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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

I’ve got friends in high places where the cognac drowns and the wine chases my blues away…

If I re-wrote Garth Brooks’ little diddy, that’s how the song would go.  See, I’ve got these friends.  They’re lovely.  They’re classy.  They’re superb cooks.  And they’ve got a place in France where guests go to absorb the beauty of the country and take part in cooking lessons whereby they shop at the local markets, prepare meals together and then enjoy the bounty of their efforts in the garden, sipping wine which has been specifically paired for the meal.  Sounds like heaven huh?  Yeah, I agree.

Well, Katie makes a lovely summer squash gratin that manages to grace the table when the season is ripe for zucchini, crook-neck, patty pan, and all manner of summer squashes.  It’s simple as can be, and absolutely delicious down to the last creamy, cheesy, nutmeg-infused bite.

So last week, after finding myself to have been a leeeeeetle overzealous buying summer squash at the Farmer’s Market, I begged for her recipe and she happily obliged.  I added corn to my gratin in an effort to use up another surplus from my overzealous market trip, and threw a few torn basil leaves in there too.

So this is my take on Katie’s specialty…

Katie’s super-dee, duper-dee lovely summer squash gratin (with corn and basil)

This recipe is adaptable to any size dish, from individual ramekins, to a huge gratin-dish.  Plan to layer the squash (and corn, if you’re using it) a couple inches deep.  So here, I’ll provide you with a method and leave the quantities up to you!

If you’re preparing one large dish, Katie recommends baking the gratin at 325º.  For the individual ramekins like I made, bake at 350º.  Also, this gratin is simply divine made with just squash– so don’t feel the need to add the corn and basil if you don’t have them on hand.  Also, Katie adds a sprinkling of Emmenthaler cheese to the top.

  • a variety of summer squash, washed and stems removed
  • heavy cream
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • corn, scraped from the cobb
  • unsalted butter
  • torn basil
  • kosher salt

Slice the squash about 1/8-inch thick using a mandolin.  Layer the squash in a large bowl, lightly salting each layer as you go.  Allow the salted squash to sit for 30-60 minutes so that it releases it’s liquid.

Preheat the oven to the desired temperature (see note).

Gently cook the corn in butter, salting to taste.  Allow to cool.

Pour off the excess squash liquid, giving the squash a gentle push and squeeze to help extract any liquid that remains.

Begin by placing a layer or two of squash in the bottom of the dish.  Then layer in some corn.  Scatter in some torn basil.  Pour in a little cream, but don’t submerge the vegetables.  Sprinkle in some Parmesan.  Lightly dust with nutmeg (a little goes a long way).  Be sure to keep the layers densely packed, all the way to the edges of the dish.  Keep layering in this manner until all the vegetables are used up.  Then pour in a little more cream so that it almost reaches the top of the vegetables.  Lightly press down on the top of the vegetables to help douse them in the cream.  Sprinkle another healthy dose of Parmesan and Ementhaler (if using) over the top.

Place the gratin dish (or dishes) into the preheated oven, and bake until the cream bubbles around the edges, and the top is golden-brown.   Allow to cool slightly before serving- it’s gonna be hot!

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These little snackies made it well worth the trouble to have made my own garbanzo bean dip! It’s up to you how many of these you make…just for yourself or for a crowd.  So I’ll give you the general ingredients and the method and leave the specific quantities up to you.

Open-faced sandwiches with garbanzo bean spread and herbed cherry tomatoes

  • sliced rustic-style bread (I used pugliese)
  • garbanzo bean dip
  • cherry tomatoes
  • chopped garden herbs (I used basil, oregano, and mint)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt

Slice the cherry tomatoes into small wedges.  I suggest sixths or eighths, depending up on their size.  Place the tomatoes in a small bowl and sprinkle them with salt.  Set them aside for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

After the tomatoes have released some of their juice, toss them with the chopped herbs and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.  This will create a vinaigrette of sorts (tomato juice and olive oil).

Toast the sliced bread until it’s crisp on the outside yet chewy in the center.  Spread the garbanzo bean dip liberally on each slice.  Divide the herbed tomatoes among the slices of bread, spooning the extra juice all around.

Delight in the yumminess!


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This tart hit the spot! It’s perfect brunch food.  Scott and I sat down for a lovely mid-Monday brunch and pondered our waning existence as a couple and waxing existence as a three-some.  We’re coming to the end of an era, so to speak, and can’t wait to see what’s next!  In the meantime, I feel an urge to get everything done, including making all the recipes I’ve been wanting to try.  But somehow, that M.O. doesn’t coincide with sitting down and relaxing with my feet up.  I just wasn’t built to be a sit-down-all-day kinda’ girl!

So anyway- the tart.  I made it based on a recipe from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.  I tweaked it a little to fit what I had in the fridge, and also added some sausage in my never-ending effort to get enough protein during this pregnancy.

Separately, I recently came upon a blog-post from Pim about pie-dough.  And the funny thing is this…her recipe is based on one she found in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook!  How silly is that?  I’ve worked there for seven years, yet found my inspiration to try the recipe from someone else!  But I’ll tell you what- it’s doggone delicious and easy to make.  It was still crisp, flaky and tasty the next morning.  Doggone delicious!!

So I present to you the two recipes that made this yummy tart come together.  Please try it- you’ll like it!

Flaky pie dough (a la Zuni Cafe and Chez Pim)
yields two, 9-inch pie or tart doughs

When making tarts, I prefer to use a removable-bottom tart pan as it is much easier to get the tart out of the pan when you are ready to cut and serve.

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cold salted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slabs
  • 1/4 cup very cold water

Measure the flour and dump it in a pile, on a clean counter-top.  Place the slabs of butter on top of the pile of flour and flip them once so that they are coated in the flour.  Using the heels of  your hands, begin to press the butter into the flour so that they flatten, and begin to turn into flakes.  It is helpful to use a bench-scraper to periodically turn the pile in an effort to keep it from sticking to the counter.  Eventually, the pile will end up looking like a pile of small flakes and crumbs.

Make a shallow well in the pile and pour in all the water.  Using just the tips of your fingers, toss together the crumbs with the water, until it begins to form a mass, and the water is distributed evenly.  Again, it will be helpful to use a bench scraper to keep it from sticking to the counter.  Once you have a fairly cohesive mass, gather it up into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic, and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap.  Lightly flour the counter and place the dough on top.  Use a rolling pin to shape the dough into a rough-rectangle.  (The best way to roll out dough is to start at the center and roll outwards, turning the dough as necessary, rather than simply rolling back and forth over the whole piece of dough.)  When you have achieved a rough- rectangle, fold 1/3 of the dough in on itself, as if you were folding a letter to fit in an envelope.  Lightly brush off excess flour.  Then fold the other 1/3 of the dough in on itself again, completing the tri-fold (as you would fold a letter).  Again, brush off the excess flour.  Use a rolling pin to roll out your tri-folded dough into another rectangle.  Do this two more times.  Roll out your final rectangle and cut it in half so that you are left with two square pieces of dough.

Gently shape your squares of dough into disks, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  If you refrigerate the dough longer, you may need to let it temper at room temperature for about 10 minutes before attempting to roll it out.  Alternately, you could freeze the dough, tightly wrapped and placed in a zip-top bag, for months!

When you are ready to use the dough, lightly flour a clean counter-top, and roll the disk into a circle about 1-1/2 inches larger than the pan you are using.  If you are using a deep-dish pie dish, you’ll need to roll it out even bigger.

When the dough has been rolled to the correct size, transfer it by rolling it up over your pin and then un-rolling it over the tart/pie pan.  Gently press the dough in place, using your fingertips to push it into the corners.  You should have some dough hanging over the edge.  For a tart, simply roll the pin over the top of the pan to “cut” the excess off.  For a pie which will be topped with another crust, you must wait to crimp the edges until the filling has been added and the top crust is in place.

To blind bake the crust (as you will for the following tart recipe), dock the dough using a fork, and then place the whole pan (filled with the dough) in the freezer for about 15 minutes.   Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425º.  Remove the pan from the freezer and line the frozen dough with a piece of aluminum foil.  Pour enough dry beans into the pan so that they are one-inch deep.  Place the pan on a baking sheet and slide into the oven.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and beans.  Slip the pan back into the oven for another 5 minutes, or until the crust has turned a light-golden-brown.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Ricotta tart with onions, sausage, and basil adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison
yields one 9-inch tart

It is well worth the expense and trouble to use excellent ricotta cheese.  If you can find it, use an artisan brand, or at least a local, organic one.  Honestly, I find the Precious brand that is found in most super-markets to be bland, flavorless, and practically useless.  Also, I recommend using a removable-bottom tart pan as it is much easier to remove the tart from the pan when you are ready to cut and serve.

  • one 9-inch tart crust, blind baked
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • one 3-ounce sausage cooked and cut into a medium dice
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 Tablespoon roughly chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place an oven rack in the center-most position and preheat the oven to 400º.

In a medium saute pan set over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the onion until it is translucent, allowing it to brown slightly.  Stir in the cooked sausage and allow the mixture to cool to room-temperature.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, egg, milk, cream, salt, pepper, and basil.  Stir in the cooled onion mixture.

Pour the filling into the cooled tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the filling is set in the center.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

The tart may be served slightly warm or at room temperature.

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Frankly, I haven’t been able to tell you what day it is for the past week.  I’m so confused!  I was convinced yesterday was Monday well into the evening when I sat down on the couch ready to watch our favorite Monday-night show- Lie To Me.  Sadly, it was not Monday and I was sorely disappointed!  I’ve got so many things running through my brain that I have to keep a constant written list of things I need to do.  Water the plants.  Start laundry.  Buy sister’s birthday present.  Put gas in the car.  Talk to Scott about the bookshelves.  Order cloth diapers….the list goes on and on.  At work, I accidentally say potatoes when I’m talking about carrots.  I accidentally call Ken, “Matt”  And I can’t remember where I set down my order sheet.  And to confuse the issue further, we’ve just moved.  I have to really think to remember where we’re keeping the mixing bowls, where I put the wood-floor cleaner, where we’re keeping the recycling container now, and I still haven’t found my camera (the iphone will have to suffice in the meantime). Alas, I have “baby brain” and it’s only getting worse.  (And something tells me that the post-birth sleep deprivation won’t help much!)

Serenity Now!!!!…….(p-shaw).

However, bliss comes from a simple home-cooked dinner that just hits the spot.  And bacon.  In the week-and-a-half that we’ve lived here, I’ve cooked bacon (ehem) 3 times.  I swear to you, it has brought sanity back to my life.

So last night, it all started with bacon.  We had sandwiches.  With bacon.  And peppers.  And basil.  And tomatoes.  And to be perfectly honest, I believe I found a moment of clarity.  It was fleeting.  There was a voice.  It said, “you’ve lost your mind and you won’t likely find it until that babe in utero has entered her toddler years and begins to sleep through the night”.  Oh well…

So back to the sandwiches.

Open-faced pepper and onion sandwiches with bacon, basil and tomatoes
serves 2 hungry, slightly crazed, soon-to-be- parents

  • four slices of rustic-style bread, cut 1/3-inch thick (I used a whole-wheat sour dough)
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 3 medium bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • a pinch of chili flake
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic- one left whole, and the other two minced
  • 1/4 cup plucked basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced into 8 thin rounds
  • salt to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil

In a large saute pan over low heat, slowly cook the bacon slices until they are crisp.  Remove to a paper towel to absorb the excess fat.  Pour off all but 2 Tablespoons of the bacon fat (save it for another meal!)

Turn the burner up to medium and add the peppers and onions.  Sprinkle with salt and chili flake, toss, and cover.  Allow to cook, stirring every-so-often, until the peppers and onions have begun to soften.  Add the minced garlic and continue cooking until the peppers and onions have softened completely.  Add a little water to the pan if necessary to keep the mixture juicy.  When they are fully cooked, stir in the basil, cover, and remove from the heat.

Toast the bread.  Liberally rub the toasted bread with the remaining clove of whole garlic, and drizzle each slice with extra-virgin olive oil.  Place 2 slices of crisped bacon on each slice of toast.  Divide the pepper mixture among all four toasts, and top each one with 2 slices of tomato.  Dust with a sprinkling of salt.

Gasp, sigh, moan, and take pleasure in your moment of clarity!

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