Quick Recipes and Easy

Cooking With Basil

In today’s world of ecoli scares and pet food recalls the concept of “eat locally, eat seasonally” is more well loved than ever. You may be eating locally grown, seasonal food but are you seasoning your food with the same concept in mind? During the summer when so many wonderful fresh ingredients are available, why not enhance the flavor experience using fresh herbs. Obviously, nothing is better than fresh picked from your own garden, but for those lacking a green thumb or the space to grow, many Farmer’s Markets are now featuring fresh herbs

Basil is the official herb of summer. Barely tolerating temperatures below 60o , Basil starts its life while spring is waning and starts to fade as the coolness of fall sets in. In June 2007 the NPR program All Things Considered questioned its listeners to share their thoughts on summer foods and flavors. Many responded that the flavor of fresh pesto was the embodiment of summer. Pesto might be the most well known and commonly eaten basil dish but here are over sixty varieties of basil with flavors that range from minty to cinnamon like and thousands of culinary uses that reflect the unique taste of each. Here are a few of our favorite recipes…

*A quick note about using fresh basil: Basil is extremely tender and starts to fade right after picking. The best way to store fresh basil is by placing the stems in a glass of fresh water. Refrigerating basil leaches flavor and can cause discoloration. *

Basic Pesto
Ingredients
* 2/3 cup packed, coarsely chopped Italian Large Leaf basil
* 1/3 cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons pine nuts
* a pinch of salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1 clove garlic, peeled

Directions

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients; cover and process until blended.

The uses for basic pesto sauce are endless. One of the simplest uses is as a sauce for freshly cooked linguine. Basic Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and frozen for up to three months. If freezing, pour a thin layer of olive oil over top of the pesto to prevent discoloration.

Lemon Twist Pesto
Ingredients
*2/3 cup packed, coarsely chopped Lemon Sweet Dani Basil
* 2 tablespoons of fresh Italian Large Leaf parsley
* 1/3 cup Meyer lemon flavored olive oil
* 1 clove garlic, peeled
* salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients; cover and process until blended.

Lemon Twist pesto is wonderful on grilled fish, shellfish and chicken. Storing/freezing directions are the same as with the Basic Pesto.

Rainy Night Stuffed Chicken
Ingredients
* 4 – 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 1/2 12 ounce bottle garlic and herb marinade
* 16 fresh basil Genovese leaves
* 1 large tomato (we recommend Brandywine), thinly sliced
* 4 slices provolone cheese
* 12 slices bacon
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS

1. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice chicken breasts horizontally, without slicing them completely in half. Open the chicken breasts like a book. Place chicken and marinade into a large resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 500o F.

3. Place opened chicken breasts on a broiler pan. Place 4 basil leaves on the bottom half of each chicken breast. Top each with 2 or 3 tomato slices and 1 slice of cheese, and fold over top half of chicken (if necessary, fasten with toothpicks). Wrap 3 slices bacon around each chicken breast.

4. Cook in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Turn chicken, and cook 15 minutes more. Remove from oven, and sprinkle chicken with Parmesan. Return to oven, and cook until cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes.

This recipe is fantastic for those rainy summer nights when it might be a bit cooler than normal. It is hardy and filling!

Caprese Salad
Ingredients
* 4 large ripe tomatoes (we recommend Cherokee Purple), sliced 1/4 inch thick
* 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
* 1/3 cup fresh Italian Large Leaf basil leaves
* extra virgin olive oil
* aged balsamic vinegar
* kosher salt to taste
* freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions
On a large platter, alternate and overlap the tomato slices, mozzarella cheese slices, and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Caprese salad is by far my favorite summer time dish. It is light and refreshing on hot days and so quick and simple to prepare.

Basil Lemonade
Ingredients
*1/2 cup rinsed, lightly packed fresh Red Rubin basil leaves
*3 tablespoons sugar
*4 cups water
*1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
* sprigs of fresh basil

Directions
In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart glass measure or bowl, combine basil leaves (see notes) and sugar. With a wooden spoon, crush leaves with sugar until thoroughly bruised. Add water and lemon juice. Stir until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Pour through a fine strainer into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil.

The Red Rubin basil gives your lemonade a lovely pink color. Try using different basils like Siam Queen or Lemon Sweet Dani to make unusual flavor profiles.

Basil Ice Cream

Ingredients
* 2 cups milk, divided
* 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
* 2 cups whipping cream
* 1 cup sugar, divided
* 7 egg yolks
* 1 teaspoon mint liqueur (optional)
* Garnish: fresh basil sprigs

Directions

1. Cook 1 cup milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat until bubbly. Stir in 1 cup basil leaves, and remove from heat. Cover and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.

2. Process basil mixture in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids. Set aside.

3. Cook remaining 1 cup milk, whipping cream, and 1/2 cup sugar in saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, just until mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat.

4. Beat egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until thick and pale. Gradually stir about one-fourth of hot milk mixture into yolks; add to remaining hot mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in basil mixture and, if desired, liqueur; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats a spoon. Cover and chill 4 hours.

5. Pour chilled mixture into freezer container of a 1-gallon electric ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

This is a recipe for those seeking culinary adventure!

In 1985, Briscoe White opened The Growers Exchange in an abandoned Texaco station on a busy urban street corner in Richmond, Virginia. The facility has grown over the years, and is now 5 distinct growing environments with 5 acres under cover. Briscoe has over 25 years of gardening experience. For further information on gardening products or gardening tips please contact Briscoe White at mailto:bwhite@thegrowersexchange.com bwhite@thegrowersexchange.com



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