Devoting a day to Basil (includes a bonus recipe)

As a retiree, it’s good to have a plan each day.  It’s also good to be able to pivot when plans change.

Yesterday I’d planned to run errands only to be foiled when the team who was to seal my driveway on Saturday instead showed up two days early.  With my car held hostage in the garage, I decided to devote a day to harvesting my basil before the imminent first frost which spells disaster for this tender herb.

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2018 was a banner year for basil.

Surrounded by the sweet fragrance of fresh cut herbal goodness, I set about the tedious task of stemming and picking only the good leaves.

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There’s about 8 cups of basil here. Now what???

Luckily the sheer volume from my harvest inspired my creative side.  First up I made a basil/walnut/parmesano regianno pesto then a beautiful basil oil and basil paste.

Feeling accomplished I quickly realized I’d used only half of the harvest.  I love compound butters (check out my recipe for my Thanksgiving Fresh Picked Herb Compound Butter) so I made a luscious Basil Butter –  add 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil to a stick of room temperature butter – blend together (I use a fork).  Place on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log shape and refrigerate, that’s it! Easy right?

Still facing down a sizable pile of basil, I decided to make another style pesto with basil/almond/lemon pesto which yielded 2 more jars of basil goodness.

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Realizing that it was nearing dinner time, it made sense to use the remaining basil in some way.  I created a delicious herb-centric pasta dish that was so good I had to share it.

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(Not shown pine nuts and crumbled feta)

Fresh Herb Fusilli

  • 1/2 lb fusilli
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 T chopped red onion
  • red pepper flakes
  • coarse ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 t anchovy paste (optional but highly recommended – this is the salt component)
  • 2 garlic cloves – rough chopped
  • 6 T of chopped mixed herbs (basil, thyme and italian parsley)
  • 1 T pine nuts
  • 1/2 lemon – juiced
  • crumbled feta

Cook the pasta as directed and drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan with a good drizzle of olive oil and add the onion.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, adding the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and pepper and stir to combine.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pasta to the saute pan and mix with the onion and garlic.  Add pine nuts and the fresh herbs and stir together for another 1-2 minutes.  Take pan off the heat, drizzle the juice from the lemon over the top.  Serve in a bowl and top with feta.

Savory Spinach Quiche

Ever have a day when you wake up with a craving for something savory? In a quick perusal of my fridge I realized I had all the makings of a quiche. Here’s what I created!

Savory Spinach Quiche

  • 1 pie crust
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 c half and half
  • 5 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 c fresh baby spinach
  • 1 T chopped Vidalia onion
  • 1 1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 t thyme
  • 1 t seasoned salt
  • 1 t cracked black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a 9 inch pie plate unroll the pie crust and press into place. Layer the spinach, covering the bottom of the crust, scatter the onion, bacon and tomatoes over the top, followed by the cheese. In a large bowl add the eggs, half and half, thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, mix together thoroughly (I used my immersion blender). Pour the egg mixture over the filling. Bake on the lowest rack of your oven for 30-35 minutes until set. Rest for 10 minutes and serve.

 

Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread

My latest flatbread creation, using ingredients I had on hand. And it may be my new favorite dinner for one!

Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread

  • 1 flatbread
  • 2 oz cubed Brie
  • 1-2 t fresh thyme
  • 2 slices prosciutto, rolled and sliced into ribbons
  • 6-8 chopped dried apricots, cut into 3-4 pieces
  • Garlic Aioli (see below)
  • Crunchy onions, crumbled
  • Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush flatbread on both sides with olive oil and place into a skillet then into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and top with a light spread of the garlic aioli, followed by the apricots, brie, thyme and prosciutto. Return to the oven for 6-8 minutes. Remove and add the crunchy onions and parsley. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 T mayonnaise
  • 1/4 t lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Using a micro plane, grate the garlic clove over the mayonnaise, stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. This is delicious on any number of sandwiches and burgers as well as a base for the flatbread recipe above and is even better made a day or two ahead!

Caprese-Style Chicken Flatbread

Having just created a new twist on my flatbread-for-one recipes, I wanted to share it with my followers.

Caprese-Style Chicken Flatbread

  • 1 flatbread
  • 1/2 c chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 c spiced ricotta (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 c chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • fresh basil and parsley leaves – torn
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c shredded mozarella
  • aged balsamic vinegar – to drizzle

Heat oven to 400. I use my cast iron skillet and like to preheat it for 5 minutes while prepping the flatbread and toppings.* Brush the bottom of the flatbread with a little olive oil. Place it into the skillet and bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the ricotta, followed by the chicken and tomatoes, basil, parsley and mozzarella.  Drizzle balsamic over the top and return to the oven for 5-6 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

*Flatbreads can be done on a grill pan – or right on the grill.

Spicy Ricotta – enough for 4 flatbreads

  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes – to taste
  • 1/4 t Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Seasoning
  • 2 t olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together. Refrigerate for an hour….overnight (even better).

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

Lately I’m a bit obsessed with flatbreads. Often its a challenge – what to make for a delicious dinner….for one person. Enter flatbreads, something I frequently order off appetizer menus and my recent love-fest with HelloFresh has only intensified my obsession and imagination.

Today I raided the fridge for ingredients. I’d had company for several days during which I cooked great meals that left me with some amazing leftovers….this is what I created.

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

  • 1/2-3/4 c chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1 flatbread
  • 2-3 T herbed, garlic ricotta (see recipe below)
  • Grape tomatoes 6-8 sliced in half
  • 1/3 c Italian shredded cheese blend
  • Barbecue sauce
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • Italian parsley

Heat oven to 400. I used my cast iron skillet and like to preheat it for 5 minutes while prepping the flatbread and toppings. Brush the bottom of the flatbread with a little olive oil. Spread the ricotta, followed by the chicken and tomatoes. Drizzle barbecue sauce over the top, add red pepper flakes and cheese. Place into hot skillet and bake 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with Italian parsley. After 5 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

Herbed garlic ricotta (enough for several flatbreads)

  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1-2 t garlic powder
  • fresh herbs – I used chopped chives and thyme
  • 1-2 t olive oil

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate. I like to make this at least a few hours or the night before I use it.

Shrimp and White Beans over Angel Hair Pasta

Tonight I turned to my fridge, freezer, pantry and herb garden for inspiration and made this delicious meal for one. It was so tasty I wanted to share it here.

Shrimp and White Beans over Angel Hair Pasta 

serves 1

  • 15-20 cooked shrimp
  • 8 oz white beans
  • 8 oz heirloom grape & cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 4 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 c toasted panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 T chopped shallot
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T dry white wine
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t oregano
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 T toasted pine nuts
  • red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste

Mix toasted panko bread crumbs with oregano.Chiffonade fresh basil.  Cook angel hair pasta as directed on packaging. In a large skillet add olive oil, garlic and shallots and saute for 3-4 minutes at a medium heat,  Add red pepper flakes, shrimp and white beans..  After 2-3 minutes, add tomatoes, lemon juice and wine, lower heat and allow to simmer for 3 minutes, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, layer pasta then add shrimp and bean mixture. Top with pine nuts, panko and basil and serve immediately.

 

 

Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb

Mom is joining me for today’s Easter dinner and for the last week I was on the fence about what I’d fix. Mom is easy as she loves everything I cook – and tells me I should be on Chopped (home chef edition), with my inevitable win launching my own Food Network show but I digress.

A few days ago I saw rack of lamb and the decision was made.  Mom and I both love lamb chops and I’ve made those many times. I’ve cooked rack of lamb only once and grilled it. It was delicious though my friend Terry had to start my grill as the one time prior that I’d lit it, I blew the lid back and lost all my arm hair. Spence was always my grill master and though Mom would (and could) light my grill I had decided to go a different way.

After scanning cookbooks and Pinterest for ideas I quickly realized that I hadn’t picked up fresh herbs – never a problem from May-October when my herb garden provides more than I need. What’s a girl to do? It was noon, my homemade croutons were done and cooling, our favorite Rhubarb Custard pie is in its final 20 minutes of cook time, sweet potatoes poked and ready for baking, my dijon vinaigrette prepared.  I’m still in my jammies and not enough time to shower and run out for fresh herbs before mom arrives. Though dried herbs might work, I knew I could do better.

Then it hit me – make a crust using pesto with its lovely green color and fresh herb flavors mixed with Panko breadcrumbs, both of which were in my gourmet pantry! Brilliant kitchen hack if I don’t say so.

Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb – serves 2-4

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 1 c Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 T pesto
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Several hours before dinner mix together the breadcrumbs and pesto. Score the fat side of the rack, salt and pepper to taste.  Wrap the bones in foil to prevent burning. Cover all sides of the rack with the breadcrumb mixture using more on the fat side which will be face up when cooking.  Pat it down to make the crust. Refrigerate for several hours.

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Two hours before you’d like to serve dinner, remove the rack from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and place the rack into the pan.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the rack.

Cook time will depend on how rare you like your chops – check at 15-18 minutes for rare to medium rare (my preference) by inserting a meat thermometer look for the internal temp of 120 degrees. Remove from oven and tent, the temperature will increase to 125-130 degrees; allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil. To preserve the crust for serving and presentation, I cut them 2 bones per chop. I served these with a nice bottle of red wine, spinach salad with homemade croutons and Dijon vinaigrette, the aforementioned baked sweet potatoes with butter and fresh grated nutmeg – and of course the pie.