Tag Archives: basil

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Warm Tomato Sauce

20140727-145705-53825979.jpg

This is a story about the plight of the male squash blossom.

Squash blossoms, I have learned, are either male or female. Females bloom, become fertilized and swell to produce the fruit. Males bloom as well, fanning the sky with their magical essence that floats into the soft yellow petals of any female nearby…with the help of our winged friends. And once this job is done, the males lose their purpose. And, as so often happens in the wild, they die.

I came upon this realization as I recently researched how to harvest one’s own squash blossoms for the purposes of cooking. We are lucky enough to have a glorious growing season in N.C., and planted one too many yellow summer squash in our little garden patch. Grant clips the soft yellow squash, but just as many “male” blossoms stay there, not producing fruit, being wasted.

Until I came along with a desire to stuff them with creamy ricotta and herbs.

If you are lucky enough to find squash blossoms at the market, I would cook them within 24 hours. Garden-grown is always best, of course, as I ate mine less than 10 hours after picking, which was ideal because some were still wide open and easy to fill. I leave a bit of stem – makes for easier handling – and be sure to clean them of any bugs and pull that little…”male thingy” out from inside. Picking in morning is best, as the flowers will be open.

You can find a much more professional recipe elsewhere, such as epicurious.

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Warm Tomato Sauce

Use 6-8 fresh squash blossoms, cleaned, stamen removed.

Filling:

Mix together 1/2 c. ricotta (I used fat-free ricotta from Trader Joe’s, but by all means go whole milk!), 1 egg yolk, 4-5 fresh sliced basil leaves, S&P to taste.

Using a spoon or your hands, push about 1 T filling into each flower. Careful! Gently twist the top closed.

Batter:

In a medium bowl, mix 1 c. AP flour with enough white wine to make it look like pancake batter. That is as technical as I get. I used a really sweet wine that I hated, and it turned out great. Probably close to 1 c. wine.

Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep pan until shimmering – probably close to 300 degrees but I didn’t check. Test and learn! I also didn’t have enough oil, so mine were shallow-fried and a little flat on one side. Oh well!

Dip each stuffed blossom in the batter and let excess drip off before dropping into hot oil.

20140727-145706-53826536.jpg

 

Make sure squash brown on all sides – it will only take a few minutes. Sprinkle with coarse salt when you remove them to a towel to drain and cool.

20140727-145707-53827289.jpg

Serve with warm tomato sauce, or, as I have been calling it, tomato oil.

In small saucepan, cook 1 large clove garlic in 2 T olive oil and a pinch of chili flakes. Add 1 large chopped garden tomato or equivalent. Cook over low until soupy – season to taste.

20140727-145706-53826931.jpg

I served mine with extra basil and Maldon sea salt sprinkled over. It was lovely. The crust was crunchy and the blossom and filling were so soft inside. It felt like biting into a Krispy Kreme donut. You can really taste the wine in the batter.

The garlicky tomato sauce is a perfect complement. See how that ricotta just oozes out…

20140727-145706-53826268.jpgEnjoy, friends! xoxo

 

Advertisements

Heirloom Tomatoes with Feta

I have an inkling that the more global and connected our lives get through technology and new communications platforms, the more valuable hyper-local experiences are becoming.

There’s nothing quite like the sensation of browsing your neighborhood farmers’ market on a Saturday, where you run into friends, colleagues and artisans who know you by name. And yes, I mean “neighborhood farmers’ market,” because it seems I’m discovering new markets every year – we have, what, five in my city?

On my recent visit to the Old Salem Cobblestone market, I picked up a bunch of colorful tomatoes that I wanted to eat immediately. They had those green striped “zebra” tomatoes, your classic red heirloom and a pretty yellow variety called Lillian, like my sister!

Once I picked out my basket-full, I hurried over to the goat cheese stand and almost had to fight a woman to get the last 5 ounces of feta goat cheese. But I won! And I don’t feel bad.

What came later was a delicious lunch for two that would also serve well as a summer appetizer – I’m calling it a twist on my typical tomato/basil/mozzarella salad.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Feta

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large tomatoes, or equivalent smaller
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 5 oz. feta
  • Sliced baguette
  • 1 garlic clove
  • EVOO
  • S&P to taste

Preheat broiler. Place enough bread slices for two people on baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until lightly toasted, then rub toasted sides with raw garlic. Place on platter.

Meanwhile, thickly slice your feta and tomatoes.

Place tomato and feta slices equally on bread, then scatter platter with basil leaves. Sprinkle with cracked pepper (you probably won’t need more salt if the feta is super salty). This was an excuse to use a beautiful new platter we got as a wedding gift.

Now, all you have to do is enjoy! The bread soaks up all the tomato juices and the feta adds a seasoning all its own. Eat with your hands.

So fresh, so simple, so yummy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Tabbouleh

One wedding-related detail I hadn’t anticipated is the stress of hosting out-of-town guests. Honestly, it has probably troubled me more than the big event – keeping the cat-hair level down, vacuuming the rugs every day, tidying the bathrooms, etc. And feeding all the extra mouths around.

To minimize my stress, I’ve been relying on easy one-off dishes that can be snacks or meals, depending on the person. That way, I can feed someone who just landed from a 5-hour flight, someone who just stopped by for a snack or someone who wants a light meal.

Salmon and lox are great; so is brie cheese with an assortment of crackers and jellies. I recently made tabbouleh salad for some house guests and it is the perfect, healthy and flavorful salad to make and just keep in the fridge – it only gets better with time!

I used to think tabbouleh was gross hippie food, but now I find it to be a wonderful cool, crunchy salad for spring and summer. Grant asks for it literally all the time.

Adapted from Ina Garten (she uses way too much salt in this!)

Tabbouleh

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulghur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
  • 2 T chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Add the scallions, mint, parsley, basil, cucumber, tomatoes, salt and the pepper to taste; mix well. Serve or cover and refrigerate.

I sprinkle a little extra sea salt over the top to finish. Scrumptious. This is definitely my new potluck go-to dish.

This will be last blog post before my wedding, and in case you miss me, here’s a picture from my bachelorette party/wine tour (which was perfect for me because it included a wine-branch wreath-making party!). I don’t know where my friend Caitlin found these Mickey Mouse ears, but I wore them with pride.

See you soon, friends! xoxo

Deviled Eggs with Anchovies and Basil

It seems like Easter was decades ago, but if I don’t see another deviled egg for another 4 decades, it will be too soon. I kid! Love these little monsters, ever since I was a wee one. And I’ve been wanting to try these decidedly adult deviled eggs since I read about them in Cook’s Illustrated. I love basil and I love anchovies, so why not bring them together in a creamy filling for a tender egg white?

Admittedly, I added roughly half as many anchovies as the recipe called for – 8 whole fillets just scared me, even though I love the fishy bodies, bones and all. But what I put in was perfect – it added a salty background, but wasn’t the main flavor, which I appreciated. The basil added a nice brightness that you normally don’t get from this popular pot luck food.

Deviled Eggs with Anchovies and Basil (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 7 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp whole-grain mustard
  • 3 T mayo
  • 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire saurce
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
  • 4 tsp minced basil leaves

Place eggs in medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand 15 minutes. Transfer eggs to ice bath to cool for 5 minutes.

When eggs are cool enough to handle, peel away shell and slice in half.

Remove yolks to a small bowl. Add mustard, mayo, vinegar, Worcestershire, anchovies, 2 tsp minced basil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix so there are no yellow lumps left. Fill pastry bag or Ziplock bag with yolk mixture, snipping the end to pipe the yolk mixture into the empty egg whites, mounding the filling 1/2 inch above the surface.

Sprinkle eggs with remaining basil. I also like to add a dash of paprika for color and heat.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Green Goddess Dressing with Basil

Green goddess dressing combines every delicious dressing flavor into one creamy sauce. I made this last month for my birthday party – served with a bunch of fresh vegetables for dipping. However, it really should be treated like a salad dressing, not a dip – served over hearty greens such as spinach, romaine or bibb lettuce.

It’s like a caesar dressing with the addition of basil – amazing. Scallions, anchovies, lemon garlic – your guests will at first be concerned for the state of their breath, but then forget all that once they taste it. I had numerous people ask, “What is IN that?”

Once basil is in season again, I will definitely keep this as a refrigerator staple for my summer salads, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

Here, I just drizzled it over veggies.

Green Goddess Dressing with Basil

Ingredients (makes roughly 2 cups):

  • 1 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (6 to 7 scallions)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or equivalent anchovy fillets
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
Add everything except the sour cream to a blender and process until smooth. Add sour cream and blend completely.
Serve with your favorite veggies or drizzle over salad – you will not believe how robust the flavors are. And don’t worry about the anchovies, they are hidden among the other ingredients so as to not overpower.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spinach and Lemon Spaghetti Frittata

It must be my obsession of pasta that makes me attracted to dishes like this. Dishes that use pasta in random, unexpected ways. Although I had never made one until now, I love the idea of a pasta pie or pasta frittatas – dishes that I’m sure came out of the necessity of using leftover cooked spaghetti.

While the idea of baking pasta into a frittata seems low-country, it turns out surprisingly tasty and elegant. In fact, I like the texture of this better than an all-egg frittata – it seems somehow lighter (fewer eggs used?). The pasta gets nice and toasted on the bottom, almost acting like a crust for the filling.

Finally, the flavors are superb. Fresh baby spinach, feta cheese, lemon and basil – the yellows and greens create a spring/summer-like sensation that is full of sunshine.

Adapted from In Sock Monkey Slippers.

Spinach and Lemon Spaghetti Frittata with Feta and Basil

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 c. cooked spaghetti or capellini, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 T fresh basil, cut into strips

Preheat oven to 400.

Whisk together eggs, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large oven-safe nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low and add spaghetti. Add spinach on top of pasta, in even layer. Pour egg mixture over the spinach and spaghetti and tilt pan so eggs are evenly distributed. Simmer 3-5 min, until eggs begin to firm up around the edges. Sprinkle feta evenly across the top.

Place skillet in oven and bake for 8-10 min, until center is set.

Allow to cool 5 minutes, then slide a spatula around edges and under, to move the frittata onto a cutting board or serving platter.

Mine stayed together just fine. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, pepper and fresh basil. Cut into wedges.

Can you see the little pieces of pasta peeking out from the bottom?

I love how golden and slightly crunchy the “crust” became. Just wonderful – the spinach adds body, and that feta becomes creamy and lemony all on its own – wonderful additions to eggs.
This would be a wonderful Sunday brunch entree.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

Ever since I cleaned out  my fridge for Thanksgiving, I’ve been obsessive about keeping it neat and orderly. Same with the freezer – I’m committed to using all my leftovers and lost frozen-foods before they go bad. We all waste so much, the least I can do is try…

So that’s why I took a leftover disk of pate sucree out of the freezer to thaw recently. I had made the pate sucree for my pear frangipane tart, so the crust was a bit sweet, but it turned out perfectly with the lemony goat cheese and caramelized onions in my savory tart.

I looked at a few recipes before starting, using lots of cues from Ina Garten (if you have to make your own crust, check out her recipe). Here’s how I did it…

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 recipe tart crust (most make enough for 2 crusts – you’ll only need one here)
  • 8 oz. your favorite goat cheese (plain or herbed)
  • 2 T basil, chopped (or any herbs you have on hand)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk or cream
  • S&P
  • EVOO
  • 1 onion, any color, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough out to fit your tart pan and pat into place. Place buttered foil on dough surface and fill with pie weights. Bake 10 minutes, then remove weights and prick dough all over with fork. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool a bit.

Meanwhile, saute onion with a drizzle of EVOO and S&P until browned at the edges. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar, if you have it, and mix to combine. When caramelized to your taste, spoon onion into bottom of tart shell.

In food processor, mix goat cheese, milk, eggs, herbs, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Pour mixture over onions in tart shell.

Bake 25-30 min, until custard is set. Cool another 10 minutes, while you make a simple salad of winter greens and more balsamic vinegar.

Slice and serve!

Yummy. This is not only a delicious vegetarian dinner entree, but we enjoyed it for breakfast, too. The crust is so buttery and perfect, even if its first purpose was to hold a decadent confection.

Here’s to tarts made with “real” crust! Enjoy, friends xoxo

Homemade Ricotta with Herbs

I made my own ricotta! Another item added to my “I never thought I’d make my own…” list. I don’t know if Ina Garten just used a shortcut, or if this is legit. But it is legitimately delicious.

All you do is boil a little milk with cream, a dash of salt, then stir in some white wine vinegar to curdle it all. Then you strain into cheesecloth and voila! Mix with your favorite herbs and swirl into pasta or plop on a piece of toast, just as I have.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Homemade Ricotta with Herbs

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. whole milk (one medium carton)
  • 2 c. heavy cream (one small carton)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

To continue with the recipe…

Mix the ricotta with your herbs; set aside.

Heat broiler and drizzle sourdough bread slides with EVOO and sprinkle with S&P. Broil on both sides until lightly browned, then rub one side with a garlic clove.

To serve, dollop 1 spoonful of ricotta cream on each piece of toast. Top with a little extra S&P, if needed.

The ricotta is so smooth and creamy – way more so than store-bought. Like a cool little cloud with flecks of herbs.

I served my herbed ricotta bruschetta as an appetizer for a dinner party and people went nuts over it. I’ve been asked to bring it to another holiday gathering this weekend.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Thai Basil Shrimp Risotto

More risotto! This recipe calls itself Thai, but if you don’t use Thai basil and instead use the sweet basil about to go to seed in your backyard, it’s just a nice shrimp risotto.

I roasted my shrimp because I still believe that gives them the best flavor, and then added them at the end to combine with the rice, fresh basil and lime juice. Now, the lime was an interesting addition. Gave it a different sort of acidity that I quite liked. The final product wasn’t as robust in flavor compared to my heavier, bacon-flavored risotto, but it was still nice and creamy, with the fresh bite of shrimp.

A fun way to use the last of the summer basil…

Thai Basil Shrimp Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 3/4 c. arborio rice
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 4-5 c. chicken stock, simmering
  • 12 basil leaves, sliced into strips
  • Juice of 1 lime

Heat oven to 400 and toss shrimp with few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, then place on baking sheet. Bake until cooked, 7-10 min. Set aside.

Put 1 T oil and butter in hot risotto pan and when hot, add garlic and onions, sauteeing 1 to 2 min. Add rice and stir 2 min. Add wine, deglaze pan and reduce heat to simmer until moisture is absorbed. Ladle in stock, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring almost constantly, until moisture is absorbed and rice just loses its grainy bite, roughly 20 min. Add shrimp, basil, 2 T butter and lime juice. Stir to combine.

Test for seasonings and serve.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Appetizers for Lunch

It has happened that one of my favorite ways to eat lunch is as an appetizer. Think about all the things you love about appetizers – artisan cheeses, Italian meats, fresh fruit, crackers and bread … why can’t those things be your lunch?

So my new brown-bag lunch of choice these days has been a wedge of good cheese, some good crackers and fresh fruit. It is great to nibble on if you typically eat at your desk …

Even on weekends, Grant and I are known to have heavy appetizers for our mid-day meal and it’s perfectly wonderful and filling.

On one recent trip to the mountains, I sliced up some of our farm tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, basil from our garden and toasted baguette. Seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, it was wonderful to make our own little crostini.

Next, I made a plate of soft Goat Lady Dairy cheese, prosciutto (with cracked pepper), grapes and a hard Parmesan-like cheese that I impulse-purchased at Whole Foods. It was fabulous!

Both were perfect with a crisp glass of wine or a cold beer. And they took moments to put together.

Enjoy your summer lunches, friends! xoxo