Tag Archives: Summer

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!

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Summer Squash

This week we are talking about summer squash!  I figure mid-July is late enough in the year to examine this fruit – that is often treated as a vegetable!

First off, there are many many different items that are loosely classified as ‘summer squash.’  There are zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, tromboncino….  The list goes on & on!  For the most part, all of them can be used the same way & are part of the Cucurbita pepo family.  (Thank you Wikipedia!)

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Photos of some small summer squash we found while in Montreal last week visiting the Jean-Talon Marche.

photo 1Our local farmers are all selling various summer squash now.  We got some amazing zucchini and yellow squash from River to River Farm this week at the Canon Park Market.  They were also selling patty squash.

Interestingly enough, (thanks Wikipedia again) summer squash are really just under-ripe winter squash varieties.  These particular varieties typically have softer outer ‘skins’ which can typically be eaten raw or cooked.

Cooking ideas:
As usual, I reached out on Facebook and Twitter for ideas about how to cook this week’s item.  I received a great idea from @TinaTormey this week:

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Sautéed:
This is a favorite method of ours.  Wash your squash, cut off the ends (typically a stem is on one end), then slice the squash into bite sized pieces.  We often slice them into ‘half moons’ (usually with zucchini or yellow squash) – to do this, take the squash, cut it lengthwise to end up with two long pieces, then slice the squash up the length of the fruit.  You end up with little pieces looking like half moons.

From there, put some olive oil in a warm skillet, let the oil warm up, and toss the squash in!  Let them heat up some – you will notice them starting to sweat a bit and change size/color a bit.

To spice this up, add some garlic (before you cook them) or really any spices you like.

Grilled:
1044203_10101401048878638_836205514_nI feel like we grill a lot of vegetables!  But, summer squash grills really well too!  On Tuesday, at our weekly grill-out, we grilled up some zucchini.  We had cut them long wise, marinated them in olive oil and salt/pepper.  As a reminder, grilled zucchini (especially cut thicker like I sometimes do) takes a lot longer to grill than you might expect, and if they’re in strips they can slip between the bars on the grill.

In this photo you see the zucchini, some red peppers, and some local beef sausages from Josh at Lick Creek Beef.

Steamed:
Prepare the same way you did the sautéed squash & steam instead!

We also put squash in a wide variety of dishes.  Today, we put some zucchini in a recipe of Dal that we had for lunch.  It was dal-icious!

How do you like your summer squash? What recipes do you put it in?