Tag Archives: Basil

Summer Pasta with Onion, Bacon and Tomato

During this heat wave, a light dinner showcasing fresh ingredients is ideal.  This pasta with onion, bacon and tomato is simple enough to prepare while enjoying some Olympic events.

Ingredients:

1/2 sweet onion, diced

Extra virgin olive oil

2 slices slab bacon

1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes

Fresh ground pepper

6 to 8 ounces egg capellini

Fresh basil

Sauté the onion in several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until soft and translucent, about five minutes.  In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Slice the bacon into 1/4 inch strips, then halve each strip.  Add the bacon to the onion and sauté until lightly browned, about seven minutes.  Keep stirring the onion and bacon with a wooden spoon, and season with pepper to taste.  Stir in the tomatoes and sauté for several minutes until they “pop”.

Throw the pasta into the boiling water and stir.  The pasta is so delicate that it should only take about two minutes.  When al dente, remove the pasta with tongs and add to the onion, bacon and tomato mixture.  Also, add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan to help the sauce stick to the pasta.  Using a wooden spoon, coat the pasta with the sauce, and toss in some fresh basil.

Pasta!

Serve with grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.  Enjoy with a light red wine, such as a Grenache.

Eggplant and Tomato Tian

This Provençal dish is a bright accompaniment to a grilled steak or lamb chop.  The term “tian” refers to both the earthenware dish in which the vegetables are cooked and the gratin of vegetables and cheese itself.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant (preferably Sicilian), thinly sliced

2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced

Fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a round 9-inch ceramic tart pan.  Arrange the eggplant in a layer on the bottom of the dish, permitting the slices to overlap slightly.  Then add a layer of tomato and season with pepper.  Continue to layer in this fashion until you use all of the tomato and eggplant.  Top with another drizzle of olive oil, and bake covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes.  Uncover, add the cheese, and bake for another 30 minutes until the vegetables are browned and the eggplant is tender.  Top with fresh basil and sea salt before serving.

Tian

Corn Salsa and Crab Cakes

Corn salsa is a refreshing, and somewhat spicy, way to enjoy summer’s bounty of fresh corn.  I recommend pairing this salsa with crab cakes…

Ingredients for Corn Salsa:

2 ears of corn, preferably white, sweet corn

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4 slices jalapeno, chopped

1 large tomato, cut into small chunks

Chiffonade of 5 basil leaves

Juice of 1/2 lime

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Cut the corn from the cobs and place in a large bowl.  Add the scallions, jalapeno, tomato, basil and lime juice.  Mix together and taste before adding the desired amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Corn and Scallions

Ingredients for Crab Cakes:

16 ounce container lump or jumbo lump crab meat

1 egg

Zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

2/3 to 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

My recipe for crab cakes is very simple – no filler! In a large bowl, mix the crab and egg with a fork.  Then, mix in the lemon zest as well as sea salt and pepper to taste.  Add the bread crumbs last, using your hands to mix the ingredients and feel for the amount of bread crumbs necessary to bind the crab.  Shape the mixture into 4 cakes, and chill on a plate in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.  Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a nonstick pan.  When the butter begins to foam, add the crab cakes and sauté until golden brown on each side (about 8 minutes total).

Plate the crab cakes topped with the salsa; or, serve the salsa in a flat serving dish alongside other summer favorites, such as slices of nectarine and mozzarella.

Corn Salsa

Jersey Tomato Sauce with Shrimp and Fettuccine

Now is the time to savor Jersey tomatoes, from a tomato salad to a marinara sauce.  Last night I prepared fettuccine tossed with shrimp in a Jersey tomato sauce.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

3 medium tomatoes (I used 2 red and 1 yellow), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Chiffonade of fresh basil and parsley

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

6 to 8 ounces fettuccine

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan over medium heat until the garlic is pale gold.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the basil and parsley and stir with a wooden spoon.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmer.

Allow the sauce to simmer while bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil, add a pinch of salt and 6 to 8 ounces of pasta.  I used a combination of Antica Pasta’s peperoncino fettuccine and spinach fettuccine – one of my favorite new finds (flavored pasta that actually has a flavor!)  Add the shrimp to the sauce, cooking about two minutes per side or until they become opaque.  Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve.

Shrimp in Sauce

I was so eager to take the first bite, that I neglected to photograph a freshly plated dish!

Shrimp in Pasta

An Herb-Filled Day

From breakfast to dinner, make the most of your herb garden this Saturday or Sunday…

Breakfast: Add herbs to your scrambled eggs.  In a bowl, crack two eggs per person and whisk.  Stir in a generous splash of milk or cream and add as many roughly chopped herbs as you would enjoy.  Consider different varieties of basil, Christmas basil (with purple flowers) and sweet basil, for example, chives and hot and spicy oregano.  In a nonstick pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and scramble the egg mixture.

Eggs and Herbs

Lunch: Slice some colorful heirloom tomatoes and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze.  Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.  Then sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil and oregano.  Savor with some crusty bread.

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Dinner: Stuff a whole fish, such as sea bream, branzino or steelhead salmon, with a generous bunch of fresh herbs.  Lemon thyme, lemon verbena and rosemary are all good choices.  Grill the fish in a pocket of aluminum foil after drizzling with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon or lime.

Steelhead salmon

Grilled Eggplant and Ricotta Makes for a Simple Summer Appetizer

I recently wrote about a very simple way to prepare eggplant in my post, “Fresh from the Farm Stand”.  Most frequently during the summer, I grill eggplant as a side dish after marinating it in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.  (The small round Sicilian eggplants are my favorite!)

The steps are simple…First, slice the eggplant into rounds of about 1/6 to 1/4 inch thick.  Then, place a layer of slices in a large baking dish and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a healthy sprinkle of sea salt.  Repeat with additional layers until all slices are topped with both oil and salt.  The purpose of the salt it to extract the liquid that causes the eggplant’s bitterness.  Let the slices marinate for about one hour prior to grilling.  Grill the eggplant on medium-low heat, turning the slices with tongues so that they soften and brown.

As an alternative to a side dish, incorporate this eggplant preparation into an appetizer course.  Arrange several slices on a small plate alongside a dollop of ricotta cheese.  Drizzle the ricotta with extra virgin olive oil and top with fresh ground pepper and finishing salt.  Fresh herbs, such as basil, make for a colorful addition to this tasty starter.

Eggplant and Ricotta

Fresh from the Farm Stand

Enjoy some summer recipes in my July/August issue of The Judicial Palate.

Fresh from the Farm Stand

Farm Stand

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright © Delaware State Bar Association 2014.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

 

Save Those Squash Blossoms!

If you are fortunate enough to have squash blossoms in your own back yard, don’t let them go to waste! They are only available to enjoy for a few short weeks.  When I walk through the neighborhood and spot these beautiful flowers in a garden, I hope that the owner will use them at their peak and make fritters for dinner.  If you are not growing your own, see if a local farm or market will supply you with these summer delicacies.

The mild squash taste of the flowers makes for excellent fritters; however, if you are in the mood for a non-fried option, try the vibrant flowers in a salad.  A very simple one to showcase both taste and color is to slice a juicy, ripe tomato into wedges and add strips of squash blossoms.  Combine with fresh basil for some green, and top with a light dressing of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Of course, season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  This salad should prove to be one of your favorites this summer.

Squash Blossoms

Make the Most of Your Favorite Summer Herb with a Basil Pesto

During my Italian Lunch cooking class today, we made ricotta gnocchi with three sauces – marinara, pesto and butter sage.  While the marinara and butter sage sauces were quite delicious, the pesto made me appreciate the abundance of basil this time of year.  So, I share my recipe for basil pesto.

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Ingredients:

½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)

10 stalks of fresh basil

3 cloves of garlic

½ cup parmesan cheese

6 tablespoons of softened butter (yes, this recipe is a rich one!)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Remove the basil leaves from the stalks and place them in a food processor.  Add the pine nuts, garlic, cheese and butter and blend until it forms a paste.  Add the olive oil little by little as well as the salt and pepper to taste while blending the other ingredients.  Be sure to use a spatula to push down any ingredients stuck to the sides of the food processor in between your processing.  Toss the pesto with gnocchi or your favorite pasta – a little goes a long way!

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