Showing posts with label herbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herbs. Show all posts

13 July 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Berries & Balsamic

July's Improv Challenge Cooking ingredients are the bright sweet-tart flavors of berries and balsamic. I decided to keep my dish simple and combined those with fresh herbs and cheese to make decidedly nontraditional pizza. I know warm cheese and berries might sound a little nope (The Husband would not eat this if it were the last thing left to eat on Earth), but it is a tasty savory-sweet combination I cannot get enough of.

A flatbread pizza requires cheese and I wanted to push the boat out, experience wise, and cook with something different. Generally, I'm a goat cheese or cheddar girl, with brief forays into the blues, so I thought I'd try Brie this time around. I'd eaten Brie before -- part of a cold mixed cheese platter with fruits and nuts -- and been underwhelmed by it, but I've read Brie is the "queen of cheeses" so maybe I should give it another try? Maybe, it would taste better warm?

And it did. Warm Brie, imho, is good. Cold Brie -- at least the unknown Brie I'd eaten before and the one I used in this flatbread -- are just kind of mushroomy and blech. But warm Brie ... warm Brie is soft, creamy yumminess. Especially paired with balsamic vinegar and sweet berries.

In short, this flatbread, with its great mix of flavors and textures, is absolutely delicious and so dead easy to put together that you could eat one every day.


Berry & Balsamic Flatbread

Yield: 1 small pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 small naan
  • 1 tsp garlic olive oil
  • ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 oz Brie, sliced
  • 3 oz mixed blueberries and blackberries
  • ½ oz baby arugula
  • ½ Tbsp blackberry balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Put your pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Brush the naan with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Layer naan with Brie and berries. Scatter with thyme.
  3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the berries have softened.
  4. Scatter arugula over the naan pizza, drizzle balsamic vinegar over all, and sprinkle with black pepper. Serve.

If you don't have pizza stone, then just preheat your oven and prep and bake your flatbread on a baking sheet. For the longest time, I thought pizza stones were just pretentious tomfoolery for home cooks, but then I inherited one from my mom and ... homemade pizza is better on a pizza stone. And anything you might usually wrap in foil or parchment and bake on a sheet pan can be baked on a pizza stone. Also, a pizza stone bakes up beautifully crusty "artisanal" loaves. So it's multipurpose. And, since you can just leave it on the bottom rack of your oven all the time, don't worry about storage space ...


For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the second Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.




16 March 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Potatoes & Chives

I was really excited about March's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients -- potatoes and chives -- because we'd been having such a mild winter that the chive plants in my sheltered back bed never properly died back and I've had fresh chives on hand all winter! Or ... most of the winter. As soon as I made this potato salad, dark clouds massed on the horizon and BLAM! a foot of snow buried everything. Happily, chive plants are hardy as weeds and I'll be knee-deep in chives in another month or so.

This salad would look really attractive garnished with chive blossoms, but SNOW ...

While Potato salad isn't particularly exciting or adventurous, it is one of my favorite foods and I love to tinker with it, trying new variations of dressings, etc. With this salad, I've tossed the hot potatoes with a mixture of oil, vinegar, and mustard -- the potatoes absorb the mixture as it cools and, I feel, the becomes much more flavorful this way. If you are part of the no-mayonnaise-in-my-potato-salad brigade, you could easily omit the mayo ... although you would be missing out on the marvelous combination that is potato and mayonnaise and I would judge you. I used ready-made garlic mayonnaise in this recipe, but you could make your own by combining crushed garlic or garlic paste with mayonnaise until it tasted garlicky enough for you.

Yes, the mayonnaise was expired. Yes, I took it back to the shopped for an unexpired one.

Tangy Potato & Chive Salad

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs red potatoes, halved or quartered into bite-size pieces
  • 4 scallions
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp zippy yellow mustard
  • ¾ cup garlic mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife.
  2. While potatoes cook, chop all the white and light green parts of the scallions and set aside.
  3. Whisk the oil, vinegar, and mustard together and set aside.
  4. Drain the potatoes. While the potatoes are still hot and steamy, gently toss them with the mustard mixture and the scallions. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. Gently fold in the mayonaisse and chives. Chill the salad until ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, season with salt and pepper and, if desired, garnish with additional chives and scallions.

Mmm ... potatoes! One of nature's perfect foods.

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.





09 March 2017

Refreshing Mint & Melon Salad

The weather may have turned bitterly cold and windy, but there are tiny irises blooming in my back garden and my whole being sings out for spring. Thus, an unseasonable fruit salad is born!

The melon and strawberries are actually leftover from a party tray ... after three days, the melon was just on the edge of overripeness and the strawberries, a bit watery and blah to begin with, were now decidedly meh. Combine them with lime, mint, and a little agave, and suddenly they're splendid!

Hooray! No wasted fruit and I can cuddle up under my fleecy blanket with a big bowl of this and pretend it is spring.


Refreshing Mint & Melon Salad

Yield: 1-3, depending on greed

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quartered strawberries
  • 2 cups diced honeydew melon
  • 1 Tbsp chiffonade of mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Zest of ½ a lime
  • 1 tsp light agave or runny honey

Instructions

  1. Add strawberries, melon, mint to a medium serving bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, zest, and agave.
  3. Pour lime mixture over fruit and gently toss to combine.

19 January 2017

Improv Challenge: Lemon & Rosemary

January's Improv Challenge Cooking ingredients are the bright, sunny flavors of lemon and rosemary. I decided to keep my dish simple and combined the lemon and rosemary with garlic and fresh breadcrumbs to make a light topping for baked fish. It's not a very adventurous dish, but it's pretty and spring-like. In this dark, bitter January I need everything that is pretty and spring-like.

I used cod in this dish, which is not a fish we eat very often, but I thought it’d be a fun change from the usual tilapia or salmon. Cod is, after all, a very versatile fish as it is mild and sweet-flavored, making it a good fit for many recipes.

I also used "Spanish Roja" garlic bought at last fall's very rainy Connecticut Garlic and Harvest Festival. The flavor is quite pungent, hot, and lingering. If you don't like strong garlic flavor, the plain ol' ordinary grocery store garlic will work just fine in this dish.

We had leftover sandwich/kaiser rolls so I blitzed one of those to make the breadcrumbs, rather than let it get stale, and that yielded about a cup of fresh crumbs. Obviously, you could use any bread or roll you like to make the crumbs. I'm betting that the garlic ciabatta or rosemary focaccia would be lovely.


Lemon & Rosemary Cod

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs certified sustainable cod loin, cut into 4 portions
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp minced Spanish rojo garlic
  • 1 leftover sandwich roll
  • Salt and pepper, if desired
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Lemon wedge, for squeezing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Blitz the rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, and roll in a food processor until the roll forms fine crumbs. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  3. Place the butter in a 7x11-inch baking dish. Melt in the preheated oven. Remove dish from oven.
  4. Lay the cod in the baking dish and then flip the fish over to coat. Press the crumb mixture onto the top of each cod portion.
  5. Bake cod for 20 min, uncovered, or until the fish has reached 145°F or is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish from the oven, squeeze lemon wedge over it, and serve.


For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.





18 August 2016

Improv Challenge: Garlic & Rosemary

Wow, the summer has flown by! I can't believe it's time for the August Improv Challenge already! While I went sweet in July with peaches and cream, August is all about savory garlic and rosemary.


I thought about baking a red onion, garlic, and rosemary focaccia -- like this -- because I'd like to ease back in to bread baking. And King Arthur Flour's "Garlic-Herb Mac & Cheese sounded pretty delish, too. But, in the end, I decided to take the easy road and roast some chicken breasts.

My first thought was to use split chicken breasts and slip a mixture of garlic, rosemary, and lemon under the skin before roasting, but then I forgot what I was doing at the grocery store and came home with a package of boneless skinless breasts. Whoops!


Since I find boneless skinless breasts need a lot of help, flavor-wise, I scored them each with a crisscross pattern, increasing the surface area available to marinade and more surface area means more flavor. (Also, I think they look prettier/more interesting that way).

So ... how did it taste? Tasty. Succulent. Richly aromatic. A definite repeater.


Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Chicken Breasts

Yield: 3

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1½ Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • Sea salt & freshly cracked pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken breasts dry and score in a crisscross pattern with a sharp knife. Place in a food-safe storage container.
  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Use a spatula or spoon to really work it into the crisscross cuts. Cover container and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Remove container from fridge and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  5. Pour chicken out into a baking dish and roast, uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until chicken reaches 165°F.
  6. Remove chicken from oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


For anyone new to my blog, Improv Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Challenge logo below.

improv cooking challenge logo (aqua rolling pin, spatula, fork, whisk suspended from rack)



25 November 2015

Easy Baked Lemon & Parsley Barramundi

This is any easy baked fish recipe made just a little fancy with a lemon and garlic butter sauce. I used fresh parsley, because I'd bought a bunch of it for something ... but I can't remember what that something was and have no notes to guide me. It's also possible I wasn't supposed to buy parsley at all, but thyme. Anyway, feel free to use dried parsley, but the flavor may not be the same.

I know. Everyone's "Parsley is there for garnish, right? It doesn't have a flavor?" but I beg to differ. Parsley tastes fresh and green (like spring) with a little hint of bitterness and can brighten up a dish. I only used the leaves in this recipe, saving the stems to flavor the stock I'll make from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.


Even though I baked the fish at a high temperature, I didn't cover the barramundi, because I knew the sauce would keep it moist. As expected, the fish came out flaky and moist. Quite lemony and garlicky, obviously, but both flavors compliment rather than overwhelm the flavor of fish.

Baked Lemon & Parsley Barramundi

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz barramundi fillets
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove. Whisk in lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Blot fillets dry and place in a baking dish or glass pie plate. Pour butter mixture over fish. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F or until fish flakes easily with a fork and has reached 145°F.
  4. Season with salt to taste, if desired, and serve.


19 November 2015

Improv Challenge: Squash & Sage

I'm trying to make pizza more often at home (because it's cheaper and we can get all the weird custom flavors -- chicken and sweetcorn for one -- our little hearts desire) and I'd heard that naan bread makes a good crust for quick pizzas. Deciding it would be better to experiment on myself first before springing the naan pizza concept on The Husband, I decided to build myself a pizza out of what was in the fridge.

Fresh sage from my generous coworker's garden!

And then I realized I had the ingredients for November's Improv Challenge -- squash and sage -- on hand! Hooray! For the first time in months, I wouldn't be making the Improv recipe the week it was due! Really, I always start out with the best of intentions and then time just gets away from me and suddenly I'm throwing something together at what feels like the very last minute!

Cubed butternut squash and onion tossed with garlic-infused olive oil.

The only naan I could find at my local Price Chopper was Stonefire brand in either whole grain or garlic. Obviously, I went with garlic! They're smallish naan, but there are two to a package so I figured this recipe would serve two hungry adults. As always, ymmv with serving sizes.

Since I didn't use any gooey cheeses the toppings don't properly stick to the naan making these a little messy to eat. I got around this my folding my pieces in half, making a sort of naan pizza sandwich. More civilized types might want to use a fork and knife.

This tasted all kinds of awesome. Maybe more cheese next time, though ...

Youtube has many nifty how-to videos on frying sage leaves, but I found this one simplest:


While this recipe makes two naan pizzas, you don't necessarily have to make them at the same time. The vegetables can be roasted a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge until wanted. The sage can also be fried and kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a few days. And, obviously, you could double triple the amounts for one big traditional crust pizza.

Butternut Squash & Beet Naan Pizza

Yield: 2 pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 naan (each about 8x7")
  • 4.5 oz butternut squash, diced small
  • 1 oz chopped red onion
  • 2 oz chopped roasted beets [Love Beets]
  • 1½ Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
  • 1.5 oz crumbled blue cheese [Salemville Amish Blue]
  • 1.5 oz crumbled goat cheese [Alouette]
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 8 fried sage leaves
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss squash and onions with 1 Tbsp olive oil and arrange on a quarter sheet pan (13"x9"), trying not to crowd. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove pan from oven and set aside. Do not turn off oven!
  3. Place naan on a baking sheet; brush with ½ Tbsp oil. Bake at 400°F until naan just begins to crisp and turn light golden color, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Scatter red onions, squash, beets, cheese and chopped sage leaves across naan. Bake until pizza is heated through and cheeses get all melty and yum, about 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with fried sage leaves and fresh cracked black pepper.





20 August 2015

Improv Challenge: Tomatoes & Herbs

Ahhh, tomatoes and herbs for August's Improv Challenge. What could be more fitting? My garden tomatoes are coming right along and my herbs are prolific, to say the least. In creating this month's recipe I tried to keep it as simple as possible to let the tomatoes and herbs really shine through. (Also, I had a lot of tomatoes ripen all at once and Something Had To Be Done).


You will note my "recipe" provides no specific amounts for any of the ingredients. This is because it is all simply a matter of preference and pan size. I used a broiler pan which fit about eight diced plum and globe tomatoes. Lots of garlic and thyme, because I love them. A bit less oregano, because I find a little goes a long way.

I used Wave Hill Bread's caramelized garlic bread to make my toast as it has whole roasted garlic cloves baked right in and is just DELICIOUS. If you can't find something similar at your bakery, any crusty loaf will do.

Creamy Tomato Toast

Yield: Many servings

Ingredients

  • Garden tomatoes
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh thyme
  • Garlic cloves, pressed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sliced crusty loaf
  • Soft, spreadable goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Gently toss together the chopped tomatoes, fresh oregano, thyme, and pressed garlic in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast until the tomatoes are soft and oozy, about 2 hours.
  4. Remove pan from the oven. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. (If using later, warm before spreading on toast).
  5. Switch oven to broil.
  6. Brush bread slices with olive oil.
  7. Broil bread for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Remove bread from oven, spread each slice with goat cheese, top with tomato goo, and garnish with additional herbs.


If you plan to serve these as an appetizer, just use slices from a thin, narrow loaf like a ficelle. The Wave Hill loaf I used is suitable for sandwiches and I find two creamy tomato toasts served like an open-face sandwich with a small salad or bowl of soup makes for a thoroughly satisfying lunch ... although, to be fair, I've also just ripped chunks of bread off the loaf and used them to scoop the tomatoes up straight from the pan into my mouth. It's best with the cheese, but sometimes I can't wait for the sweet, herby tomatoes to get in my belly.



31 July 2015

Presto, Pesto!

Every spring, I plant basil. Every summer, I run about like a mad woman trying to use up all the basil that's suddenly overwhelming my garden. But not this summer. No. I've finally done the thing I always say I should do. Namely, I've made and frozen pesto. Hurrah. Summery pesto goodness shall be mine in the dark, bleak heart of winter.

About half the basil in the garden.

Of course, I couldn't just use an ice cube tray like many of the pesto-freezing people on Pinterest. No, I had to go and buy one of the fancy-pants Ball® Frozen Herb Starters, which are essentially a pair of summer-green, BPA-free, flexible silicone trays with snap-on lids. I first saw it at Agway when I stopped by for canning jars and pickling salt, but I ended up buying mine from Amazon because it cost less. (The exact opposite was true of the canning jars and pickling salt, by the way).

Toasted walnuts, not pine nuts, because that's how I roll.

I followed Ball's "Perfect Pesto" recipe, using the walnut option instead of pine nuts as I thought walnuts would taste more awesome. The whole process -- from fending off emotionally needy cats whilst harvesting the basil to plopping spoonfuls of pesto in the silicone tray -- couldn't have taken more than 20 minutes. I had a little leftover basil, because my "gently packed" cups of basil were probably not as gently packed as the recipe writers intended, which I spread over the salmon fillet I'd intended to bake for dinner. The pesto -- bright and summery -- paired well with the salmon and I'll be trying that combination again.

Beautiful pesto salmon.

One recipe made one tray of cubes -- that's nine cubes, each probably twice the size of a regular ice cube. The kit comes with two trays and lids, so I still have a tray to play with while the pesto freezes. Since I have a lot of chives on hand, I'm thinking chives in olive oil? Or chives in butter? Or both? Once the pesto tray frozen, I intend to decant the cubes into another container, freeing up the tray for other uses.

Neat little rows of basiliciousness.

19 June 2015

Lemon Dill Chicken & Potatoes

My tiny dill plants have become hulking monstrosities. While it's a bit early for pickle-making, I knew I needed to started using fresh dill more often (and in bigger quantities) or the plant would bolt and that would not be good at all. Well, when life gives you too much dill ... roast chicken!


This chicken dish is easy to prepare and comes together quickly. Simply toss all the ingredients in a big baking dish, pop it in the oven, and you're good to go!

Lemon Dill Chicken & Potatoes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb baby potatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Generous palmful fresh dill
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Arrange chicken thighs, potatoes, onions and lemon slices in the baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Bake, covered with foil, for 40 minutes. Uncover, stir, and bake 10 more minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken has reached 165°F.


I think the combination of lemon and dill keeps the dish very bright and fresh-tasting, you may want to cut back if you're not a lemon-lover!

21 May 2015

Improv Challenge: Cilantro & Lime

May's Improv Challenge features the cool refreshing flavors of cilantro and lime. Unfortunately, cilantro can be very hit or miss for me -- while I usually find it delicious, sometimes it can be oddly soapy-tasting. Therefore, I did not use a lot of cilantro in this recipe!


I used barramundi in this dish, which the man at the seafood counter recommended as a sweet, mild fish similar to sea bass. I like bass and was happy to try something new as we've been eating a lot of tilapia and tuna lately. He said to cook the barramundi at 400°F for ten minutes or until it was white and flaked easily with a fork, so that's exactly what I did.

Cilantro & Lime Baked Barramundi

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 6 oz frozen barramundi fillets, thawed
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Pat fish dry. Place in a baking dish. Rub with 1 tsp olive oil.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl, and pour the mixture over the fish.
  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  5. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired (I forgot), and serve.

Overall, I was very pleased with this dish and will definitely be making it again (with garden tomatoes, hopefully). The fish, while sweet and mild, was not overwhelmed by the sweetness of the tomatoes or the tartness of the lime. And, happily, the cilantro was not in the least bit soapy-tasting, but added a welcome grassy/summery note. I know "grassy" sounds a bit off-putting, but it was a bright green flavor that made me think of grass or chlorophyll.



20 February 2014

Improv Challenge: Bread & Butter

I first made this one Monday night when I realized that, while I was the only one home for supper, a bottle of moscato and movie did not supper make. But throw in some bread and cheese and it's an elegant evening at home? Why, yes. So, when I saw February's Improv Challenge ingredients were bread and butter, I knew I had to write this dish up and share it with the world.

Honey & Herb Crostini

The buttery, crunchy bread. The creamy, slightly tart cheese. The sweetness of the honey. The heat of the pepper. The subtle, earthy thyme. Just fabulous. I've made this for myself three times since and, each time I make it, I am amused by just how tasty buttery toast and cheese can be!

I suspect fresh lavender, tarragon, and dill would work well in place of the thyme and I look forward to making many versions of this dish in the spring ... when my garden is not covered in a mound of ice and snow. Blech.

Honey & Herb Crostini
Serves 1 with wine

Ingredients
1 small baguette (baton)
2 Tbsp good quality cultured butter, melted [Vermont Creamery]
4 oz tub spreadable goats' cheese [Vermont Creamery]
Fresh thyme, for garnish
1 Tbsp honey, for drizzling [Cracovia Linden Honey]
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Cut 8 thin slices from the baguette and set the rest of the baguette aside for another day.
Step 1

Brush both sides of the sliced baguette with butter and place on a baking tray.

Step 2

Broil for 2 minutes or until lightly browned, flip, and broil the other side.


Step 3

Spread each piece of bread with goats' cheese and sprinkle with pepper.
Step 4

Garnish each pieces with thyme and drizzle with honey.

Step 5

Arrange on a pretty plate and serve immediately with a bottle of moscato and episodes of The Great British Bake-Off.

Honey & Herb Crostini



18 July 2013

Improv Challenge: Peaches & Herbs

July's Improv Challenge ingredients are peaches and herbs. I decided to go simple and make a peach salsa cruda to go over peachy grilled chicken. I used basil, instead of cilantro, in the salsa because I happen to have a big pot of basil on my porch and it needed a good trim before it bolted.

Peachy Chicken w/ Peach Salsa

While peaches aren't actually in season here yet, the "Eastern" peaches I bought at the grocery store were really quite fine. Beautifully fragrant with just a little give and dripping with juices when I cut them open. The sweetness of the peaches paired with the slightly acidity of the tomatoes and the basil, red onions, and white balsamic tasted fresh and bright. Like summer!
Peach Salsa Cruda

Ingredients
2 peaches, pitted and chopped (peel if you don't like fuzz)
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1 oz red onion, finely chopped
1 oz basil, rolled and sliced thinly
2 Tbsp white balsamic
salt and pepper, if desired

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit 20 minutes or so before serving to allow the flavors to marry. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Peach "Salsa"

To boost the "peachiness" of the dish, I marinated the chicken overnight in a peach marinade. I'd found a few recipes online for peach marinades/barbecue sauces but they all used peach preserves or jam. I didn't have any jam, but I did have canned diced peaches and orange marmalade so I pureed those with a bunch other ingredients I had on hand (including more basil).
Peachy Grilled Chicken

Ingredients
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about one pound)
6 oz drained canned diced peaches
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 heaping Tbsp orange marmalade
1 heaping Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
⅛ ounce fresh basil
¼ cup olive oil

Directions
Pound two boneless skinless chicken breasts (about one pound) until they are of a uniform thickness. Place in a wide shallow dish and set aside.

Add remaining ingredients to your food processor or blender and process until smooth. Pour over chicken, turn chicken to coat, cover, and let sit in fridge overnight. When ready to eat, grill chicken however it is you like to grill chicken.

I briefly considered serving the chicken and salsa over peach tea-infused rice, but decided that might be taking things too far! Instead, I served them on their own and though they were pretty darn fabulous. Sweet, savory, a little tart and so very fragrant. Yum.

Peachy Chicken w/ Peach Salsa



30 March 2012

Cooking The Books: Still More From The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook

So far, every recipe I've made from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook has been just for me. The Husband, you see, doesn't eat berries in anything but dessert and quinoa would have to be heavily disguised or drowned in sauce before it passed his lips. This has been fine by me as I don't mind selflessly eating all deliciousness, but ... maybe I am a being an inconsiderate wife? Surely, there's something on my big huge list of TUHGC recipes to try that The Husband would enjoy.

Well, there was! "Moist Chicken and Basil Cream Sauce" was on my list and did not contain any ingredients or combination of ingredients The Husband would disdain. No, indeed. Chicken smothered in cream sauce was right up his alley. And mine, it turns out.

Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce

This was a really good dish. Really good. Creamy and rich, but also surprisingly light and bright on the tongue. Can't wait to make this again with fresh basil from my own garden. I strongly recommend you borrow The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook from your library just to make this recipe.

Ingredients for Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce

Ingredients: boneless skinless chicken breasts, basil, scallions, garlic, white wine, heavy cream, butter, dried whole wheat bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, freshly ground black pepper. No idea why I included low-sodium chicken broth in the photo, because it's not an ingredient in this recipe!

02 August 2010

Basil Is For Drinking: Basil In My Tea


Last week, while cooking my basilicious scrambled eggs, The Husband made what he no doubt thought was a hilarious remark about me running mad and putting basil in tea. And I thought, why not? Why not add basil to iced tea? Basil lemonade was very delicious, after all.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for "Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea" and it was so very good! Cool and refreshing, with a subtle basil taste and lovely summery aroma.  And the color! Such a lovely strawberry-red -- it reminded me of strawberry cordial.

(Because I am all about doing as little washing up as possible, I tweaked Stewart's directions somewhat to omit the use of a bowl and made everything in the pitcher).


Strawberry Basil Iced Tea
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July 2009

8 black tea bags (I used Lipton)
1 lb very ripe strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
5 cups water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh basil

Place strawberries in a glass pitcher. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tea bags, and let steep for 5 minutes. Bring remaining 1 cup water water and sugar to a boil in another saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add basil, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain over strawberries, discarding basil. Let stand until cool. Add tea to pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled.

I would like to try this again -- perhaps replacing the strawberries with blackberries.

22 July 2010

Basil Is For Drinking: Lemonade


I made basil lemonade! Yes, I did! And it tastes good.

I used Real Simple's recipe for "Basil Lemonade" and it took no time at all. Just make a simple syrup, chuck some basil in, let the syrup cool to room temperature, and mix it with your beverage of choice. I mixed mine with lemonade, but the recipe also suggests ginger ale, iced tea, mineral water, or sparkling wine. I bet I could even make a tasty lemon drop with this syrup!

Next up for basil: