Tag Archives: fresh basil

Tasty Tidbits

18 Jul

Life is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago and can be somewhat confusing at times. News can saturate us with negativism, leadership is questionable at times, and we cannot move about out lives like we once could. Where is the joy in these times of “quarantine projects” and staying home? For me, even if it is just for my small quarantine crew, it is cooking

Not in the labor of it per se-although I don’t mind it most days. It is the coming together over food that lifts my spirit and feeds my soul. It is sitting at the table eating, chatting, laughing, sharing, listening, and ultimately, connecting.

These days, I tend toward more simple but savory dishes when I set my mind to cooking. Let’s look at two tantalizing tasty treats that are not time consuming. One is simply assembling, the other involves a bit of mixing and cooking.

First, lets go super easy.

For a quick refreshing summer appetizer with minimal ingredients and a few minutes of time, you will have a savory summer delicacy sure to please. This appetizer is in the category of “assemble and serve”. Get these simple ingredients together:

  • Cherry or grape tomateos
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite size pieces
  • Your favorite vinaigrette or balsamic reduction
  • toothpicks (the frilly fancy kind if you have ’em)

Take a toothpick, and thread a tomato, basil leaf, and piece of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, balsamic reduction, or whatever strikes your fancy. Lay them on a fun pretty little plate or dish. Next, pour a refreshing chilled cocktail and enjoy this fun delectable tidbit.

My favorite “assemble and serve” summer appetizer.

Want something a little more creamy? Got a little more time? Then we can go the dip route. A hot rich dip. Using basic pantry and fridge staples so no fuss. Don’t want to heat up the kitchen? Me either. That is why I grill my savory summer dip in my cast iron skillet. Let’s get some basics together and get started.

You will need:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
  • I can of diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
  • Salt and red pepper flakes

Just a couple of staples and an easy and savory dip is at your fingertips.

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge about 20 minutes before mixing this up. It needs to soften. Then a can opener, a knife, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula and a cutting board is all we need to get this going.

Squeeze the excess liquid from the artichokes and give them a rough chop.

Before mixing this up, go out and get your grill hot. Then give it a good cleaning with your wire brush. Back in the kitchen get your cast iron skillet out. Mix everything together in a bowl but only use half of the cheese. No need to drain the green chilis-just toss the whole can in and keep mixing. When it is all nice and smooth put your dip into your cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Put your dip into an 8 or 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Cover this with foil and take it out to the grill. Turn the heat to medium and place this on the grill. Close the lid and let it get to work.

Cover your dip with foil and put it on the grill.

After about 10 minutes covered remove the foil. This dip is well on its way to bubbly deliciousness! Let this hang out on the grill for another 15 minutes.

And just like that your dip is done. A nice brown crust along the edge and hot all the way through. Perfecto!

Get your chips out. This is ready! Put a trivet out, line up the chips, and get ready to dip into this…well… dip! It’ll be hot and it needs a few minutes to cool down a bit. On the plus side, your hot oven isn’t competing with your air-conditioning in summer mode. Enjoy this with some refreshing summer iced tea or perhaps an ice cold beer.

Grilled Summer Artichoke Dip

8 ounces cream cheese
1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
I can of diced green chilis
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
Salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper (to taste)

About 20 minutes before mixing your dip, take your cream cheese out of the fridge, unwrap it, and place it in a mixing bowl. It needs to soften a bit before assembling the dip. Drain artichoke can and squeeze out additional liquid from the hearts. Roughly chop and put into mixing bowl. Add the sour cream, dices green chilis (undrained) and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese. Mix to incorporate. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Now get the grill going. If using a gas grill, put on medium heat to preheat. Back inside, take out your cast iron skillet and put the dip into it. Spread to even the dip throughout. Add the rest of the parmesan cheese on top. Cover loosely with foil.

Now that the grill is preheated, turn of half of the grill. Place the dip on the heated side. Close lid for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until hot and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Bon appetite!

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!

 

Roasted Pasta Sauce

21 Sep
Roasted baby peppers!  yum!

Baby peppers! Perfect for roasting! Yum!

Tonight I made pasta for dinner. I roasted the sauce. Yes, that’s right. And it was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous!

Here we go. I had a taste for pasta Primavera. A Primavera sauce is a vegetable sauce usually associated with fresh, or seasonal, chunky cut vegetables. I wanted a light supper.  Nothing heavy and fatty. I needed bright, light, and colorful.   Something not only packed with flavor, but loaded with beneficial nutrients too.

And as you know, I love to use what i have on hand. That is my creativity springboard.  For some reason, that absolutely energizes me.  I started pulling vegetables out of the fridge and pantry.  For a special flavor twist, I decided to roast my sauce instead of cooking it on the stove top.  I cut up my veggies  and dumped them into a big mixing bowl.  Next I sprinkled them with pepper, both red and black, salt, herb de Provence, olive oil, and a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

A good starting point.  Chunky chopped vegetables!

A good starting point. Chunky chopped vegetables!

Next, I gave the mixture a good minute of stirring with a big wooden spoon.  Then I put it into a glass roasting pan that was about 2″ deep.  I sprinkled the vegetables with a little more salt and pepper, and tossed the pan into a preheated 375 degree oven.

In the meantime, Denis popped open a bottle of wine.  We sipped a glass of a yummy big bold red, and chatted with my son a bit.  The boys set the table.  I put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  We had fresh pasta that was in the freezer, and that cooks pretty quickly.

Into the oven it goes!

Into the oven it goes!

In 30 minutes, I pulled the veggies out of the oven.  They had cooked down, so there was a good bit of what my grandmother called “vegetable liquor” in the pan.  There was just enough liquid for a perfect sauce.  I poured it over the cooked pasta, and voila!  A super yummy light dinner was ready.  Onto the table it went with some crusty bread.  It was a colorful healthy vegetarian dinner.   I am sharing my recipe with you, but customize it using your own palate as a flavor compass.

Amy’s Pasta Primavera

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then start cutting…

1 large zucchini, cut into chunky quarters

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large container fresh bella mushrooms, sliced

1 large container button mushrooms, sliced

3 large or a dozen small bell peppers, deseeded and sliced

6 green onions, sliced in 1/2 inch intervals from the whites to the tip of the green

8 ounces arugula (2 big handfuls)

8 ounces baby spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

3-4 T. balsamic vinegar

2 T. Herb de Provence

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in large mixing bowl.  Add salt,  pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Herb de Provence and any seasoning to taste.

Pasta of choice-cooked (I used fresh ricotta penne)

Bread of choice

Toss this on the table for an incredibly mouthwatering meal loaded with flavor and packed with antioxidants and nutrients!  The great thing about this recipe is that it can be totally customized.

I am a moody garnisher.  Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the flow of my day and, as always, time allowed.  Sometimes my creative juices and energy match, other times I just need to get something, anything, on the table.  But with this beautiful bounty of vegetables, my creativity ran wild,  and I garnished with chunks of creamy mozzarella cheese, some shredded zippy parmesan cheese, and fresh from the garden basil with a chiffonade cut.  It was simply wonderful!

This is the dish headed to the table.  Pasta with roasted sauce.  Super Yum!

This is the dish headed to the table. Pasta with roasted sauce. Super Yum!