Tag Archives: basil

Sweet Summer Tomatoes

22 Jul

Oh the bounty of a summer garden! Yummy fresh tomatoes are bursting off the vine this time of year. Don’t have garden? Ramble through the local farmers market and snap up some delicious cherry tomatoes. They are fresh, sweet, and oh so versatile! Not sure what to do? Well keep reading.

Friends just came by and an impromptu summer patio party is underway. Need a quick appetizer? Take those cherry tomatoes, put a small dish of vodka spiked with horseradish beside them, and place a shaker of celery salt there too. Get the toothpicks and Voila! A fun light Bloody Mary appetizer is ready in an instant. Put a cherry tomato on the toothpick, dip it into the vodka, shake a little celery salt on it, and pop it into your mouth. The bite begins with a delicious pop of tomato, then the other flavors flow over your tongue. Yummers!

Want something a little more succulent? Put some olive oil into a pan and heat it up. Add the tomatoes to the hot pan and give it a shake of salt, pepper, and stir.

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Let those cook for a bit, and they will begin to get creamy!

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Be patient and let those cook a bit longer, stirring every so often. Now you can add a clove of garlic that is diced. You will be rewarded-but what is next?  Is this a base on which to jump off, or is this IT? If this is IT, scoop in on a lovely piece of chicken and enjoy. Want to go a different direction with this? Okay-lets go!

You can add this to sautéed summer squash.

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Or you can toss it on some squash that has been through the vegetable twirler and enjoy a light vegetarian main “pasta” dish. Play with herbs a bit before adding to pasta, perhaps adding some fresh summer basil and parsley. Red pepper flakes would also be a well paired addition.

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Ready for another option? Start with colored tomatoes and cook the same way.

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After these beauties get good and velvety, add some spinach, arugula, or fresh green of your choice. Let that cook together.

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Oooohhhh! We are on the train to delicious town! Add some chicken or vegetable stock, stir, and add some pasta.

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This will cook down to an amazing one pot dish. Want to add some shrimp too? Go ahead! This is your time to have fun and personalize this luscious summer meal into something your family will love. Oh, you are cooking for one? Keep cooking! You will be the envy of the office with these leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Let me know what you are doing with your summer tomatoes. Follow me on twitter @amykgarman

 

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Naughty-again!

25 Apr

Naughty.  Last Friday night my home cooked meal was off the chain naughty.  Seriously.  The thing is…it started out innocently enough.  It took a turn to the dark side during a water cooler moment chatting with a coworker.

I wanted to make wild mushroom ravioli for dinner.  I like flavor with an earthy profile (some chefs call it a “dirt” flavor) like mushrooms, truffles, and beets.  And I was seriously craving some earth.  Wild mushrooms would be the food that was going to scratch that itch.  What could be the harm in that?  Enter stage left..my coworker Al.

Foodies get all excited when talking food and recipes.  Al is no exception.  He, like me, is a quirky foodie.  I am an amateur, he, as a certified chef, is a professional one.  I told him what I was making and wanted to pick his brain about a good sauce.  A creamy parmesan sauce? I wondered outloud.  Oh no!  Al had something else in mind.

“A brown butter sauce!” he loudly exclaimed.  Yes, that will be perfect for your ravioli, he said.  Brown butter, drizzled over the ravioli, along with fresh basil chopped, and a bit of fresh parmesan romano cheese.  Yes, he proclaimed.  That is the finish for your ravioli.  At this point my mouth was watering and I was mentally preparing for a much longer run on Saturday morning to counteract my naughty Friday night dinner.  That was that.  I couldn’t wait to try it.

Later in the afternoon, Al wandered into my office.  Clearly, as an eccentric foodie, my dinner was still on his mind.  “You need some acid on that dish, and a balsamic reduction glaze would be just the thing”.  Again, foodies are so quirky.  A “food moment” such as Al’s  hits like a flash, and you just gotta run with it.  And I did.

Here is the story, in pictures, of my naughty dinner.

Step 1...start the butter.  But remember to stir.  Burned butter is no fun!

Step 1…start the butter. But remember to stir. Burned butter is no fun!

The butter is getting brown and foamy.  The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

The butter is getting brown and foamy. The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich!  I removed the milk fat  (the foam) making it clarified butter.

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich! I removed the milk fat (the foam) making it clarified butter.

 

Here it is.  My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness!   Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it?  Oh heck yes!

Here it is. My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness! Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes!

Be Flexible

1 Mar

I like options.  I like flexibility.  Especially with cooking.  I am a busy mom.  I can’t afford to fiddle fart around during the busy work/school week, and don’t want to get locked into one option.  I am going to cook one thing that will last more than one meal, and that can be used in a number of ways.

Brown some ground italian sausage.  Yum!

Brown some ground italian sausage. Yum!

That said, this is what I made on a busy week night.  I started by browning a pound of italian sausage.  Next, I added some freshly chopped peppers.  I happened to have fresh peppers that I quickly chopped, but listen…you don’t have to take the time to cut peppers yourself.  Nicely cut peppers and onions are available in the produce section of the grocers.  Don’t let the label “fajita mix” fool you.  Those peppers are not seasoned yet, so if you want to throw them into a pot of browned italian sausage, you go right ahead.

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

So after my sausage was brown, I drained most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon.  I tossed the peppers into the pot and stirred the mixture around.  That cooked for about 5 minutes, then I tossed in a can of diced tomatoes, parsley, basil, and some red pepper flakes.  I gave that a good stir.  Then I added a dash of salt and sugar.

 

Add these simple ingredients.

Add these simple ingredients.

But hey, did I mention I am busy just like you?  I don’t have time to sit in the kitchen and stir my sauce.  So into the oven it went.  I wanted it to simmer, and the oven is the perfect spot for that.  Side note.  Invest in a pot that can go from the stove top to the oven.  It will save you loads of time, and after all, time is money.

That sauce bubbled in the oven for about an hour.  Man oh man did the house smell great.  I pulled it out, removed the lid, gave it a good stir, and was pretty hungry for dinner.

Now what?  Did I mention that I like options?   Here is the beauty of this sauce.  It had protein and vegetables in it, so it was an “all in one” as far as that goes.  I did not need to make a separate vegetable.  We can go a couple of ways with this dish, depending on what is in the pantry.

We could:

1. Toss this with pasta-even throwing in a handful of spinach if available

2. Use as a pizza topping

3. Make pepper and sausage sandwiches

4. Load onto a baked potato

5. Make a quesadilla

How about that?  Love those options!  And the leftovers were divine.  Now that’s flexibility for you!

 

Quinn and I made open face sanwiches that night.  They were delicious.

Quinn and I made open face sandwiches that night. They were delicious.

Soup-Rich warm comfort food! Yum!

21 Sep
Home made tomato basil soup.  Easy and delicious!  And the leftovers were fabulous.

Home made tomato basil soup. Easy and delicious! And the leftovers were fabulous.

 

As the weather continues to turn from steamy days to the cool crisp air of fall, I am on my comfort food fast track.  Last week, home made tomato basil soup filled the bill.  And if I may be so bold,  it was creamy, rich, and quite delicious. (Ouch!  It hurts to pat myself on the back!)

Tomato basil soup is a snap to make with just a few things on hand.  I used canned tomatoes, but had fresh basil still going crazy in it’s sunny patio pot.  I began by sautéing onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil.  Next, in went some canned tomatoes to simmer for a bit. I use a variety of tomatoes depending on what is in the pantry.  (Whole tomatoes are just fine to use if you have a stick or immersion mixer to smooth it out). Salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar is also necessary.  I use both black pepper and red pepper flakes because I like a little heat in my soup, but you can be light handed with the pepper if that suits your personal preference.

Even if using fresh basil, tossing in about a tablespoon of dried basil while the soup is simmering adds a nice flavor touch, and certainly adds to the succulent aroma.  When the soup starts simmering, the amazing scents of tomatoes and basil begin wafting through the air.  Pathetic true confession: sometimes when I am cooking and it starts to smell good in the house, I will go outside for a sec, then step back inside and let those incredible aromas hit me all over again.

Fresh basil.  The taste is amazing and the aromas are truly mouth watering!

Fresh basil. The taste is amazing and the aromas are truly mouth watering!

There are so many reasons to love soup.  The house warms up with delicious lingering scents, and you can really customize it for your own taste and occasion.  Add a little of this and a little of that.  And soup is super budget friendly.  Soup is also easily paired with a well toasted or grilled sandwich…the crisp texture  of the sandwich is wonderful with the warm smooth soup.  Very pleasing to the palate. Make it on the weekend and use the leftovers for a quick week night supper.

Amy’s Tomato Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil

    Simple soup ingredients.

    Simple soup ingredients

  • 1/4 cup each of chopped onion and celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock (can use vegetable to make it vegetarian)
  • 2 32 oz. cans tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk (optional-and I use skim)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 T. ketchup
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 2-3 T chopped fresh basil
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Put olive oil in large stock pot.  Heat briefly and add onion and celery. Sautee until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.  Gently pour in stock and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring twice.  Add all tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar and dried basil.  Give this a good stir.  Turn heat to medium to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Use immersion or stick blender to smooth out the texture, being mindful of the hot liquid.  Taste for salt and pepper at this time and adjust for taste.  Add fresh basil  and let simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.  You can whisk in the milk at this time if you choose.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

This is a fun recipe to tinker with.  Feel free to make it more hispanic by adding cumin.  Make it a little more greek by adding oregano.  Go for it.  Have a blast!  Welcome fall into your family kitchen by adding this fabulous comfort food.  Try this soup, make it your own, and then shoot me a note to let me know what you did.  I can’t wait to hear about your foray into fall comfort food!

 

 

Pesto Passion

23 Aug

Ok..again my Leo comes out…even in my cooking. An August birthday makes me a Leo, and I must admit, I am a lover of the sun.   Summer sunshine means amazing herbs springing to life in my garden.  I love them all, but my favorite of the summer herbs has got to be basil.

I wash my hands before I pick the delicate leaves so I can allow the delicious scent to linger on my fingers for a few extra minutes.  After first admiring my herbs, I pick some basal,  close my eyes, bring my fingers close to my face and breathe deep.  Inhaling this fresh basil is simply a culinary delight.  It plays a starring role in many of my summer recipes.  Everyone has basil around in the summer, and there are a million ways to use it, from simple bruschetta to complicated sauces.  Summer bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil is as refreshing as a popsicle!   Mix diced fresh tomatoes with freshly cut basil and goat cheese.  Douse this with a bit of olive oil and vinegar.  Drop a spoonful on some crusty bread and voila!  Instant delish!

My favorite thing to make with basil is fresh pesto.  It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways.  Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish.  It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish.  I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner.  Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment.  I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto on most everything!  It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times.  Who wouldn’t love that?

Pesto is very forgiving too.  I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too!  It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty.  Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts  as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste.   I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great.  I have used both the parmesan cheese in the green can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference.  Use freshly grated parmesan if you can, but if you only have the green can on hand, go for it!  I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta.  If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil.  Go ahead!  Play with this recipe!  Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!  And don’t forget to freeze some rouse later.

 

 

Passionate for Pesto

30 Apr

Our winter was cold, snowy, and the weather was, well, dreary.  Spring has sprung, and it was a bit of a whimper, not a big bold leaping launch.  Rats.  I love spring, but our spring this year has limped in. Not with tulips and daffodils, but with gray skies and cold rain.  I am not complaining, mind you, just missing the beauty and newness of spring this year.  But darn glad that it is finally here.

With gray skies above, imagine my excitement when I zipped down to the back yard for something and realized that my parsley was absolutely bursting out of the garden!  I instantly forgot my purpose for having gone to the back yard and leaned over my garden.  I blinked and blinked again.  Yes!  Not only was the parsley happily standing up to greet me, but so was the mint, the rosemary, and rocket arugula!  Yum!  I could not resist bending over, pinching off some leaves even though there was no imminent culinary purpose, and putting the herbs up to me face.  I breathed in, my head went back, and it was a moanable moment.

I try to have pots of herbs growing in my kitchen all year long (once in a while one of my foodie friends may sneak one out of my kitchen, so I have to keep more than one plant around!). My favorite thing to make with herbs is fresh pesto. It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways.  Flexible foods are my favorite, and pesto is super flexible.  How flexible?

Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish. It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish. I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner. Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment. I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto in or on most everything! It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times. Who wouldn’t love that?

Pesto is very forgiving too. I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too! It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty. Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup parsley leaves

1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste. I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great. I have used both the parmesan cheese in the green can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference. Use it if you can, but if you only have the green can on hand, go for it! I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta. If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil. Go ahead! Play with this recipe! Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!  And don’t forget to make a big batch and freeze some for another night when time is short.

 

Grab the Cans!

5 Apr

Short on time? A nutritious dinner can be made quickly with a little creativity and by opening a couple of cans. Keep some good staples in the pantry as well as the freezer, and dinner can be a snap. Grab the can opener and let’s go!

Here is a super easy pasta sauce. Put the sauce together, get a big pot of water boiling, microwave some frozen broccoli, grab some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some crusty bread. Dinner is ready. Here is the sauce recipe:

Amy’s Clam Sauce

3 cans minced clams, 2 cans drained
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 8-12 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1-2 T. basil
1 T. parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Also, 1 lb. fettucine, 1 large bag frozen broccoli, 1 loaf crusty french bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar. This easily serves my family of 4.

Mix together all sauce ingredients except clams (include the clam juice from 1 can of clams, drain the others) in large sauce pan over medium heat. Turn heat to a low simmer after sauce begins to boil. Stir occasionally. While sauce is simmering, boil large pot of water for the pasta. Cook pasta. Slice bread. When pasta is nearly done, add clams to pasta sauce to heat through and microwave broccoli.

Voila! Dinner is served! I serve crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip the bread into, and sometimes sprinkle a little cheese onto broccoli while it’s hot. This is a quick and easy dinner. Try it! Let me know what you think! Bon appetite!