Talk about role reversal! Last year my vegetable garden flourished and nearly buried me alive with produce while my herb garden waned and struggled. Now this year, my vegetable garden is dying a slow and painful death and my herbs are crowding and spilling over from their allotted space into the flower garden that borders them. I guess it's too much to ask to have two green thumbs at once.
I've already harvested once from my basil plant and not even two weeks later, it's time to harvest again. The most obvious thing to make with fresh basil, of course, is pesto. Quick and easy with only a few quality ingredients, pesto can be made ahead and frozen so it's a great way to get that burst of fresh summertime flavor long after the season has passed.
I purchased a couple of plastic ice cube trays from Dollar Tree which made perfect portion sizes for the pesto. Once they are frozen, the pesto cubes pop right out of the trays and can be transferred to a freezer storage bag.
Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
Yield: Approximately 1 cup.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I used walnuts and toasted them just a bit)
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
At this point, you can portion the pesto into desired containers and freeze.
With the temperatures in the Queen City reaching all-time record highs of 100+ degrees these past couple of weeks, my summertime meals have become more of a nosh than an actual meal. The heat just seems to completely zap my appetite and who wants to heat up an already blazing hot kitchen with an oven and long cooking times?
This quick and easy recipe from Southern Living featuring two of my favorite things: cherries and bleu cheese certainly fits the bill for something light yet satisfying on a hot summer day. The combination of the sweet cherries and honey, the salty bleu cheese and the savory rosemary and arugula sends the taste buds into deliciousness overload.
This is meant to be an appetizer and the kind where you can set out all the individual components and allow your guests to assemble their own crostini or you can assemble and plate in advance. The cherry compote also keeps for at least a week in the refrigerator. The only change that I would make from the original recipe next time is to coarsely chop the cherries and possibly even the arugula as leaving them whole made for a pretty hefty crostini and it was awkward to bite into and maintain a lady-like appearance.
Stay cool but don't stay out of the kitchen!
Honey-Rosemary Cherries & Bleu Cheese Crostini
Southern Living, December 2011
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (12-oz.) package frozen dark, sweet pitted cherries, thawed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups loosely packed arugula
16 (1/4-inch-thick) ciabatta bread slices, toasted
1 (8-oz.) wedge bleu cheese, thinly sliced*
1. Drain cherries and coarsely chop, reserving the juice. Sauté shallot in hot oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Add cherries (and reserved liquid) and next 5 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Divide arugula among toasted bread slices (you may want to coarsely chop this as well if your leaves are large). Top each with cherry mixture and 1 bleu cheese slice.
*Manchego or goat cheese may be substituted.