Tag Archives: Basil

Pizza Margherita

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The secret to a great Pizza Margherita is to use the best ingredients you can find—and to approach them with restraint. For this pizza, just because a little cheese is good doesn’t mean a lot will be better! The Pizza Margherita is is all about moderation. Start  with your all-time favorite pizza dough recipe making it a slightly wet dough The mositure of the dough baking on a hot pizza stone, produces a crisp yet chewy crust, the perfect canvas for bright homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and verdant basil leaves.

For a twist on the taste nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi paste was added to the fresh tomato sauce.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Dough:
One  1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce:
5-6 whole fresh Pomodorini tomatoes*
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 Tablespoons nduja paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:
4-6 Fresh basil leaves
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Special Equipment:
A pizza stone

Directions:
Make the dough: Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. Note: If mixture doesn’t appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.

Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in enough flour (1/4 to 1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl. The dough will be slightly wet.

Knead on a floured surface, lightly re-flouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball, put in a bowl, and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Make tomato sauce while dough rises: Pulse tomatoes  in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the nduja and stir until the nduja melts into the oil. Add tomato purée, basil, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 40 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seaonsing with salt and  set aside to cool.

Heat pizza stone while dough rises: At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, put stone on oven rack in lower third of electric oven (or on floor of gas oven) and preheat oven to 500°F.

Shape dough: Do not punch the dough down. Dust dough with flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out dough evenly with your fingers and stretch into a 14-inch round, re-flouring fingers if necessary.

Assemble pizza:Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border (there may be some sauce left over). Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.

Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone. Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is golden and bubbling in spots, 13 to 16 minutes. Using peel or baking sheet, transfer pizza to a cutting board. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some basil leaves before slicing.

Cook’s Notes:
Dough can be allowed to rise slowly in the refrigerator (instead of in a warm place) for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before shaping.

*If fresh Pormdorini tomatoes are not available in your local area, you can use any type of fresh tomatoes or you use one 14-ounce can of Pomodorini, San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes in their juices. Add the entire can of tomatoes with their juices and pulse tomatoes with juice in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Tomato sauce can be made 5 days ahead and chilled.

Nduja paste is available at your local Whole Foods Markets. If nduja is not available, finely chopped pepperoni can be substituted in the sauce.

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Refreshing Summer Drinks

Basil is a nice addition to plenty of easy cocktails: add a torn leaf or two to your gin and tonic, or tap a little into the bottom of a mojito. But these drinks are a change of pace from the classic and the ordinary that feature the fresh green flavor of this herb, and are just right for summer sipping.

Honey-Basil Lemonade

Honey-Basil Lemonade Recipe

 

This simple lemonade combines fresh basil with a touch of honey.

Makes 1 Quart, Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh juice from 10 to 12 lemons
1/2 cup honey
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
Pinch salt
3 cups cold water
1 quart ice
Basil leaves for garnish

Directions:
Combine lemon juice, honey, basil leaves, and salt in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Discard solids. Add cold water and whisk to combine. Add ice. Serve in ice-filled glasses garnished with basil leaves.

Cucumber and Basil Slush Cocktail

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(Photo Credit : Kelly Carámbula, Serious Eats, 2012)

As temperatures and humidity rise, having some frozen drinks in your arsenal becomes more and more essential. This one offers double-cooling action with loads of ice and a soothing cucumber in the mix, plus fresh lime and basil. Vodka’s an easy partner that won’t dominate the flavor—try Karlsson’s Gold, which has a slightly floral side and rich texture—but if you prefer another spirit, feel free to experiment.

Makes 2 cocktails

Ingredients:
1 kirby cucumber, sliced
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup basil leaves
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup water
3 1/2 cups ice
Garnish: cucumber slice

Directions:
Place all the ingredients in the blender. Using the ice crush setting, blend until all the ingredients are even and finely chopped, about 30 seconds.

Pour the slush into a glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice and a straw.

Italian Sausages with Bell Peppers and Polenta

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This dish  offers the classic Italian-American combination of sausage and peppers on a bed of polenta enriched with Parmesan cheese. By putting the emphasis on the peppers and onions, it makes an indulgent meal a healthy one, as well, with 34 grams of protein and just 31 grams of fat.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
½ cup polenta
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 mild pork sausages
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2-3 Italian frying peppers, sliced, seeds discarded
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2-3 springs fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn

Directions:
To cook the polenta,  add 4 cups of water to a 2-quart sauce pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and let the water return to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta thickens and absorbs most of the water, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
While the polenta cooks, prepare the sausage and peppers.

In a 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil until hot but not smoking. Add the sausages and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the pan.

In the same pan used to cook the sausage, warm 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, and rosemary, and continue cooking until the peppers start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup wine, if using and cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Stir in the tomato paste and 1½ cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until the liquid has thickened, about 5 minutes. Slice the sausages and add them to the pan, turning once or twice until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, transfer the polenta to serving bowls and top with the sausage and peppers. Garnish with torn fresh basil.

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Honeydew Melon, Lemon Basil and Lime Sorbet

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Photo Credit: Pamela Ellgen, 2013

Adapted from
Pamela Ellgen
Ediblephoenix.ediblecommunities.com
May 15, 2013

Ingredients:
1 whole Honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 cup lemon basil leaves
1/4 cup simple syrup
Juice of 1 lime
Very small pinch salt

Directions:
Pulse all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. Chill in refrigerator, then place into an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Store covered in the freezer until 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, then set on the counter to allow the sorbet to soften slightly.

Cook’s Notes:
If you do not have an ice cream maker, no problem! Simply pour the mixture onto a cookie sheet and freeze until set.  Remove the frozen mixture from the freezer and break it up using a wooden spoon. Place the frozen pieces in a food processor and blend until until smooth.  Repeat the process of freezing and blending  again for an ultra smooth consistency.

Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Salsa

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This easy grilled chicken has a hint of spice that perfectly complements fresh, bright watermelon salsa. Impress your guests at your next barbecue with this taste of summer.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 pound chicken thighs
1 pound chicken drumsticks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small watermelon, cut into chunks
1/4 bunch fresh mint
1/4 bunch fresh basil
1 lime
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Set a grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken thighs and drumsticks in a large bowl and coat with olive oil. Mix together chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper and salt and black pepper, to taste. Toss spice mix with chicken. Cook chicken over hottest part of the grill for 5-8 minutes each side or until grill marks form.

Lower heat and cook for an additional 10–12 minutes, or until an internal thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the flesh. For best results allow chicken to rest, loosely covered with foil, for at least 10 minutes.

While chicken cooks, dice the watermelon into smaller cubes and place in a large bowl. Tear the basil leaves, if large, chop the mint and juice the lime. Add the basil, mint and lime juice to  the watermelon. Toss in the feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve chicken with watermelon salsa.

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Catfish in a Basil Lemon Sauce

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Summer is here, more or less, with the flavors of basil and lemon. This catfish recipe is a twist on a classic Southern fish dish and is one of the easiest, quickest dinners you can prepare in a flash for family and friends.

Enjoy!

Serves 2

Ingredients
2 catfish fillets
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
Lemon wedges, for serving
Capers, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Pat the fish dry: Use a paper towel to pat the fish dry on both sides.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a shallow bowl, mix together cornmeal flour, salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Dredge  the fish in cornmeal mixture, pressing the cornmeal lightly into the fish to make is adhere.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, cast iron skillet over high heat just until the oil is shimmering. Lay the fillets in the skillet carefully, using long-handled tongs. Fry for about three minutes on each side, then remove from the skillet to two plates.

Turn the heat to medium and whisk the lemon juice into the remaining fat. Whisk in the cream and basil and let boil for about a minute or until just reduced. Drizzle over the fish and serve immediately.

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Hello, June!

Hello , June!

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Basil  (Ocimum basilicum), “king of herbs” also called great basil or Saint-Joseph’s-wort, is a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae (mints)and is this month’s featured ingredient.

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The name of this tender plant,  derives it’s name from Greek βασιλικόν φυτόν (basilikón phutón), meaning “royal/kingly plant” , and rightly so, given its prominence in Mediterranean and especially Italian cooking, as well as the cuisines of India and Southeast Asia. While it can be found in the markets year round, it’s especially well-suited to summery dishes, and even works as a lovely partner with summer fruits, such as peaches and watermelons. You can also substitute basil where you might find cilantro – a great thing for those with an aversion to the taste of cilantro.

So make sure you stop by you local farmer’s market for a fresh bunch of basil!

 

Stuffed Chicken Breast a la Caprese

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
Four 7-ounce chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried basil
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
¼ cup sun dried tomato strips in oil
4 mozzarella cheese slices
12 basil leaves, divided

For the Sauce:
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket about ¾ quarter of the way through on the thickest side of each breast, being careful not to cut all the way.

Season chicken with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Pour 1 teaspoon of sun dried tomato oil over each breast, rubbing some of the seasoning inside the pockets.

Fill each with 2 slices fresh tomato, 2 teaspoons sun dried tomato strips, one slice mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.

Seal with 3-4 toothpicks diagonally to keep the filling inside while cooking.

Heat 2 teaspoons of sun dried tomato oil (or olive oil) in a cast iron skillet or non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

While the chicken is cooking, mix together the garlic, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small mixing cup. Pour the mixture into the pan around the chicken; bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally, until the glaze has slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer pan to the preheated oven and continue to cook the chicken for a another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese has melted.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest 8-10 minutes. Remove the  toothpicks.

To serve, slice the chicken breast in half and place on the center of a dinner plate. Drizzle with pan juices and garnish with basil.

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Shrimp Pomodoro

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Spaghetti Squash alla Amatrciana

 

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Sugo all’amatriciana or Amatriciana Sauce, originathWUU97UI6.jpgting in a small town of Amatrice, located  in northern Lazio, a region of central Italy near the Adriatic Sea coast . The area is also known as the center of the food-agricultural area of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.

Sadly, the town was devastated by a powerful earthquake in August 2016.

1024px-amatrice_-_corsoView of Corso Umberto I in Amatrice before the 2016 earthquake.
Photo credit: Mario1952, August 2008.

This type of pasta sauce is known for its meaty contents. The traditional Amarticiana Sauce will typically include tomatoes combined with pork meat sautéed in olive oil, and seasonings and aromatics, which generally are minced onions, garlic if desired, a small amount of ground chile pepper, and a pinch of black pepper. The recipe when made in the manner of a true Amatrice sauce, is served with cured pork meat from the cheek of the pig, which is referred to as guanciale.

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Guanciale. Photo Credit: Food52.com

According to popular tradition, numerous cooks of the Popes down the centuries came from Amatrice. In the Amatrice style of cooking, this sauce goes particularly well as a topping for strand pasta such as spaghetti, bucatini, perciatelli, vermicelli or fresh ravioli.

In this version of the recipe, spaghetti squash offers a hearty twist with its noodle-like strands.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash*
Olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces guanciale (cured pork jowl)*
One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes*
1/2 cup tomato purée
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup  grated pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat the over to 450º F.

Half the squash lengthwise (See Cook’s Notes).

Dice tthe guanciale into 1/2-inch cubes.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash on top of the foil lined baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the cut surfaces of the squash and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the squash cut side done and roast the squash until tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven or sauce pan, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and spear in an even layer. Heat the pan to medium high heat. Fry the guanciale until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the guanciale to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Add the onion to the sauce pan and sauté, stirring until soft and slightly caramelized, 6 to 7 minutes.

Add the crushed red pepper and garlic to the pan with the onion and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Remove from the heat.

Using a fork, rake the roasted squash flesh to create spaghetti like strands and add the sauce in the pan. Stir in half pecorino cheese and half the guanciale into the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti squash Amatrciana between four serving bowls. Garnish with basil and the remaining pecorino cheese and serve with a good crusty bread.

Enjoy!

*Cook’s Notes: 
Spaghetti squash is a group of cultivars of Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo. It is actually a fruit that ranges from ivory to yellow/orange in color. The orange varieties have a higher carotene content. Its center contains many large seeds. Its flesh is bright yellow or orange.Starr_070730-7822_Cucurbita_pepo.jpg

Tip: When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash. The thickness of rawsquash2.jpg squash can make it vey difficult to cut into. It may be helpful to prick the squash all over with a fork and place it on microwaveable dish and warm the squash up in 30-second intervals to soften the squash before attempting to cut it in half. It may take up to 5-10 minutes to achieve the desired softness.

Spaghetti squash can vary in size as well. When cooked, the flesh falls away from the fruit in ribbons or strands like spaghetti. Taking this aspect into consideration a wider time range for roasting.

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from “guancia”, which is Italian for cheek. The pork cheeks are rubbed with salt, sugar, and spices, such as ground black pepper or red pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic, and cured for three weeks or until it loses approximately 30% of its original weight. A well prepared guanciale is full-flavored, balanced between being well-seasoned and sweet. It’s flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, and its texture is more delicate. Upon cooking, the fat typically melts away giving great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces it is used in. Usually found in specialty markets and italian grocers and deli shops, it is what gives the sauce its characteristic flavor. If guanicale is not available, you can used bacon or pancetta as a substitute. The flavor will not be the same, but it will give the essence of a good Amatriciana sauce, but you will have to adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

San Marzano tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) is a variety of plum tomatoes that 450px-TomateSanMarzano.jpg originated from the small town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount  Vesuvius.Legend has it that the first seed of this tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Viceroyalty of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area of San Marzano sul Sarno.

San Marzano tomatoes work well in this dish, mainly because  the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than Roma tomatoes. The most common brands of canned San Marzano tomatoes available in  local supermarkets and these include Cento, Nina, La Bella, Solania, Vantia, La Valle and Strianese.

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