Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Recipes: Basil

Summer is drawing to a close, and that means that our herbs either need to be used up, dried or frozen for the fall and winter. You can even attempt to keep your plants growing inside. If you are looking to use up some of your thriving basil plant, we've put together a collection of great recipes. We've also included links to some tantalizing recipes out there in blogland. 

To begin, I couldn't help but to include one of my favorite articles on Old Fashioned Living. Brenda wrote this article several years ago and it's always popular, and I have to agree. Enjoy!

Basil: Everyone's Favorite Herb
by Brenda Hyde

If a person loves herbs, they love basil. It seems to be everyone's favorite herb and the recipes are endless that take advantage of this fresh and spicy leaf. I personally think if you can only grow two plants it should be a pot of tomatoes and a pot of basil. With these two plants and a few basic pantry items you can treat yourself to gourmet faire!

Growing Basil

Basil is an annual, and is easily grown from seed. There are over two dozen types of basil including lettuce-leaf which has large leaves, cinnamon basil and the purple leaved varieties. Basil is not frost tolerant at all, so be sure to plant after the soil has warmed completely. Though it needs full sun, it does need more moisture than some herbs, so be sure to keep it watered; especially in pots. You can bring basil inside as a window herb if you plant the seeds in the late summer in pots and bring inside to set in a bright and sunny window. Every year I grow my basil in a porch box outside my kitchen door. There is nothing better than walking out the door and snipping basil for a dish I'm cooking.

Using and Preserving Basil

Be sure to pinch the tops of your basil plants, and don't let them flower. This will basically stop it's growth. If it has started to flower pinch those off immediately. When you harvest the basil, cut off the stems, and then strip the leaves for your recipe. Be fairly gentle with them, and harvest JUST before you start your recipe. Some herb growers insist on the sweet basil for pesto, but experiment and use whichever variety you have growing.

Basil can be frozen, dried, or preserved in oil. It's delicious however you choose to preserve it. Basil is also available year round in most produce sections. Add leaves to salad or sandwiches with your lettuce, saute at the last minute with almost any vegetable and add to soups. It is also wonderful in herbal vinegars mixed with oregano and thyme.

Basil combines well with thyme, parsley, chives, garlic and oregano. Try it in pea or bean soups and or with vegetables such as eggplant. Basil is easily air dried by hanging small bundles or you can chop and add to water to create basil ice cubes! These can then be stored in resealable bags and added directly to your soups.

Whether you have room for a small plot of assorted basils or one pot, it's an herb worth growing! The following recipes will help you become familiar with using basil. 

Basil and Bread Salad

12 ounces day-old Italian or French bread
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 pound mozzarella cheese, diced 1/2-inch
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup basil leaves, cut into slivers
12 romaine lettuce leaves

Cut bread into rough 3/4-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over bread and toss to mix well. Add tomatoes, pepper, mozzarella cheese, garlic and basil. Mix gently. Arrange romaine leaves on a serving platter and spoon salad over leaves.

Basil Mayonnaise

This wonderful mayonnaise can be used for burgers, sandwiches, or to coat chicken before roasting.

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Blend in food processor or blender until smooth.

Basil and Tomato Bruschetta

12 pieces crusty Italian Bread, 1 inch thick
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
24-36 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
12 garlic cloves, peeled, and cut in half lengthwise
salt and pepper

Toast bread over a grill or a very hot oven of 425 degrees. Brown on both sides. Remove and brush with oil. In a bowl combine tomatoes, oregano and basil. Place cloves in separate bowl. Serve bread warm and rub clove on bread, top with mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I also sprinkle and with parmesan cheese and put under the broiler for just a minute to heat top.

Basil Puree

4 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups washed and dried basil leaves

Blend until pureed. Transfer to clean jar. Store in refrigerator. Each time you use it stir and then top with a thin layer of oil. It will keep one year by doing this. This is good on grilled chicken or fish, stirred into soups or mixed with sun dried tomatoes and broiled on bread.

Walnut and Basil Paste

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons red wine or herb vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place the basil in the work bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, drop in the garlic and process until basil and garlic are finely chopped about 15 seconds. Add the nuts, cheese, vinegar and oil. Process to make a rough paste, about 20 seconds. Smear evenly onto poultry, fish or vegetables just before grilling. Makes enough for about 2 pounds of poultry or fish.

Basil Butter

1 stick butter, softened
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil

Cream butter, beat in garlic and lemon juice. Mash in basil; season with salt and pepper. Place bowl in refrigerator to firm butter. For a nice, simple appetizer use room temperature butter on grilled pieces of baguette or French bread.

Lemon Basil Pork

1 12-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
4 boneless pork chops 

Mix the first four ingredients. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade for basting. Pour the remainder of the marinade over the pork and refrigerate them for 1-2 hours, turning once in the process. Grill them for approximately 20 minutes. Turn the meat often, brushing a small amount of the reserved marinade on each time. You can also cut the pork into cubes and make kabobs, alternating onion and green pepper on the sticks.

Pasta With Fresh Basil

12 ounces penne or other larger pasta
1 cup fresh cooked peas or frozen peas, thawed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 pound lean prosciutto or leftover smoked ham, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons capers, optional
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated peel of 1 lemon

Cook pasta according to directions; rinse under cold water and drain. In a bowl, combine the pasta with the peas, green onions, prosciutto, basil, olive oil, vinegar, capers, pepper, salt, and lemon peel. Toss until well-combined. Adjust seasonings to taste. Refrigerate until serving. Notes: This is such an easy salad and you can substitute fresh green beans that have been cooked until just tender or asparagus. Fresh is much better if possible. Also you can substitute red onion for the green.

Baked Zucchini and Basil

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs zucchini (about 5 small), thinly sliced lengthwise
3 large Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 large sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a little olive oil. Layer in half the vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining vegetables and basil and season again with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining oil on top. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover, add the cheese if desired, and bake 10 minutes longer. Let stand at 15- 20 minutes before serving. Notes: I think this is much better using a glass or other non-metal pan.

Basil Chicken Salad

1 cup leftover grilled Chicken Breast, diced
1 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup Red Grapes, halved
1/2 cup mayonnaise, light or regular
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients and chill thoroughly. Recipe makes 4 servings.

Easy Pesto Pizza

One premade pizza crust
2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
4 cloves of fresh garlic, thinly sliced
olive oil 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

Lay whole basil leaves over the surface of the crust, covering the entire pizza. Place the thinly sliced garlic on top of the basil leaves, spacing a couple of inches. Drizzle the olive oil over the entire pizza. Salt and pepper to season. Sprinkle the pizza with the Parmesan, then with the mozzarella. Place into a preheated 425 degree oven. Bake just until it's bubbly and slightly browned. Watch carefully. Serve warm.

Roasted Garlic and Basil Salsa

4 ripe tomatoes, cut into sections
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon honey
2 sweet green peppers
2 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 of a sweet onion, chopped

Preheat the broiler or grill, Place the halved peppers and tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil until they blacken. You can do the same thing by placing them on a grill. Place the unpeeled garlic in a foil pouch (doubled) and drizzle with the olive oil. Either bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or cook on the grill, turning the foil pouch as it cooks. Meanwhile remove the peppers from the oven and place them in a bowl and cover with plastic or place them in a Ziploc bag and seal. Allow to cool to room temperature. Peel skin off of blackened vegetables and discard. Dice into one inch pieces. Once your garlic is cooked, slit the ends of the cloves, and smush out the garlic into the bowl with the peppers. Add the remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salsa may set out for a couple hours at room temperature to join the flavors, or you can refrigerate for 2-3 days.

Basil and Gorgonzola Salsa

2 cups tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup grated gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or regular)

Combine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until needed. You can substitute another type of blue veined cheese.

Pasta and Basil Salad

3/4 cup uncooked spiral pasta or small shells
4 medium tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup thin slices of seeded cucumber
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled

Cook pasta according to instructions until just tender. Rinse under cold water. Drain well. Place the pasta in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, green onions, cucumber and corn. Combine basil, yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice and garlic in processor or blender until basil is finely chopped. Mix dressing with the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve or cover and refrigerate.

Below you will find some wonderful recipes where basil is the main event. To get the recipe, click the link at the end of each one.

Rotini with Walnut Pesto and Cream

2 cups fresh basil leaves, stems removed, washed and patted dry
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup walnuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 pound rotini or other short pasta

To get the instructions click here

Eggplant & White Wine Polenta Stacks with Fresh Basil Sauce

step by step photos and detailed instructions!

To get the instructions click here

Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

1 pound of farfalle pasta (I use bowtie)
4 plum tomatoes, diced (I only used 3 for these pictures)
8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 t salt
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

To get the instructions click here

Basil Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream

To get the instructions click here

Cucumber Basil Sandwiches

whole wheat bread

To get the instructions click here

Tomato, Basil, Feta and Garlic Pizza

Cooking spray
Corn meal
1 ball of pizza dough (I used store bought)
1 container of pizza sauce (Trader Joe's is really good)
1-2 cups of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup of feta cheese crumbles (I used reduced fat)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
6-7 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Roma tomatoes, sliced
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

To get the instructions click here

Basil Pesto

¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, softened
¼ cup pignoli nuts (also called pine nuts)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

To get the instructions click here

Lemony Peach Jam with Basil

5 cups of peeled sliced peaches
1/4 cup water
4 Cups sugar
juice and zest from 1 lemon
5 fresh basil sprigs

To get the instructions click here

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

Grill the following vegetables, I brush them with a little olive oil and balsamic:

Red pepper
Yellow Squash

Chop up tomatoes and fresh basil.

To get the instructions click here

Lemon Cakes with Lemon Basil Syrup

For cakes:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons, melted
3/4 cup matzo cake flour plus additional for dusting
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

For syrup:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (4- by 1-inch) strip fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
8 large fresh basil sprigs For whipped cream
1 cup chilled heavy cream

To get the instructions click here

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Collecting and Caring for Vintage Teacups

This article, written by Brenda, offers up some excellent advice on caring for vintage tea cups. 

by Brenda Hyde

I've been collecting teacups and teapots for at least 20 years now. I love them all, and look for bargains whenever I can, plus I splurge on new items now and then too. Today I have tips on the type of teacups you might find and a few on storage and care.

Porcelain or China?

When you see descriptions you find that porcelain and bone china is often mentioned. Porcelain is fired, then glazed, and fired again, which allows for a very refined dish. The designs are often very detailed and dainty. Bone china is made similar to porcelain, but finely ground bone ash is added to the clay. It's considered the strongest china and is very white. Fine china or fine ivory china is also very strong and similar to the bone china. Sometimes it will be strengthened with special treatments. Casual china is something other than bone or fine. It could be stoneware or earthenware, and you'll notice it's heavier, not as dainty.

Types of Teacups

There are many types of teacups available. The teacups we tend to use for the traditional afternoon tea are the footed cup and the flat teacup. The footed cup which usually has a saucer, can be used for coffee or tea. It has design where the cup is shaped at the bottom like a pedestal-- it will fit into the saucer, which should be indented.

Flat cups will also most likely have a matching saucer, but are flat on the bottom, instead of shaped. These can also be used for coffee or tea as well.

Often you'll see Demitasse cups and saucers, which are lovely, but traditionally are used for expresso or Turkish coffee. They are much smaller, and work well for childrens' tea parties. Tea and coffee mugs come in all shapes and sizes, and are especially nice for breakfast tea. They are informal and I love looking for whimsical designs to add to my collection.

Teacup Care

Never stack your cups more than two high, and if you have room, it's better not to stack. Place soft cloth between the cups if you do store them where they will be touching.

China shouldn't be washed in the dishwasher, especially if it's vintage. Newer designs will often say they are dishwasher safe, but if you plan on keeping them in the family and handing them down later, it's best to handwash with a gentle dishsoap and dry with a soft towel.

If you display your tea pieces be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight, and gently wash them twice a year or so. Better yet, it's nice to rotate the ones you use!

A note on metalllic trim, which is found on some teacups. These should never be placed in the microwave. If the trim tarnishes you can use a silver cleaner on it, but VERY gently.

One more note on collecting: Expensive tea sets are beautiful, but be sure if you spend the money to own a nice set that you use it. It doesn't truly become special until you have memories to go along with it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reader's Questions: Onions, Goutweed & Tomatoes

Fairest of the months! Ripe summer's queen, the hey-day of the year with robes that gleam with sunny sheen. Sweet August doth appear. ~R. Combe Miller

I hope everyone is having a great week. We were without power for a couple of days while it was hot and VERY humid. My tomatoes and cucumbers were happy with the heat and the rain though! I have some more questions and answers today. Stay cool:)

I was told by a neighbor to take the ground away from my onions so that the onion is exposed to the sun. I tend to put ground around my onions to be sure the sun does not hit the onions. What is the correct method? ~Debbie

When it comes to garden methods it's often hard to say who is right and who is wrong. What I do know is that the bulb should be in soil that is loose enough to let it grow as it needs to. You shouldn't pile extra soil on top of the bulb, but I haven't read that you remove it either. I find it's better to start with good, fertile, loose soil, then let the onion "move" the dirt as it grows. Remember though, if you try something and it works for you, then keep doing it!

I have recently moved and have a question about what is growing in my flower beds. My friend calls it gout weed and says it is impossible to get rid of. Is this true? I was wondering if there is possibly a way to get rid of it and what is its original name? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. ~Chrystal

Gout weed is also known as bishop's weed, ground elder and snow on the mountain and its botanical name, which is Aegopodium podagraria L. I personally found it to be invasive and not that attractive, but many people use it as a low maintenance ground cover. I see it for sale all the time at nurseries. It spreads by rhizomes--stems under the soil. I was given some of it years ago by a relative and the next season pulled it all up. It wasn't that difficult to get rid of BUT it was a small patch and I watched for it, so when I saw it sprouting I pulled it up. Many of my neighbors grew it and it took over areas that weren't kept up. If you find it attractive and it's serving a purpose for you in your landscape, then leave it till next season and make a decision then. If you don't like it, then tear it out. I personally don't always listen to everyone that gives me advice. Sometimes I regret it, and other times I'm glad I followed my instinct. It's the fun of gardening!

I was wondering if - in your vast collection- you have a recipe for "Soufflé Tomatoes. Somehow, my recipes went missing and I would love to make them again. ~Lorraine

I'm not sure this is the type of recipe you meant, but I thought it was worth sharing!

Tomato Cheese Soufflé

6 large ripe tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chives
3 egg whites

Cut 1/2-inch from the top of each tomato scoop out seeds and core. Sprinkle the inside of shells with salt and pepper invert onto paper towels to drain. Heat butter in a small pan, over a medium to melt. Whisk in the flour until bubbly. Now gradually whisk in the milk. Heat while stirring, until the mixture is thickened. Stir in mustard, cheese, and chives. Mix well and continue to heat and stir until the cheese melts. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Gently fold in the egg whites. Spoon into the drained tomato shells set into a greased baking pan bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes, until tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Helpful tips on those pesky fruit flies:


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Frugal Fun for Kids

These ideas come from an article I wrote several years ago. You can see all of the ideas here, but I thought some of these would be fun for those days that are just too hot to play outside!

Juice Carton Crayon Box

Wash and dry an empty cardboard juice carton and cut off the top. Using bits and pieces of masking tape, have the children tape up the entire carton, covering all sides, the more tape the better. Use crayons to color the masking tape box. The tape makes the box sturdier and will make a great crayon holder for their desk or dresser.

Coffee Can Stilts

Using two 1-pound coffee cans, turn each can upside down so that the plastic lid is on the bottom. Using a screwdriver, poke two holes, one on each side of the can. Using several strands of yarn braided or twisted together, or some rope, thread through holes in cans. Tie off inside the can. Cans can be decorated if you like.

Alphabet Catalog Collage

Using old toy, clothing, and plant catalogs, have the kids cut out colorful pictures that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet. Assign different letters to each child. Have them glue the pictures onto a piece of construction paper. Discuss the pictures afterward.

Cartoon Strip

make your very own cartoon adventure with crayons and a pad of paper. At the bottom of a pad, on each sheet, draw a figure (i.e., a dog). The first frame will be on the first page, second frame on the second page, and so on. Change the movement with each page. When you are finished, fan the pages with your thumb to see the show!


Great for back to school or as a gift to someone you love. Make fun bookmarks with construction paper, markers, paints, and stickers. You can also use glitter, sequins, lace, doilies, buttons, and any other little bric-a-brac you have laying about. Cut strips from construction paper, painting the construction paper will make it sturdier, or you can visit the local library or office supply to have them laminated for longer lasting use. To complete the bookmark, attach a tassle make from strands of yarn.

See all 20 Fun Ideas That Won't Break The Bank

Monday, August 10, 2009

Your Summer Herb Harvest

It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all. ~James Thurber

This is the time of year when you realize that you waited a long time for a good herb harvest and then you find you don't have enough recipes to use them all! My lemon balm is out of control and I really need to harvest it this week. My basil is ready to harvest too. Today I have some recipes that you can easily substitute herbs in for what you have on hand.

Herb Honey

1 cup of honey
1/2 cup fresh herbs

Heat the honey gently over low heat--do not boil. A double boiler is good to use if you have one. Place the fresh herbs in a jar and pour the heated honey over them. Allow them to steep for about 10 days before using. You can use any of mints, lavender, rose petals, thyme, or any of the lemon herbs.

Herb Buttermilk Dressing

2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice or herb vinegar
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chives, snipped
1 teaspoon fresh minced basil
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced oregano or marjoram
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar or Splenda

Whisk the buttermilk, olive oil, lemon juice and mayonnaise in a small bowl until smooth. Blend in the other ingredients and place into a jar or container. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or longer. mixture is smooth and well blended.

Garlic Herb Blend

2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried leaf basil
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Blend all together and store in a glass container. Use to season as you would salt and pepper on vegetables and meats. You can also mix into butter to make a great garlic herb bread.

Herb Oil

1/4 cup fresh basil, very finely minced
1/4 cup fresh oregano, very finely minced
1/4 cup fresh thyme, very finely minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, very finely minced
2 cups good olive oil

Add the oil to a small saucepan, and add the minced herbs. Bring to a simmer slowly, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir a little bit longer. Steep the herbs while they cool for about an hour, then strain the oil. Refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving with crusty bread.

We have more herb and spice blends on OFL!