

For me, nothing says summer like cucumber and tomato salad. With the addition of some basil and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, it’s the perfect side for any meal. Not to mention, it’s great to keep the oven and stove off!

To start, use about equal parts cucumbers and tomatoes. I used 2 cucumbers and 3 large, ripe tomatoes (I know there are 4 in the picture, but I only used 3). Core the tomatoes, and slice into chunks. Add to a large bowl. Peel the cucumbers, and slice into rounds. Add to the same bowl. Finally, add fresh basil. Use 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced, and add to the same bowl.tomatoesslicedchoppedcucumberpeeledready for dressingbasilNext, grab a small bowl to make the vinaigrette. Use equal parts Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. I used about 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Whisk the two to combine. Add about 3 times the amount of olive oil. I used about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until emulsified. Add salt and pepper. ingredientsmustardbalsamicPour the vinaigrette over the vegetables and stir to combine.

My favorite way to enjoy this salad is after it’s sat for about 30 minutes, so the juices of the tomato combine with the vinaigrette. One caveat though, be sure to let the salad marinate on the counter. The salad is best at room temperature, and it really is delicious. Fresh, crunchy, and tangy…just perfect!

Enjoy this last month of summer before it’s gone. And stay cool!

Springing into Spring with Tortellini and Spring Vegetables

Last weekend, the weather was perfect. Beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds, and temperatures in the 70s. It was great. The weather got everyone excited for spring, including me. And when I think of spring, I think of spring food…and spring veggies.

This recipe combines one of my favorite pastas, tortellini, with peas, asparagus, and onions, sautéed in delicious bacon grease. Finished off with a little 1/2 and 1/2 and some Parmigiano cheese, it’s perfect! The bacon and vegetables are crisp, the sauce is rich and creamy, and the tortellini are the perfect cheesy carriers for this deliciousness!

Chop 6 strips bacon into thin, small strips. Cook the bacon in a large pot or dutch oven over medium low heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. I use the lid for this process so the bacon doesn’t splatter everywhere. Once the bacon is crisp, remove to a plate, but keep the bacon fat in the pot on the heat.baconslicedcookingcookedChop 1 medium onion. Cook in the bacon fat until golden and softened, about 5 minutes. Mince 4 cloves garlic. Add to the onion, and cook for another minute.chopped onioncooking onioncooked oniongarliccookedMeanwhile, set a large pot of water on the stove, and bring to a boil. Chop 1 lb asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus. Blanch for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to remove to a bowl. I do this instead of draining with a colander because that way you can use the same water for the pasta.

water boilingasparagusblanchingblanched asparagusAdd the asparagus and 1 lb peas to the onion mixture. I used frozen peas, but if you can get fresh, go for it. I don’t find a huge difference in flavor, so if you can’t, frozen works. Cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup dry wine. I didn’t have any white open, so I used red. The flavor stays the same, it just adds a slight pink to the sauce. 🙂 Simmer the wine for a few minutes until reduced some, then add 1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2. Bring to a boil and boil for a few more minutes until creamy and thoroughly combined.adding asparagusadding peasadding winesimmering wineadding 1/2 and 1/2almost readyIn that reserved water, cook 2 lbs tortellini according the package directions. Once cooked and drained, add to the sauce along with the bacon. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese. Roll up 10 basil leaves and thinly slice into ribbons. Add to the pasta and enjoy!cooked tortelliniadding tortelliniadding baconadding cheesebasil leavesslicedadding basilall readyAlthough I don’t know if I mentioned it sooner, pasta is my one of my favorite meals. It’s no wonder I turn to this recipe when spring has sprung! 🙂

Harvesting Basil for Pesto!

Last week I talked about harvesting in the garden, but so many times, I’ve forgotten about really harvesting in my herb garden. Sure, I’ll run out and grab some rosemary for roast chicken, or basil for a sauce, but to really get the most out of your herbs, you want to harvest them at their peak to enjoy them, but also promote new growth and a higher yield.

Herb GardenThis year, I decided to grow my herb garden in pots on the porch. I’ve planted herbs for years in a small section of the garden, but I find, often times, they get taken over by the bigger vegetables. Also, if you have hardy herbs, growing them in pots makes it easy to bring them in during the winter, enjoy them all through the off-season, and then taking them outside in the spring and already having a start on the garden. That’s what I did with my rosemary. It was great to have fresh rosemary all year, and when the weather warmed up, I took it back outside, and it’s been thriving since.

Basil PlantFor my herb garden this year, I have the above mentioned rosemary in addition to sage, tarragon, and Italian leaf parsley, which I started from seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The seeds were great and the plants have done incredibly well. I’m really happy with them. I also have chives and dill that I took the short cut and purchased at my local garden center. They are also doing well, but for my favorite, I was lucky enough to have someone bring me back seeds from Italy last year. I’ve never had basil do so well, and I can’t quite figure out if it’s the fancy seeds or just luck this year.  Either way, the basil has been doing great, and it’s time to harvest some and, of course, make pesto!

Basil FlowerI’ve found that herbs start out strong, and look amazing, but they usually get to a point, about this time of the summer, where they start to get leggy and just don’t do so well if left alone. However, if you cut them back, and bonus, you get to use what you’ve cut, they come back for a second life. The other thing to look for is if the plants start to go to seed. If you start to see flowers on the plants, that means they’re putting all of their energy into reproducing. While this may be great if you’re looking to get seeds for next year, if you’re still looking to use the herbs and want a longer season, you want to snip these flowers off. I simply pinch off the blooms, and then make sure that I use that branch next when I need some of the herb.

Leaves ReadyAs you can see, I’ve cut a good bit off of my basil plant. I’m hoping to make 3 batches of my pesto recipe. Each recipe makes about a cup of pesto. One note, I prefer to use a food processor for this recipe. You can use a blender, however, I’ve found that you need to add all of the ingredients first, and it does need some stirring and help to get completely processed. If you’re using a food processor, follow the process I’m outlining below. To start, take 3 cloves garlic, peeled, and chop them up in the food processor. Next, add 2 cups basil leaves. You just want the leaves for this, and you want pretty packed cups. Whirl that around until the basil is nicely chopped, then add 1/4 cup pine nuts and Ingredients1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated. Give that another quick whirl. If you let it go too long, it will come together, almost like a dough. If that happens, don’t worry, you’re still good. With the food processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil, and process that until it’s nice and smooth.

After I was finished with this batch, I made 2 more. If you’re making several batches, just start over. You really don’t want to double or triple the recipe, as it doesn’t turn out as good. But, the good news is, I don’t even wash the food processor in between. 🙂

If you’re growing herbs, I hope they’re as productive as mine have been this year! And if you’re not, stop by the grocery store and pick up some basil. Pesto is a great sauce to have on hand, especially in the summer for a quick pasta dish. Enjoy!


Tomato, Basil, Garlic, Olive Oil…Ah Bruschetta

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love tomatoes.  I love them in all forms, cooked, raw, doesn’t matter.  And one of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is in bruschetta.

Bruschetta is incredibly simple to make, and absolutely delicious.  And, because it’s all about fresh ingredients, it’s a perfect summer recipe.

Diced TomatoesTo start, find nice, ripe tomatoes.  I prefer the Roma or plum tomatoes for bruschetta because they aren’t as juicy.  Their texture holds up well.  However, really any tomato will do.  And if you have them fresh from the garden, well, they are always the best!  For this recipe I use 5 tomatoes.  And, you may remember a while ago me going on and on about ceramic knives for cutting tomatoes, but I really do taste a difference.  So if you have a ceramic knife, now is the time to use it.  Remove the seeds and dice the tomatoes and add them to a bowl.

Minced GarlicAdd to the tomatoes 3 garlic cloves, minced.  In traditional bruschetta, the garlic would be rubbed on the toasted bread, but I find this works well and is easier.  You want the mince to be pretty small to avoid people getting a huge piece of garlic.  Also, I should warn you, I love garlic, so you may find 3 cloves is a bit much for you, or you may want more.  Feel free to adjust.

To the tomatoes and garlic, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  I also add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.  I think purists would probably just stick with the olive oil and not include the vinegar, but I think it adds a great flavor to the bruschetta.

BasilFinally, add 6 basil leaves.  I chiffonade them.  Sounds impressive, right?  Well, it just means you roll the leaves up and cut them into strips. Now give the bruschetta a stir and you’re done.

I prefer bruschetta at room temperature.  Also, as it sits, the tomatoes release their juices, adding to the delicious liquid.  Serve the bruschetta with toasted sliced Italian bread.  Just grill the bread, or toast it on a cookie sheet in the oven.  The crispy bread Bruschettadoes a great job of soaking up the delicious juice.

Bruschetta makes a great appetizer, but it’s also a good side.  And it works well at barbeques or picnics.  I might whip up a batch for Memorial Day!  Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!