Tag Archives: basil

A Sunday Twofer: Zucchini-Tomato Salad and Pesto

9 Aug

zucchini tomato pesto salad

A friend had given us a giant zucchini, one that will probably feed us for at least three meals, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. She had also given us some lovely tomatoes. And I had half an onion in the fridge. So I was really happy to see a recipe in the paper just a day or so ago for a zucchini, tomato and basil salad.

Problem was I had no fresh basil. Another friend had given us a big bag of basil a few weeks earlier, and I had already turned it into pesto! No worries; I decided to make the salad using pesto and a little red wine vinegar instead of the basil and vinaigrette. It worked great!

I also discovered I had already run the tomato, zucchini and basil salad recipe, or one very much like it, in 2013, the year I started this blog.

I figured if I’m now going to give you the variation using pesto, I should give you the pesto recipe as well, because it’s so easy. So the basil recipe follows the salad recipe. I usually make half a batch, using two cups of basil, and then freeze the pesto in small amounts (enough to make a nice pasta sauce for two to four people). Freeze it in an ice cube tray, if you have one, then save the frozen cubes in a plastic freezer bag.

Of course you can use store-bought pesto if you don’t want to make your own.

In 2013 I also wrote about what to do with too much basil. It was one of my earliest pieces for this blog. You can find it here.

Zucchini and Tomato Salad with Pesto

Ingredients:

2 – 3 small zucchini or an equivalent amount from a large zucchini, sliced or diced
3 plum tomatoes or an equivalent amount of cherry/grape tomatoes, chopped
½ small onion, sliced thin
1 Tbs. fresh parsley or 1 tsp. dried parsley
2 Tbs. pesto, homemade or jarred
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

Serves 4

Basic Pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
¾ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
6 cloves garlic, or more to taste
¼ cup olive oil
Warm water as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until smooth but not a paste. Adjust seasonings and pulse again to mix. Add a little bit of warm water if it seems too thick.

If you don’t want to serve it all at once, freeze it in small quantities (an ice cube tray is a great way to do this).

Serve either warm or at room temperature. You might want to thin the pesto with a little milk or cream before using it as a sauce.

Makes 2 cups (enough to serve 8 or more as a pasta sauce)

Tuesday Tip: A Bonanza of Basil

10 Sep

Basil freshI bought a pot of basil at the beginning of the summer, separated the three little stalks in the pot and plonked them in my garden. As they grew, I cut off the growing tips so the plants would branch out. They became bushy and lush! But there’s only so much caprese salad* one can eat.  And I already made and froze some pesto — I’ll give you that recipe later.

So what do you do at the end of the season with all that basil?

Here’s a tip that I got from my sister-in-law Rhonda that works for basil and just about any other fresh herb. We’ve done this very successfully with parsley and rosemary as well.

Pick the nicest leaves — avoid any that are bug-eaten or discolored — and put them in a brown paper lunch bag. Don’t fill the bag more than half-full. Roll the top down to close it, but leave as much air space as possible in the bag. Put the bag in the bag of your refrigerator and forget about it — except once a week or so, take it out and give it a shake.

Basil driedAfter about three weeks, the basil will have dried. (If it’s not completely dried, put the bag back in the fridge for another week.) Crumble it up on a piece of wax paper and store it in a plastic or glass spice jar.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of ways you can use fresh basil.

*For a caprese salad, slice a couple of large, ripe, red tomatoes and lay them out nicely on a plate. Slice some fresh mozzarella cheese and place over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place several perfect fresh basil leaves on the top. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Another thing I like to do with fresh basil is serve it with pasta. Boil up some spaghetti, toss it with a bit of olive oil after you drain it, then add some basil leaves cut into thin ribbons, fresh chopped tomatoes, a clove of chopped garlic and cubed or shredded mozzarella.  Season with salt and pepper. I’m not providing quantities because you can really play it by ear .

Spinach-Tortellini Soup

9 Apr

Spinach-Tortellini SoupI adapted this recipe from a recipe I clipped from the Detroit Free Press, whose food editor adapted it from Fine Cooking magazine (November 2001). It’s a nice, hearty soup – serve it with a salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got dinner! It’s great for a dreary, rainy, not-quite-spring day like we have today in Detroit.

Warning: it’s quite garlicky, so make sure everyone in the family eats it — and don’t breathe on anyone who doesn’t!

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup chopped onion
4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 cups water
9 oz. fresh or frozen cheese tortellini, or 2 cups of the dry tortellini in a bag from Costco
1 can (14½ oz.) diced tomatoes
10 oz. fresh spinach, wash, stemmed and coarsely chopped, or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8-10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped, or 2 tsp. dried basil
1 egg
½ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, water and tomatoes (with the juice) and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook over low to medium heat until the pasta is tender. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in the spinach and basil; if using fresh, cook until they are wilted, about 2 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle the egg and cheese mixture into the soup and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6