Saturday, August 15, 2009

Got Basil?

We are enjoying a bumper crop this summer. And if you don't have basil, may I suggest that you plant some next summer? It is easily grown by seed and is one of the most care-free plants in my garden. Pretty, too, especially if you intersperse purple leaf with the standard green leaf plants. If you don't have any garden space, basil is happily grown in a pot.

Basil is the defining taste of our summer, which means that we are enjoying it in some way or another on an almost daily basis. We've discovered that just about any summer sandwich tastes better with fresh basil on it. My favorite, below, is a rice cracker spread first with yogurt cheese, then with an olive tapenade, topped with a slice of tomato and basil. The basil stays put better if you hide it under the tomato but I made it stand out front for the picture.

Quotidian Basil

Below is our favorite-new-recipe and one that I've promised to pass on to several friends:

Basil Balsamic Chicken and Pasta

*the chicken needs to marinate for 1-2 hours ahead of time*

Marinade Ingredients:

3-4 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Process the garlic, basil, balsamic vinegar, and salt in the blender. Add olive oil and pulse a couple of times until just combined. Pour over 1 1/2-2 pounds of cut up chicken breasts chicken (about .8 Kilo). Marinate chicken for 1-2 hours, or longer, turning occasionally.

The Rest of the Ingredients:
1 lb (500 g) penne pasta
2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade-ed , if you're really a gourmet cook
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
About 1/4- 1/3 cup pine nuts

Cook and drain pasta. Place in a large serving bowl and toss with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Next, cook the chicken + marinade, simmering on a low burner until the chicken is cooked through.

In a large serving bowl place the pasta, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, tomatoes, cooked chicken mixture, and pine nuts. Toss to combine.

Serves six

Just as my basil plants really started producing, my dear friend at A Circle of Quiet posted this recipe:

Basil Simple Syrup
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups water

1 1/2 cups basil leaves, cut in half
Put sugar and water in a small saucepan; heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and add basil leaves, giving a quick stir.
Cover and set aside to cool for one hour.

Pour through sieve, bottle* and store in the refrigerator.

With basil in abundance, I steeped 2 cups of basil instead of 1 1/2. We add a couple tablespoons of syrup (don't forget to stir) and a twist of lemon to a tall glass of ice water. My kids love this since our house is a soda and juice free zone.

Another of our favorite and plentiful summer flavors is canteloupe. Using the Basil Syrup recipe above I came up with:

Basil Cantaloupe Sorbet

About 12 cups 1-inch pieces peeled, seeded, cantaloupe
1 cup basil syrup, chilled

Puree canteloupe in the food processor until smooth. As the canteloupe is processing, slowly add the basil syrup, processing until blended.

Freeze in an ice cream maker or simply pour into a covered dish (I prefer a larger, shallow dish), cover and freeze.

Some sorbet recipes recommend breaking up the frozen sorbet, processing it again, and freezing it a second time, but I find this sorbet smooth enough for our tastes after one freezing. Couldn't be easier. This is the most refreshing dessert we make in the summer time.

Bon Appetite!


Sarah said...

That basil balsamic syrup looks like it would be good on a number of things, thanks!

desert mom said...

No, no, don't put the balsamic in the syrup : )

Beth in Texas said...

Umm, yummmmmmm.

Dominion Family said...

Just a note to let you know that I am reading and loving your posts even if I haven't had any time to comment coherently.


MommaBean said...

Trade you rosemary for basil... I have huge bushes of the one and none of the other :(. Teehee.

kinzi said...

Thanks for this delight, Melissa. I linked you for my Ramadan wish post. :)

UmmFarouq said...

I love basil, and these recipes are jewels. Thank you. My all-time fave is fresh mozzarella/basil/heirloom tomato salad tossed with some olive oil and salt and pepper.

Cindy Marsch said...

You inspired me, Melissa! I had some great fresh spring rolls at a Thai restaurant several months ago and noted basil in them. Today for lunch I did my own version with what I had on hand: small pieces of chicken marinated in Thai marinade and sauteed; while that was in process, I put a thin spread of peanut butter on flour tortillas, then "glued" down two or three large basil leaves on one side; then I arranged the chicken on top of the basil, topped that with a mixture of grated carrot, onion, and ginger, and folded it all up neatly. The men thought it was pretty good for "girl food." :-)

desert mom said...

That sounds delicious, Cindy. I'm smiling at your "girl food" designation. My guys feel similarly about such foods--my husband is a mid-west-pot-roast-every-Sunday-guy but he's come a long way married as he is to a west-coast girl!