Tag Archives: basil

Rustic Tomato Marinara

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First of all, I owe my family, friends and coworkers a big huge apology.  You see, I will not be giving away my excess homegrown tomatoes from my garden to them ever again.  It’s not that I don’t like to share or that I am a stingy person or that I like to hoard my garden produce.  It’s just that I need the tomatoes because I have learned how to make my own homemade Rustic Tomato Marinara Sauce from scratch. And in my opinion, this Rustic Tomato Marinara sauce is worth apologizing for.

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The key to this delicious sauce is freshly picked, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes.  This bucket full of lemon boy’s, early girls, green zebras, pineapples, mortgage lifters and a handful sweet millions was used in my Rustic Tomato Marinara.  What makes this sauce “rustic” is that I did not peel the tomatoes or seed them before tossing in the pot for cooking.  I say, so what, who cares?  A stick blender takes care of the tomato skins and as a result there’s very little waste and a fantastic tomato flavor.

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My Rustic Tomato Marinara is one of those recipes that works better by taste and feel rather than following the recipe exactly.  Why?  Every variety of tomato is different and some cook faster than others.  Also, you can add whatever blend of spices and herbs you like.  If you like it spicy, add some red pepper flakes.  It’s all about you and your taste. The next time you have an overabundance of tomatoes, make some Rustic Tomato Marinara.  Enjoy! Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon tomatoes (about 5 pounds, quartered)
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup wine (I used red table wine)
  • 1 cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • about 2 – 3 cups water
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 Tbs sugar (optional)

Grab a large pot and saute the onions in the olive oil until they turn translucent.  Meanwhile, wash and remove stem scars from tomatoes. Quarter the tomatoes, making sure that all the tomato chunks are somewhat uniform in size.  Add tomatoes, wine, water, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to the pot, Cook on low uncovered for 2 – 3 hours, stirring often.  Add garlic near the end of the cooking process.  Using an immersion or stick blender, blend sauce until smooth or desired consistency.  If the sauce is too watery or thin, cook the sauce longer to reduce or if it’s too thick, add more water.  Taste your sauce, add sugar if necessary.  The purpose of the sugar is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Correct your seasonings.  Remove from heat.  Use sauce immediately or cool and put into plastic containers to freeze for later use.  Makes about 2 – 2 1/2 quarts.

Angel Hair Pasta With Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

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Last week I paid close attention to the weather forecast and as a result I went out to my little garden and stripped all my tomato plants of any and all tomatoes that had color.  According to the weatherman on the television, summer was officially over.  After what I witnessed yesterday, I should have known better.  You know what I’m talking about…  For example, the meteorologist tells you in the morning that it is going to bright and sunny and by mid afternoon, you wished you had brought an umbrella.

Well, when it comes to the weather, sometimes I need to remind myself that Mother Nature can be very unpredictable.  After picking all those tomatoes, I ignored my garden thinking that it was over and done for the season.  Nope.  Not even remotely close… When I walked out to the garden yesterday, I was astonished at what I saw.  There were dozens of tomatoes ready to picked once again.  The first thing I thought was, great!, I will have fresh tomatoes for lunch and dinner!  The second thing I thought was oh, shii…take mushrooms, there are so many tomatoes left out on the vines and I have a lot of work to do!

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Do you see what I mean?  Most of the tomatoes will be made into a sauce, some will be roasted, and some will be frozen.  Some will be given away, and some will be eaten fresh.  You get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I’m happy to have them.  You will however, hear me complain this winter when I don’t have any fresh picked homegrown tomatoes to eat.

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These are Indigo Rose Tomatoes.  They are small in size, red in color and with a splash of dark purple.  These tomatoes are another favorite of mine.  They are great roasted, sliced fresh in salads and can even be stuffed with chicken or tuna for wonderful little bite sized appetizers or a light lunch.  They are also really pretty and different looking than your average red tomato.  A wonderful way to prepare Indigo Rose Tomatoes is to roast them and then toss them with some angel hair pasta, baby spinach, fresh basil, olive oil and fresh grated Romano cheese for light and flavorful dinner.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces dried angel hair pasta
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese (more if desired)
  • garnish with fresh basil

Cook angel hair pasta according to manufacturer’s direction, drain and set aside. If needed, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta to keep it from sticking.  Heat a saute pan over a medium high flame.  Add roasted tomatoes (with the juice), olive oil, baby spinach, basil, garlic paste, red pepper flakes and cook until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add the angel hair pasta and cook until heated through.  Add additional olive oil if desired.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place on serving platter, top with Romano cheese and garnish with fresh basil.   Makes 2 servings.

How to Oven Roast Tomatoes

This is a simple recipe that will yield some flavorful tomatoes for soups, stews and sauces.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half or into large chunks.  Gently squeeze out some of the seeds.  Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  I added some sprigs of basil and rosemary for some flavor.  Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a foil lined cookie sheet (for easy cleanup).  Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the size or variety of tomatoes.  Cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and get a bit of color or until your liking.  Remove from oven, let cool, remove basil and rosemary, place in plastic bags and toss in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Can be frozen for later use.  When freezing the tomatoes, measure the roasted tomatoes and juice in one cup portions and place in sandwich bags.  Lay the sandwich bags flat in your freezer in order to maximize your freezer space.

Note: if you don’t like the skins on the tomatoes, just pull the skins off after cooking.  They pop off pretty easily.

How to make a Basil Flavor Bomb…

My summer garden is officially done for the year.  Finished.  Toast.  See ya.  Bye.   All due to our very first fall frost of the season…  However, I would like to point out that I gathered all that was edible the night before the inevitable freezing temperatures hit.  I always pay close attention to the local weather forecast, my outdoor digital thermometer and the sky.  The frost lasted only about 15 minutes on Sunday morning but by then my basil plants were stripped, tomatoes were harvested and the last of the red bell peppers were gathered in my bucket.  The only things that the frost was able to take were the fruitless plants that remained.  Now those wilted plants safely reside in my compost bin to be used as a soil amendment for my brand new garden next spring.

I am always sad to see my summer garden leave for the year.  However, I look at it this way.  I have learned many horticultural lessons that I can apply in the following growing season.  Not to mention, I can begin planning my new garden canvas…  I make it a point to make every year in my teensy little garden better than the last.

I just love fresh picked sweet basil.  I use it in my kitchen all the time.  I like to grow basil in my garden rather than buy it at the store for I make sure that it is organic and pesticide free.  This year I almost grew too much.  Almost…

Basil is so amazingly fragrant and has such bright beautiful green leaves.  Basil is used in a variety of Italian dishes and many dishes in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.  The variety shown above is sweet basil.  I was so fortunate that my sweet basil plants grew like a weeds this year.  On the other hand, I had limited luck with my Thai and purple basil this year.  I’m not one to give up that easily, so I will try again next year.  Maybe by planting them in a different location or in a large pot.

Basil Flavor Bombs…  This is what to make when you have a boat load of fresh basil to deal with all at one time.  Basically, they are easy to make frozen basil cubes that you can add to soups, stews, or sauces throughout the winter season.  It saves money, tastes fabulous and is less wasteful.  I got this amazingly delicious recipe from Hannah at Rise and Shine.  Thank you Hannah!  Be sure to stop by her site, say hello and check out some other wonderful recipes for preserving herbs in oi!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • several or just a few cups of packed fresh picked basil (washed, dried, stems removed)
  • olive oil (as needed)
  • salt (to taste)

Add basil leaves to a food processor.  Pulse while adding olive oil.  Add oil until the basil turns to a thick paste.  Pulse until nearly pureed.  Scrap inside of food processor with a spatula.  Add salt, pulse lightly and spoon into ice cube trays. Cover with plastic wrap and toss into the freezer.  Once frozen, remove from ice cube trays and toss into a Ziploc plastic bag or tightly covered container.  Freeze again.  Each cube makes about a 2 tablespoon sized flavor bomb.  Keep frozen.

Note:  When using the frozen basil cubes be sure to add them near completion of your dish.  You want retain as much of the bright basil flavor as possible.

Stacked Caprese Salad

Stacked Caprese Salad

Here in Southern Oregon when the weather is hot outside, I try not to turn on my stove too much or even use my oven.  I don’t like living in a hot house nor do I like writing unnecessarily large checks to the power company.  During the warm summer months I like to cook our meals back out on the barbecue and serve fresh cool salads on the side.

This morning as I was checking out my garden, I noticed that I had quite the crop of heirloom tomatoes.  One of the first things that comes to mind when I have a bunch of tomatoes is making a simple Caprese salad.  I just love the flavor of fresh picked tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and herbaceous basil.  I like to drizzle the Caprese salad with olive oil and finish it with fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt.  It’s simply delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 8 heirloom tomatoes (about the same size as the bocconcini)
  • 4 – 5 balls of fresh mozzarella (bocconcini)
  • fresh basil
  • pepper
  • salt
  • olive oil for drizzling

Begin by slicing your tomatoes and the bocconcini.  Stack the tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and salt.  Garnish with additional basil and maybe a fresh edible nasturtium flower.  Serve.  Makes 8 little salads.

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto

Every year I plant several basil plants in my little garden.  I just love basil…  It’s fragrant, versatile and tastes so amazingly fresh.  I’m really happy because this has been a surprisingly good year for my basil.  The bugs have left most of the plants alone and the weather has been just perfect for the rest of the plants in the garden.   When I walked outside this morning, I noticed immediately that it was time to harvest some of those gorgeous green leaves.

Basil ready to be picked.  I don’t know what I like better…  The beautiful bright green leaves or the fresh herbaceous aroma.

Thyme.  One of my favorite herbs…  The tiny delicate leaves are packed with flavor.

Mammoth Dill.  This is the first time I have tried growing dill in my garden.  I just love the delicate little yellow flowers!

Basil blossoms.  I pinch the blossoms off to encourage additional growth on my basil plants.

The main ingredients for my Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto.

My Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto is easy to make, nut free and delightfully vegan.  I like to use my pesto on pasta, pizza and especially on a warm crusty baguette with fresh mozzarella and sliced heirloom tomatoes.  Makes about 1 cup.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves lightly packed
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (roasted and shelled)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice or to taste (to prevent browning of the pesto)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or more if necessary

Add all ingredients except olive oil to a food processor.  Pulse food processor while adding a steady stream of olive oil.  Scrap sides and pulse until well blended.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Use immediately or store (covered) in refrigerator up to 24 hours.  Makes about 1 cup.

Pepita Basil Pesto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepita Basil Pesto

I don’t know about you but I hate food allergies.  I love to cook and try new foods but I always have to ask the question “Are there any nuts in that?”  Unfortunately, I found out the hard way about ten years ago that I am allergic to tree nuts.  You can only imagine my reaction to the bad news. I thought to myself really?  You mean I got to carry around an EpiPen?  Seriously? Tree nuts?  For those who may not know exactly what tree nuts are they include nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias, brazil nuts, and the list goes on.  Fortunately, I can still eat peanuts (they don’t grow on trees, but, I still have to be careful!).  Anyone who has a food allergy or has a friend or family member who has one knows exactly what I am talking about.  You learn quickly that when you have a food allergy your scope of food choices just got severely limited.

Well, in the meantime, I ain’t dead yet and I have learned to adapt.  For the past several years I have worked on creating some of my favorite recipes using pepitas as a nut substitute.  Pepitas are little green pumpkin seeds that are similar to nuts in texture and crunch.  I love to use them in my pesto.  My Pepita Basil Pesto is a vibrant green basil pesto with olive oil, garlic, fresh shaved Parmesan cheese and crunchy little pepitas.  Use it as you would use any pesto. Put it on crostini, toss it in some pasta, or spread it on a sandwich.  Make this Pepita Basil Pesto and you will change your pesto making ways.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shelled unsalted pepitas
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Let’s begin by washing the fresh basil leaves, removing stems and flower buds. Lightly pack into 2 cups.  Add the olive oil, pepitas, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor. Blend until it is a thick paste, scraping sides of processor with a spatula.  Add basil leaves and parmesan cheese.  Blend until basil is well incorporated.  Keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.  Can be frozen.  Makes about one cup.

Mini Zucchini White Eggplant Panini

Every Thursday there is a farmer’s market about a mile away from where I work.  Yesterday I was able to sneak over and visit on my lunch hour.  I love stopping by because as the season changes there is something different every week.  Yesterday, while walking through the booths and pickup trucks heaped with fresh picked corn and baskets of zucchini in the back, I spied some gorgeous white eggplant.  I don’t why but I have never seen white eggplant before…

These eggplants were a gorgeous white color and according to the farmer that I purchased them from, they are the “crescent moon” variety.  I went ahead and bought three not knowing what I was going to make with them.  Within an hour of my purchase,  I knew what I was going to make.  I had some fresh picked zucchini and heirloom tomatoes from my own little pocket garden and all I had to do was stop by the bakery on the way home from work and snag a fresh baked baguette…

And voila!  Mini Zucchini White Eggplant Paninis.  There is no use jotting down a recipe as long as you can measure and grill.  The key to this dish is to find eggplant, bread, tomatoes and zucchini all of the same diameter.  Begin by slicing the vegetables into half inch slices.  The bread can be as thick or thin as you want it.  I brushed the bread, zucchini and eggplant with olive oil, sprinkled on some sea salt and grilled them.  I added fresh mozzarella cheese to the eggplant and let it melt.  I then assembled the mini paninis while adding a small slice of prosciutto and garnished with some fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes.

I served these paninis to my family with a side of fresh garden salad.  These mini paninis would be a great for lunch or dinner and depending on the size of your ingredients, or as a really cool appetizer to make for your next party.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients (for one Mini Zucchini White Eggplant Panini)

  • 2 slices fresh baguette
  • 1 slice zucchini
  • 1 slice white eggplant
  • 1 slice heirloom tomato
  • 1 ounce fresh mozzarella
  • 2 basil leaves
  • olive oil for brushing
  • small slice prosciutto
  • pinch sea salt
  • basil and cherry tomatoes for garnish

Zucchini Basil Bisque

In my little garden I planted only one zucchini plant this year.  I have learned my lesson from prior years and I made sure that I did not grow any more zucchini than I needed this season.  Everything was going fine until I realized that I have generous friends with tons of zucchini in their gardens.  Lately, I have found bags of zucchini on my front porch, bags of zucchini on my back porch, my husband comes home with zucchinis from work, my sister even secretly shoved a couple of the zucchinis in my handbag the other night when we were at at her home for dinner.  Seriously, if everyone in this world planted just one  zucchini plant in their yard I believe that we would on the way to ending world hunger…

Here is a simple recipe for Zucchini Basil Bisque for those extra zucchinis that you may have grown or have been  gifted.  It’s light, tasty and is perfect with some crusty French bread or a grilled cheese.  It’s easy to make and it tastes fabulous.  Makes about 2 quarts or 8 servings.  Enjoy! – Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 6 c. zucchini (chopped)
  • 1/8 c. shallots (sliced)
  • 1 Tbls. butter
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil leaves packed lightly
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. mace
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 c. heavy cream

In a large saucepan saute the zucchini, shallots, and butter until tender, about 15-20 minutes.   Add remaining ingredients except heavy cream.  Grab an immersion blender and blend until smooth.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes and then add the heavy cream.  Cook for a few minutes more until heated through.   Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.  Ladle into bowls or cups.  Garnish with fresh basil, zucchini threads or with finely chopped red bell peppers.