Tag Archives: basil

Back-to-School Freezer Fillers 1: Basil Pesto

29 Aug

My darling son starts kindergarten this week. Yikes!

And I go back to the classroom to teach next week. Double Yikes!

Drying blanched basil

I look upon school food with deep suspicion; I haven’t spent the last five years nurturing a good and healthy eater only to surrender him to the deep fryer as well as the public education system. And for myself, I refuse to waste $10 a day or more eating lunch out when I can eat better for less in the comfort of my office, listening to Pandora and checking my emails. Continue reading


“Mom. Blog This. Right Now.” (Leandro Makes His First Pesto and Wants You To Know How Great It Was)

11 Aug

It is high season for basil, which means high season for pesto. I forgot to pick up basil from the farm this week, but one of the neighbors’ friends, in gratitude for Sangría Night, sent some over from the overabundance in her own garden.

From Lindsay’s Garden

Between that and my little plants scattered around the yard, I had enough for a quickie pesto for Leandro’s couscous.

From our garden – not the greatest shot, but the other ones showed all the perforations from unknown creatures feasting merrily on my herbs!

And then, BONUS! I had Leandro making his own dinner! He loves the smell of basil, but what he truly couldn’t resist was a go with the pestle. Nothing like offering a five-year-old a club and saying “Have at it, kid. Call me when you’ve beaten this stuff to a pulp.”

The Little Chef at work

He was tremendously excited at every turn, making me smell all the different aromas as we added ingredients to the mortar. We mixed it into couscous for lunch with the grands and wasn’t he so proud to have made The Best Pesto Ever? We were proud too and it really was delicious. I also used some of it to spread on roasted eggplant, peppers and zucchini. What a terrific lunch! And a wonderful kitchen experience!

Note the unorthodox use of walnuts (Poor Marcella Hazan; I use her The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking all the time, but never quite stick to the classical line). I can’t afford to keep pine nuts around so walnuts were a worthy and handy substitute. (Mind you, with the price of walnuts rising — around $18 now for a 3-lb bag at Costco these days, up from $15 not too many months ago — who knows how long I’ll be able to afford those!). Also, this recipe can certainly be increased; I only had a cup of basil.


With Couscous

Hand-Ground Pesto (Mortar and Pestle needed)

1 Cup basil leaves, tightly packed (washed in cold water and patted dry)

1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled

2 Tbs walnuts

 Coarse sea salt (pinch by pinch, to taste)

¼ Cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (additional Tbs romano cheese optional)

¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil

In a mortar and pestle (marble mortar with wooden pestle is what Marcella Hazan recommends; I use all marble) grind basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, and sea salt into a paste. Add cheese and use pestle to mix well. Add the oil in a thin stream, mixing well with a wooden spoon.

If using pasta, this amount will suffice for about a pound, Reserve some of the pasta cooking water to thin the pesto as you turn it into the pasta. If using couscous, start with two Cups dry (Israeli-style couscous – the big kind – preferred)

On stacked grilled veggies

Grilled Lemon Chicken – Bring on the Barbecue Season!

25 May

Bored with boring, boring chicken? So was I, until I remembered this quick marinade with the fresh flavors that Spring demands: lemon, basil and garlic. You basically toss it all together in a sealable plastic bag or tub in the morning, and by the time you get home from work it is ready for the grill. Add some grilled veggies, a salad, or some couscous and you could be eating really delicious food about 15 minutes after walking in the door.

Try it out this Memorial Day Weekend and you’ll be going back to it all summer long. Leftovers are great for next-day sandwiches or salad toppers. Thanks to Food To Live By by Myra Goodman (of Earthbound Farms) for the inspiration for this adaptation.

Grilled Lemon Basil Chicken

4 chicken breast halves (6-8 oz each), pounded thin

¼ fresh lemon juice

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil (if you have a seasoned oil, like basil oil or garlic oil, you can substitute up to half the plain olive oil with it)

1 heaping Tbs garlic, minced

2 heaping Tbs minced fresh basil (1 Tbs dried)

½ tsp salt

Several generous gratings fresh ground pepper

Place pounded chicken breasts in a quart-size resealable plastic bag

In a separate bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil(s), garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. Add to bag, seal and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.

Preheat barbecue grill to medium-high or heat up your grill pan and spray a bit of cooking oil (only if your pan tends to stick).

Remove chicken from bag and discard remaining marinade. Grill, turning twice, about 4- 6 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, until fully-cooked (there should be no pinkness in the center). Serve with a salad or couscous or pasta with pesto!

Heat Wave Solution: No-cook Pasta Sauce – with tiny tomatoes!

23 Jul

Oh this heat wave is tough. I’ve been cooking as little as possible, trying to limit turning on the stove and oven and trying not to eat food that is hot and heavy. Simple wrap sandwiches of veggie spears and hummus, apple slice dipped in hummus, cherry and Sungold tomatoes just popped into my mouth straight from the fridge.

This is a go-to no-cook pasta sauce that, yes, requires you to cook the pasta, but is fresh and cool going down. It’s done in an instant, and takes full advantage of the sweet little tomatoes and basil that are starting to hit their stride right about now. This sauce ends up with a silky sweetness that is almost buttery, but there is no dairy involved – unless you choose to add cheese…

Here’s wishing you a cool weekend!

Cool pasta for hot days

Raw tomato sauce for pasta

1 pound pasta (penne or other short pasta preferred)

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 pint cherry/grape or Sungold tomatoes, cut in half (the sweeter the better)

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup basil leaves, chopped

Salt to taste

(Grated cheese for serving, optional)

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain (reserving a few tablespoons of pasta water, just in case) and place in large serving bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients (including pasta water if the mix seems too dry). Serve with optional grated cheese.

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