Tag Archives: salad

Basil

It is basil season!  Woah!  It was all over the market last weekend & will continue for the next few weeks I’d imagine.  I love basil season.

photo (9)This was the fresh herb basket at the market the other day.

What I’m currently learning more about are the different varieties of basil.  I knew there was a lemon basil, Thai basil, a purple basil, and sweet basil – photo 1but I didn’t know about the holy basil variety. Holy cow that smells different!  At times, it might be a bit overwhelming.  Our local farmer introduced me to this variety.  It is VERY different.  We have tried it a few different ways this week.

As usual, some background from wikipedia

  • basil is from the mint family (Lamiacae)
  • basil was originally discovered in India & other tropical areas of Asia
  • basil has been cultivated for more than 5000 years
  • most varieties of basil are annuals
  • Sweet Basil is typically found in Italian food
  • Thai, holy, and others are typically found in Asian food

In my head, basil was mostly linked directly to a nice caprese salad.  I also thought of it a lot in red pasta/pizza sauce.  I also knew sweet basil was a primary ingredient in most pesto sauces.  As I have cooked more, I started to use Thai basil more in my cooking.  I actually assumed Thai basil and Sweet basil were totally unrelated.  Go figure!

Basil Pesto:
I’m sure there are a million versions of pesto recipe’s.  A basic one includes a big bunch of cleaned basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan (optional) – all blended together in a food processor.  Change the ratio around to taste.  Variants include blanching the basil leaves first, toasting the pine nuts, using pecans or other nuts, or adding other herbs (cilantro!).  Please feel free to post your favorite pesto recipe in the comments.
It is also super easy to freeze pesto.  Make your pesto then put it ice cube trays in the freezer.  After a few hours, it should be solid.  Then transfer the pesto to a large plastic bag.  Label the bag and store it in your freezer.  Whenever you need pesto, just grab one of the chunks!

Basil Pizza:
We make pizza somewhat frequently.  Fresh basil on a pizza can be wonderful.  A very simple pizza can include a light dusting of red sauce, some whole basil leaves, fresh sliced tomatoes, and slices of fresh mozzarella.  Another option is to put the basil pesto on the pizza as your sauce instead of a red sauce.  We LOVE this.  It creates quite an amazing base to your pizza.  Try pesto, caramelized onions, and anchovies – if you want to try a family favorite.

Caprese Salad:
A favorite of mine!  Slice some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and some basil on top.  Be sure to sprinkle some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some salt & pepper to taste.  This is a lovely salad is quick and easy.  Try to find some heirloom tomatoes at your local market and experiment with the different tastes.  That can really enhance the flavor profile of your salad!

Basil Lemon sorbet:
Our farmer friend was really trying to encourage us to try something creative with the Holy basil.  There was a sale on lemons at the store.  We used google.  We found this great recipe on the Oh My Veges blog.  Unfortunately we do not have Meyer lemons around- but, normal lemons worked well.  The Holy basil added a HUGE flavor punch to the sorbet.

Basil in your Omelet/eggs:
We regularly make scrambled eggs with herbs.  Cutting up some fresh basil and mixing it into your eggs (while you scramble them) along with some salt & pepper can add some great flavor to your breakfast.

Basil with various other dishes:
Adding basil to sautéed seasonal vegetables can be great.  We were cooking summer squash the other day  with some left over garlic scapes we found buried in a friend’s fridge the other day – added some chopped basil and it was great!
You could also add some fresh chopped basil to baked fish.
Basil as a primary ingredient in a soup stock would be lovely too.  You could freeze that easily for use in the colder months.

photo 2

With all of these great ideas for basil you might want to have basil around throughout more of the year.  Basil is easy to store.  You can wash the leaves, dry them, then put them flat in a large freezer bag in the freezer.  We do this with basil and cilantro.

Lots of great ideas for basil here.  Wondering what are some of your favorite uses? Please leave a comment!

Salads!

Last week I highlighted some salad dressings, this week I’m talking about salads.

We’ve been enjoying lots of great fresh greens this spring from River to River farm.  Along with a variety of cooking greens, we are finding all sorts of new lettuce varieties to enjoy.  In particular, the Forellenschluss variety – a type of romaine- has been great!  We have heard of people using this lettuce for wraps.  We have also been introduced to the  Bronze Arrowhead variety.  This is a very light lettuce – we have put it on many a salad lately.

Speaking of salads, here are a few salad recipes we been enjoying over the past few weeks.  First, know that it is important to wash your lettuce.  If you get them from a market or the store (or even your own garden)- it is important to wash the leaves.  We take each leaf off one by one & place them in a salad spinner.  Add some cold water & stir the leaves with your hand.  Then use the strainer to clear out the water.  I do a second wash the same way.  Then use the spinner to spin the leaves dry.

Salad with seeds & nuts:
Base of lettuce
Toast some pumpkin seeds, pecans, & raisins in a dry fry pan for a few minutes to bring out the flavor (the raisins should puff up, they’ll deflate once they cool down).
Put some cilantro on top to add some depth of flavor.
Add a dressing of your choosing.  I recommend a simple balsamic vinegar/olive oil mixture.  But, I have also really enjoyed the Gaba Gaba dressing from the salad dressings post.

Salad with strawberries:
It is strawberry season here – we’ve found these are great on salads.
Pretty simple – clean the lettuce with the instructions above, wash & slice some strawberries.  Add the dressing of your choosing.

Salad with mango, avocado lime, cilantro, and paprika:
While the mangoes are not at all local… they are in season!
image_4
We buy ours from a local international food store by the case during this season.  While we eat a great number of them, we also cut some up and freeze them for later when they won’t be in season.
However, for this salad – again a bed of lettuce, add some cilantro, mango chunks, avocado (we didn’t have any when we made it), and then sprinkle lime juice and paprika on top.  We also added some fresh ground salt & pepper to this salad.

To help you cut your mango – here is a quick tutorial.
Along the middle of the mango is a long seed/pit.  You will want to not cut through it.  Make two cuts along the long/narrow side of the mango.  With your two ‘halves’ – first cut a grid pattern like so:
image

Then you flip the mango out and you get these funny looking nub-spikes!
image_1

Easy to cut off into chunks.  Get the rest of the meat off of the middle piece of the mango (the part surrounding the pit).  As a reminder, mango skin is not good for humans to eat.

What salads have you been making lately? Any favorite recipes? 

Salad Dressings

Welcome to spring!
I say this to myself when I go to the Farmer’s Market around this time of year.  While the weather could be doing anything, it is lettuce season!  For me, this means lots of salads for lunch and dinner.  While I love all the greens, I am a dressing person.  Salad dressing that is.

For this post, I reached out to some friends to get some good salad dressing recipe ideas.

From Magdalen (borrowed from Bon Appetit — the salad was lame, the dressing was great!):

Orange/fennel/shallot salad dressing recipe

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or fennel, which is what we used)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Whisk orange juice, lime juice, shallot, 2 Tbsp. dill, and zest in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup oil; season orange vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
From Jan Elliott:

Vinaigrette
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
6 TBS oil — extra virgin olive, or 1/2 safflower 1/2 olive
1 TBS good balsamic vinegar (Villa Manodori is great)
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp prepared horseradish
1″ squeeze anchovy paste
1 small clove garlic, pressed

Mix very thoroughly. Taste & adjust (often needs more olive oil or a little sweetener). Mix or shake well just before using.

From Ted Abbott:
I love sauces, mine are mostly for dipping. You could put this one on a salad if you like it hot:
To a base of a cup of mayo, add hot sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce and for ultimate flavor, oyster sauce available in Asian section. Mix until consistent.
From Laura Itzkowitz:
Honey mustard dressing has been my latest salad dressing obsession – dijon mustard, white vinegar, honey, and black pepper. I don’t measure any of them, just add as much as tastes good.
From a restaurant in Nashville we ate at a few weeks ago:
Chili-Grapefruit Vinaigrette
1 Tablespoon Grapefruit Zest
3 Tablespoons Grapefruit Juice
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
pinch of salt and sugar to taste
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup Olive Oil or Walnut Oil
My current favorite: 
This recipe comes from The New Moosewood Cookbook.  This is the sauce for Gado gado — which is apparently an Indonesian dish.  I just love the peanut butter based sauce on my salad!
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp (heaping) grated ginger
1 Tbsp (heaping) minced garlic – I used Green Garlic last week.
3 Tbsp brown sugar (or a bit less is ok)
11/2 cups hot water (I use a bit less ~1.15 cups)
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce (we use tamari)
1 tsp salt (more if the peanut butter is unsalted)
Put it all in a food processor & let it whirl!  This is where I will add the water a bit at a time to see how smooth it is.  This makes a lot of dressing – I’m sure it would be easy to cut the recipe in half.
So- those are some salad recipes.  I have not tried them all – but they all sound good.
Before I go, I should just take a moment to say — if you are an oil & vinegar person.  I still think you are doing things right.  We do an oil & balsamic reduction on our salad at least twice a week ourselves.  Sometimes simple is best!
Please post some of your favorite salad dressing recipes in the comments! I’d love to hear about what you enjoy.