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Archive for the ‘basil’ Tag


the secret to a greener pesto

Seattle was beautiful. It was refreshing. It was sunny the entire 5 days I was visiting – a miracle, considering it rains roughly 80% of the time out there. I did get back to Annapolis about two weeks ago, but less than 24 hours after my plane landed, I was back at the airport to pick up my parents. My mom had been here before, but this was my dad’s first time at my new place. That means I put everything aside, my blog included, and showed them a good time.

my friends and I in Seattle

(left to right: Me, Charles, Paul, Andy and Nick)

I was in Seattle for the 2009 Web Design World Conference. If you’re into web design and development and ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. The speakers were all leaders in their respective fields and gave engaging presentations; these were a few of my favorites: Jared Spool (UI mastermind), Shawn Henry (Queen of Accessibility), Dan Rubin (CSS ninja) and Cameron Moll (design guru).

if only I had a kitchen in my hotel room

Pike Place Market was probably my favorite place to walk around in Seattle. It somehow manages to embody the small town feel of a local market, but on a large scale. The vendors, although swarming with clients, had conversations with you, jugglers and singers entertained small crowds, and best of all, the quality and selection of local produce was unbelievable – it was a fun place to be.

rockin’ local veggies

The market stands were filled with beautiful local vegetables, and the competing venders kept prices pretty low – always a plus.

my lunchtime view of the bay

Most of the lunch venues at the Market have a gorgeous panoramic view of the bay. It was the perfect sight to stare into while I enjoyed my grilled halibut sandwich.

I miss Seattle

The trip back to the east coast was ambivalent. Although I wanted to stay in Seattle forever, and visit Pike Place Market everyday, it was time to go back. I stayed staring out the airplane window for most of the flight back, thinking about what I can blog about once I get home. This pesto, for sure, was at the top of my list.

mise en place

I’ve always been a fan of the arugula-lemon combination. It’s one of those things in cooking that just works – like figs and blue cheese or chocolate and mint. Pesto, however, starts to get dark shortly after it comes together. This can be a problem if you’re dinner party starts in a couple hours or if you’re banking on some leftover sauce to give as gift or enjoy the next day. My good friend Michelle, who is quite the amazing cook, shared with me the secret to keep the vibrant green color in pesto, even days after it is made.

herein lies the secret – blanch your greens

The secret to keeping the gorgeous green color on the leaves is by blanching them in boiling water for 10-15 seconds. This process actually enhances the color of the chlorophyll, but since it is done quickly, it does not break down the greens either.

shock in ice bath

In order to preserve the bright green color the leaves turn, you need to immediately stop the cooking process after 10-15 seconds by plunging the greens into a bowl of ice-cold water. Make sure you drain and dry the greens before adding them to the pesto so as to not water down the sauce.

lemon zest for zing

Lemon zest, similar to salt, heightens the flavors of a dish without adding too much acidity.

extra virgin olive oil to combine

Once you have all the ingredients ready, you’ll want to bring them all together in the food processor with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.

some acidity to make the flavors pop

Adding lemon juice is a matter of personal preference. I do it because I like how that little touch of acidity cuts the fat from the oil and cheese in the pesto. You can play around with different amounts and textures, but in the end you want the lemon flavor to be a subtle note in the background and not overpower the sauce.

Lemon infused, Basil Arugula Pesto

Lemon Infused, Basil Arugula Pesto

yields approx 1.5 cups

Components

  • 4 oz basil leaves, (approx 3 cups, lightly packed)
  • 2 oz arugula leaves, (approx 1 cup, lightly packed)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Boil water in a large pot and prepare an ice bath in a separate bowl.
  2. Salt the boiling water. Add the basil and arugula leaves for 10-15 seconds and immediately plunge in ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color in the leaves.
  3. Strain the leaves and pat dry using a clean towel. Combine all the ingredients in the food processor (or blender) and blend until well combined.
  4. Taste for seasoning. Enjoy with pasta or refrigerate with a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface to preserve the green color for up to a week.

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a peak of what’s coming up next!

Med LOVE

Glasses filled with wine, bursts of laughter, plenty of food to nibble on – this, to me, is the Mediterranean way of life. Even though there is no way I can convince my boss to let me take a siesta in the middle of the day, I can still lead a Med lifestyle vicariously through the food I make. This month I’m entering Jenn’s popular Royal Foodie Joust, where bloggers have to strategically incorporate three featured ingredients into their entries. Kittie, last month’s winner, chose to feature whole grains, ginger and citrus. YUM!

mise en place
mise en place

I decided to make a traditional Middle Eastern salad called Tabbouleh alongside citrus-marinated swordfish spedini (Italian word for skewers).  I snuck some grated ginger into the swordfish marinade, used bulgur wheat in the salad and incorporated citrus into both dishes.

parsley bouquet
parsley bouquet

In order to get most of the leaves from the parsley (and not a lot of the tough stems) you want to bundle little bouquets of parsley and mince the leaves ultra fine with your sharpest knife. I remember for large social events and holidays, all the women in my family would gather in the kitchen to chop mountains of parsley and exchange juicy gossip. 

lemon juice + olive oil dressing
tabbouleh dressing

Now that we’re on the subject of Tabbouleh, I want clear up the common misconception that Tabbouleh should have only a tiny bit of parsley and a TON of bulgur wheat – NO! The only reason many (non-authentic) restaurants go heavy on the bulgur is because it’s a lot cheaper and quicker than chopping up all that parsley. And don’t try to whip out your fancy food processor here… nope, it’ll only make parsley pesto and that’s a totally different post.

swordfish skewer
swordfish skewer

When it comes to fish, I don’t like to overdo it with too many harsh herbs and spices. I purposefully chose a combo of clean flavors – specifically, basil, mint, lemon & orange zest, ginger, olive oil, salt & pepper. Let them all mingle in the fridge for a couple hours before throwing the fish on the grill. 

swordfish spedini, tabbouleh & olives
swordfish spedini, tabbouleh & olives

Next time you want to take a break from life and jet off to the Mediterranean, invite friends over for some tapas, mezze, antipasti, whatever you want to call it (small food?) and open a nice bottle of wine. It’s lots of fun and definitely my preferred way to host. Spread the Med LOVE!

tabbouleh salad
tabbouleh salad

Tabbouleh

yields approx 10 small servings

Components

  • 3 cups parsley, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp bulgur, fine-ground*
  • 2 tbsp water, lukewarm
  • 1 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • ½ qt. cherry tomatoes
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml lemon juice (approx 1/2 cup)
  • ¼ cup mint, minced
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak the bulgur in lukewarm water (until all the water is absorbed).
  2. Finely mince parsley with a sharp knife (make sure parsley is completely dry before chopping)
  3. Prepare the rest of the vegetables by chopping them as well (they don’t need to be as finely minced as the parsley). 
  4. At this point you could store everything in the refrigerator (well covered) for up to a day.
  5. To assemble, toss soaked bulgur wheat, minced parsley and prepped vegetables in a large bowl. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and spices together and pour over salad.
  6. Wash some hearts of romaine to serve alongside the tabbouleh and enjoy!

* My supermarket carries fine-ground (aka #1 ground) bulgur in the bulk and ethnic isles, but if yours doesn’t, Dayna’s Market will gladly deliver.

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swordfish spedini
swordfish spedini

Swordfish Spedini

yields approx. 10 small skewers

Components

  • 1.25 lbs swordfish
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 2 tbsp ginger, grated
  • basil, chopped
  • mint, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak bamboo skewers in water.
  2. Cut swordfish into 1 inch cubes
  3. Marinade with the rest of the ingredients in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  4. Skewer the cubes and grill (or broil) for a couple minutes on each side.  Until the inside is no longer translucent. 
  5. Serve with lemon wedges

notes If you can’t find swordfish, you can make this dish with any hearty fish that can hold up being skewered and grilled. Tuna is a great fish that comes to mind.  Measurements for the marinade don’t have to be exact, just use what you’ve got.  

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foodies (not so) anonymous

Are you a food blog junkie? Do you stop your friends from eating your culinary creations before they’ve been thoroughly photographed? Do you wake up and check your feed for new posts from your fave food blogs?  Most importantly, have you made online foodie friends?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, it must come at no surprise that you’re a foodie.

foodie haiku
foodie haiku

Last week, Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple sent me the best graduation gift a foodie could ever ask for.  It was a care package filled with a bottle of epicurean extra virgin olive oil, a hand-crafted wooden serving platter, exquisite dark chocolates, Vietnamese goodies and pretty party napkins that made for excellent shock absorbers during delivery. The gift also came right after they inspired me to plant my own herb garden (READ: 1 basil and 1 rosemary plant).  This week, as you can tell, my basil plant is out of control.  I pluck and it just keeps growing!  So to show my thanks, I’ve decided to write a post using my homegrown basil and a couple of their gifts. 

mise en place
mise en place

When I opened the bottle of extra virgin olive oil they sent, I was immediately taken aback by its bold fragrance. It was like sticking my nose up close into a big bowl of Mediterranean olives. This kind of oil is certainly not meant to go anywhere near heat and is perfect for salads and dunking bread.  I opted for the latter choice, and went with a warm baguette from my local baker.

basil confetti
basil confetti

Infused oils is something my mom always makes for when guests are coming over. It’s extremely simple and tastes even better when made a day in advance. This recipe is for a spicy basil-infused olive oil and it is by far my favorite variation from my mom’s collection. 

good quality extra virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil

The oil is out-of-this-world! The minty subtleties from the basil play really well against the robust flavors of the unfiltered olive oil.

bread’s best friend
bread's best friend

After the oil has had about a day to rest (overnight if you’re too impatient), there’s probably not much that wouldn’t taste amazing with a little drizzle of this concoction.  Seriously, drizzle this over some grilled chicken, spread some inside your sandwiches, heck, go at it with a spoon? OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but that’s not to take away any of its awesomeness.

basil-infused olive oil
bread's best friend

Thanks again, D & T for the amazing gifts!  I’m looking forward to using the rest of the oil and the other treats you guys included.  The chocolates were gone by the second day, but that was to be expected.  You guys are the best!!

Basil-Infused Olive Oil

(yields approx. 300 ml)

Components

  • 250 ml extra virgin olive oil, high quality
  • lots of basil leaves
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Chiffonade your basil leaves (i.e. make basil confetti)
  2. In a pretty container, combine basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt & pepper and cover with the oil.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the oil to sit over night.
  4. Serve with bread (or anything, really) and enjoy.

Note:  You can store the oil in the refrigerator, but make sure to bring it back to room temperature before using again.  It is normal for the oil to congeal in the fridge.  

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Inspiration, planted on my deck

As a blogger, I spend a substantial amount of time perusing other people’s blogs.  Being that I blog about food, I confess that I frequent the token food porn sites on occasion (read: tastespotting).  Who can resist?! Perfect scoops of ice cream,  decadent cakes, oh my!  This weekend, however, I did – I resisted.  I stepped away from my computer and celebrated the 4th of July with the rest of America.  

Italy planted on my deck
basil plant

Once the 4th was over, I decided to continue enjoying the rest of my patriotic weekend outdoors.  In fact, just the other day Peter, at Kalofagas, posted an entry that showcased his garden and the stunning array of herbs that he has at his disposal.  Not only him, but Todd and Diane (aka White on Rice Couple) also have an outrageous garden that I swear has more fruits and veggies than my local farmer’s market. Drawing inspiration from two of my favorite bloggers, I decided that this weekend I would start my very own garden. And without even signing on to my computer, I set out to buy my new plants.

the newest member of the family: upright rosemary
upright rosemary

OK, so I don’t have a full garden just yet, but I did start my mini-paradise with some sweet basil and upright rosemary.  I’m not sure if using chemical plant food is absolutely necessary (or actually good for the plants), but the staff member at Home Depot convinced me that the plants wouldn’t survive without it. So if anyone has any opinions about this stuff, I’d love to know. 

freshly plucked
basil leaves

The fragrance that was coming from the herbs was intoxicating.  Immediately after I finished my little project, my stomach was craving for some attention of its own.  Since this was the 4th of July weekend, I had extra hot dogs sitting in my fridge that were screaming my name.  And yes, I do eat hot dogs!  Or at least doctored-up hot dogs…

mise en place
mise en place

I gently plucked a few leaves off my new basil plant and went straight to the kitchen. I chopped up some onions, tomatoes, a clove of garlic and a spotty avocado I had laying on the counter. Everything came together with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a tiny bit of lemon juice.  Some grated mozzarella completed the production and made for some killer dogs!

basil avocado relish on hot dogs
mise en place

Basil Avocado Relish

(yields approx. 1 1/2 cups)

Components

  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 hass avocado
  • 6-7 leaves of basil, rough chop
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Toss all the ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Enjoy all summer long over hot dogs, in sandwiches or even as a dip for chips.

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