Tag Archives: basil

Toasted Walnut Arugula Pesto The Movie.

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When summer’s pesto runs out from the freezer I turn to arugula, which may farmers grow right through the winter in cold frames. I first posted the recipe here.

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Love from the C’bus.

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C’bus is short for Columbus, OH and this week it played host, along with my dear friend Ray, to a wonderful evening of good food and even better company. The experience started with a trip to Columbus’ North Market for groceries. Big shout out to Lan Viet for her generous gift of Thai basil and to Ben and co. at North Market Spices for beautiful ground cardamom – I can’t wait to stop back and stock up before my return to DC!

These ingredients, along with fresh, ripe summer fruit, were the inspiration for our dessert: peaches and blueberries, macerated in sugar and cardamom and topped with Thai basil-infused, hand-whipped cream. The spicy, licorice-y Thai basil was pleasantly herbal, but chopping it finely with sugar covered the grassy flavor. The warm, bright cardamom brought out the rich sweetness of the peaches and acidity of the blueberries achieving perfect balance.

It was a simple finish to a spectacular evening. Thank you C’bus. It is always a pleasure.

Peaches and Blueberries with Thai Basil Whipped Cream

Macerating means letting the fruit soften in its own juices. If your peaches don’t release a little juice on their own, add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Ingredients:

  • 3 peaches, sliced*
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 2 tbs roughly chopped Thai Basil
  • 1-2 tbs sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream

*You can peel the peaches if you have a fuzzy texture issue, but that just seemed like a lot of work to me. You can slice as thin or thick as you like. Thin slices give each bite a better balance with the blueberries.

Directions:

  • Toss sliced peaches and blueberries together with cardamom and sugar. Let macerate in fridge for 30-45 minutes. If they don’t release any liquid after the first 15 minutes, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. How liquify this gets depends on how juicy your fruit is. Just go with it.
  • Sprinkle the roughly chopped basil with the sugar and chop together until the basil is broken down almost as finely as the sugar.
  • Whisk the cream to soft peaks. Then whisk in the basil sugar.
  • Serve the fruit topped with a generous dollop of cream. And by “dollop” I mean “giant spoonful.”

“I’ll take the light potato salad, please.”

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With each new summer cookout, looms the threat that someone is going to show up with those clear plastic containers from the deli counter of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Now, rumor has it that these salads actually  contain potatoes, macaroni and cabbage, but the protective coating of mayonnaise obscures any possible proof.

Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole, but most summer cookouts abound with rich, grilled meats and sauces, toasted buns and baskets of chips and dip. What I want from my salad is something light and bright to balance the plate, and a gloopy heap of mayonnaise just doesn’t cut it. Enter the “French” potato salad.

Like may other American “French” delicacies like fries, toast and dressing, I’m not sure how french this is, but I think they would approve. Boiled potatoes are tossed, still warm, in a sharp, buttery vinaigrette, with garlic or shallots and fresh herbs. They soak up the dressing and releasing the flavorful oils from the greens; exactly what you want sitting next to your burger, hanger steak or chicken thighs, complete with flawless grill marks.

This is a recipe I served at Eastern Market recently, but experiment throughout the summer. Toss with halved cherry tomatoes and basil, use fresh tasting tarragon and shallots, baby arugula or minced red peppers. But please, I’ll take my potato salad without mayonnaise. and I like my burgers rare.

French Potato Salad with Mint and Garlic Scapes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups small potatoes
  • 3 tbs mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

For dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Koroneiko Olive Oil*
*More magical ingredients from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Champagne or white wine vinegar can replace the Champagne Mimosa. The Koroneiko Olive Oil is Greek. Mild and grassy. Substitute another high-quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until still firm but can be easily pierced through to the center with the tip of a knife. Drain potatoes.
  • Meanwhile, mince garlic and mash it into a paste with coarse sea salt. Whisk with Champagne Mimosa Vinegar. Season with pepper. Set aside.
  • Mix mint and garlic scapes in a salad bowl.
  • Cut warm potatoes in 1” pieces – halved or quartered – and toss with mint and garlic scapes. The heat will release oils in the mint.
  • Whisk oil into vinegar mixture in a steady stream until creamy. Toss with potatoes. Dress lightly so not to overpower the other flavors.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional mint.

How do I come up with recipes?

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I am often asked how I come up with the recipes I cook at Eastern Market and publish in this blog. They all start with inspiration – or desperation – figuring out how to feature a seasonal ingredient or use a new product from one of the great shops I work with.

Sometimes it’s easy. I’ll pull a recipe out of my head that I’ve cooked many times, like asparagus soup or zucchini pancakes. Along the way, these recipes get tweaked with new ingredients and new ideas I’ve learned elsewhere.

Other times an idea pops into my head, like last week’s Indian style peas and corn. I’ll flip through cookbooks and search the web to understand the range of ingredients, seasonings and techniques that other people have used, then pull together the ideas that sound the best and start testing the recipe, making changes until I’ve got something I’m proud to serve.

The hardest recipes, and some of my greatest satisfaction, come when I’m stumped. This past week I wanted to work with summer squash. The Saturday before I had sautéed it, tossed with a compound butter. Rather then another variation on sautéed and tossed with herbs, I wanted something really new. I began flipping through cookbooks waiting for a recipe to excite me. I found a squash goulash, 70’s style with ground beef, green peppers and sweet paprika. I removed the beef so the squash could take center stage. Red peppers kept some bitterness without the bite. Red miso and tomato paste added depth, while Spanish paprika or pimentón, brought a bit of heat. Some fresh vegetable stock gave the sauce another layer and I was ready to serve this week’s Summer Squash Goulash. My sincere thanks to Too Many Tomatoes, and my Mom who raised us on its recipes, for the inspiration.

Summer Squash Goulash

Makes 3-4 main course servings unless you eat it at 10:30 at night, in which case two of you will be fighting over the last bowl. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs red miso paste
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups summer squash thinly sliced in half rounds
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned on edges.
  • Add pepper, paprika, tomato paste and miso. Cook 1-2 minutes until paprika is fragrant.
  • Stir in tomatoes and cook until softened and water begins to evaporate. Add stock and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add squash, basil. Cover and cook until squash is softened but still firm.
  • Uncover and let thicken to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.

Summer comfort food.

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When the wind is blustery and damp with snow, there are few things more satisfying than a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. Whether you keep it simple or gussy it up with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs, the flavor is deep, rich and satisfying.

When the sun is bright and warm, and you’re dining outdoors, cooled by a light breeze, a rich, hearty tomato soup seems like a slap in the face to one of summer’s most treasured gifts from the garden. The good Lord already took care of packing sweet sugar and tart acidity into those tomatoes. Why do you have to go and play with it?

I wanted a soup – quick cooked to protect the freshness of the tomatoes. Few ingredients so you’re not wasting a perfectly beautiful summer afternoon locked up in the kitchen.

And I found it. A twenty minute soup. A simple bowl of summer.

Fresh Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 4-6 basil stems*
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Tomato oil**
  • Sherry vinegar
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, cut in thin strips
*My basil plants needed a break this weekend so I used cilantro. It was a different taste, for sure, but deep and more complex. Equally delicious.
**Another treat from Sapore Olive Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. I have been burning through this stuff this spring, giving April-May tomatoes a July-August flavor. It’s a new pantry staple!

Directions:

  • Sauté onion in olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat until soft and translucent.
  • Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  • Add tomatoes and basil stems and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened.
  • Pass soup through a food mill. If using a food processor, remove basil stems first. The food processor also removes the tomato stems for a smoother texture.
  • Return puree to pot, add a quarter cup of Fresh Tomato oil, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes minutes to bring the flavors together.
  • Season to taste with additional Fresh Tomato oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. The vinegar is there to brighten the tomato flavors. If the ones you are using are nice and acidic, you may not need it.
  • Garnish with fresh basil and an additional drizzle of tomato oil.

Give generously. Look fabulous doing it.

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I really hate shopping for gifts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love buying things for people. At the mere mention of something meaningful I will spend hours chasing down a childhood book, favorite food or memoir of a home town. But the thought of just having to buy something is torture.

Over the years I have learned an important lesson. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you give, but that a special someone has something to unwrap on the big day; on Christmas morning, you can hand them a brightly wrapped gift and say, “I love you. Enjoy.” Upon opening, the recipient can hug you saying, “thanks.” Sometimes, it is not the gift that counts, but the giving.

Holiday entertaining is the same. Sometimes holiday get-togethers are more about fellowship than food. That, however, is no reason not to impress.

There is a generosity in offering your guests the gift of  luxury, in letting them spend a few hours living finely and fabulously. However, it is a gift doesn’t need to work your last frazzled, holiday nerve, nor does it need to be the last straw on a stretched budget.

Learn simple dishes that taste divine. Work with inexpensive ingredients and layer them with flavor: onions caramelized in butter, hand-whisked mayonnaise with bright herbs served alongside fresh, local crudités. Take a minute to think through the garniture for each one. Pipe a little sauce on top, arrange a whole parsley leaf, and crack some fresh black pepper. Light plenty of candles, buy inexpensive, fresh flowers and mass them in large vases, and play Bing Crosby’s classic holiday album.

Or try this. A favorite every time. Pretty, delicious, and easy. You’ll feel relaxed, have plenty of time to do your hair before your guests arrive, and they’ll think you had the evening catered.

Tapenade

Nothing out of a jar compares to the flavor of fresh parsley and garlic. No matter how much you think you hate anchovy paste, please go ahead and use it. You’ll never taste the anchovy and it does incredible things for the flavor of this spread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbs capers
  • 1/8 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
  • Red wine vinegar

Directions:

  • Place olives, garlic, herbs, cheese, capers and anchovy paste in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times for a rough chop.
  • With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Process to bind.
  • Scrape tapenade into bowl and season to taste with vinegar and black pepper.
  • Serve with crostini.
  • Dress it up! Spread a tablespoon on crostini, top with a slice of buffalo mozzarella*. Broil for 1-2 min. to soften cheese. Top with a basil leaf.
*Buffalo mozzarella comes packaged in a plastic container in brine. You will either find it at the deli or in the cheese case.

Crostini

There is no excuse for not making your own! Grab a baguette and slice on the bias into 1/4″ thick slices. Brush with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until golden. Let cool and store in a ziplock bag for up to 5 days.