Posts tagged ‘basil’

The daily harvest

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I’ve written before about how something as simple as tending to a row of peas can calm frenzied days, and how flowers from the garden can lighten even the saddest days. My faith in garden therapy continues to grow. It’s been a spring and summer of gardening in five or ten minute stints throughout the day as I navigate the joys and challenges of being a new mommy.

Our little guy has his own chair outside on the deck and many mornings we enjoy our breakfast or lunch outside and I do the watering in between bites, or pick a strawberry or two for us to eat. Once in a while a weed gets pulled, but only in the food growing areas. The rest of them have free reign of the yard, I’m afraid (motherhood is doing wonders for curing my perfectionist tendencies).

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Best of all is going out, usually late afternoon, to harvest something good for dinner. We’ve had a steady crop of greens that I’ve been using in salad and pasta – rainbow chard, spinach, arugula, bok choy and more – since late spring. Cucumbers have been a success as well – from one little plant I’ve harvested at least a dozen full-sized cukes. Tomatoes are also collecting in a basket I keep on the windowsill. I’ve been picking them a bit green to encourage others on the vine to ripen up. The tomatoes I grew this year shot up sky-high, so it is a race to get the fruit before the plants topple over from the weight.

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We have plums, plums, and more plums. I have made six beautiful plum cakes over the past couple of weeks, and I might still make one or two more. The plums are wonderful for eating fresh as well. No one is enjoying them more than our 7-month old. Good luck eating one if he is in arms-length of you: he’ll reach over, grab it away and hoover it down with the most intense passion and focus. All that is left a minute later is a sticky, drippy, gooey mess of plum juice and slobber all over everyone and everything. Motherhood also cures you of caring about whether your house or shirt or arm is clean: I am in love with this kind of mess.

Apples, sadly are a bust this year, for reasons unknown. Last year’s harvest was incredible, so I will have to figure out what we did wrong so the pie-making can recommence next season. Tent caterpillars might be to blame. We found a pile of them nesting in the tree in the late spring, so I wonder if they ate all the blossoms. Last year’s apple sauce is still here, though, and almost as popular as the plums with our little guy.

Fresh herbs – chives, dill, sage, basil, thyme, and oregano – are all thriving in pots and in the garden. The ambitious me wants to dry mint leaves, lemon balm, lavender, and rose petals for tea. We’ll see if that happens this year, but for now I am reminding myself to brew up a pot of what’s growing fresh in the garden.

There will be time enough for tea bags all winter, and for weeding maybe some day. For now I will enjoy my five minutes here and there in the garden by picking something good to eat.

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August 7, 2015 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

Smoked salmon & sundried tomato amuse bouche

amuse bouche

Amuse bouche: a fancy name for bite-sized appetizers, and not the thing you want to be assigned to bring to a holiday party of competitive foodie-types. Much stress and fear of failure went into the creation of this fancy bite, which I concocted at the last minute after worrying about it endlessly beforehand. Everyone loved it (“I told you so,” said my husband (only once, to his credit) who had to suffer through my pre-amuse anxiety), so I am sharing it here in hopes of saving you this ridiculous angst.

I was lucky to have a beautiful ingredient as my guide: a small package of cold smoked lox from my share in Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery (highly recommended if you are in Vancouver or Calgary). I could have served that salmon on bite-sized pieces of an old boot and still turned out a star.

Smoked salmon & sundried tomato amuse bouche
Makes lots!

250 g light cream cheese
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (oil or water-packed)
2 tablespoons olive oil (use the oil from the tomatoes if you are using oil-packed sundried tomatoes)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Lots of fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons dill (fresh or dried)
A few sprigs of fresh basil
3/4 cup cold smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
Crackers (I used these gluten free seed crackers)
1 small bunch of chives, minced

In a food processor, buzz together the cream cheese, tomatoes, oil, capers, lemon juice and zest, pepper and herbs until it is nicely mixed. Scoop a bit of the cream cheese mixture onto each cracker and top with smoked salmon and chives. Voila! You are fancy party ready.

December 17, 2012 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

Windowsill gardening

One of my most successful gardening endeavours this year is happening indoors. I’ve grown several pots of basil from seed on the window sill of my studio this summer and the plants are doing so well in their few inches of sun.

It’s such a satisfying thing to grow a plant from a seed. The ritual of tending to plants brings me endless peace, and basil brings an extra reward. When I water the plants in the morning I brush up against the leaves and experience the earthy summer smell of basil – it’s an amazing signal to my brain to wake up and enjoy the day.

September 20, 2012 at 8:09 am 2 comments

Roasted tomato and basil pesto pasta

Oven-roasted tomatoes are something I see all the time in cookbooks and on food blogs and I’ve been meaning to try them for awhile now. I think this dish would be amazing with the abundant, ripe tomatoes that are harvested garden-fresh in late summer and early fall, but for now this is a good way to use up those poor grocery store tomatoes that have been lingering too long in the fruit bowl.

Roasted tomato and basil pesto pasta
Makes 2 servings (double or triple for a bigger crowd)

3 cups of dried pasta
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons basil pesto*
1-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Fresh ground pepper and grated parmesan cheese

Combine tomatoes, pesto and garlic in a glass pie plate or other oven-safe dish. Cook for 15-20 minutes at 400F. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water. Drain the pasta and pull the tomatoes out of the oven. Stir the drained pasta into the tomato mixture and serve on plates. Sprinkle with fresh pepper and parmesan cheese and enjoy with a salad and red wine.

*I used store-bought pesto but should really try to make it myself someday. As a substitute for pesto, you can also try 3 tablespoons of olive oil plus a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped fresh herbs.

February 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm 4 comments

Tomato and tarragon soup

Tarragon is a new ingredient in my kitchen. It’s a leafy green herb that reminds me of the licorice-like taste of fennel combined with the strong, verdant aroma of fresh basil. After tasting it in this creamy tomato soup I will definitely search it out for the kitchen garden we’re planning for our new patio.

This recipe is adapted from Rebar Cookbook. It’s easy to make and relatively quick – everyone at our dinner table loved it. If you don’t have tarragon I’d recommend fresh basil or chives as a substitute.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cup tarragon, sliced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cans (28 oz) whole tomatoes with juice
1 cup whipping cream

Saute onion in oil for about five minutes until onions soften. Stir in salt, garlic and chile flakes and saute for another five minutes. Stir tomatoes and half of the tarragon into onion mixture. Break up tomatoes, add stock and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Remove bay leaves, blend soup in batches and return to pot. Stir in cream and remaining tarragon and serve.

April 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm 2 comments

Caprese salad

caprese salad

Caprese (ka-pree-see) salad, aka the delightful combination of fresh tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella. The latter is pricey (about $10 for a chunk that will serve 4 people), but worth it, especially in the summer when basil and tomatoes are at their most delicious. The salad pictured above was made with tomatoes and mozza from our local farmer’s market, and basil grown on our back deck.

Not sure this is even worth calling a recipe – here’s how to make: Place a few tomato slices on a plate. A combination of different coloured tomatoes is nice, as are the funky shapes and colours of some heirloom tomatoes. Use a serrated knife to gently saw off a few slices from a round of buffalo mozzarella and place the cheese on top of the tomatoes. Scatter some fresh basil leaves on top. Drizzle each plate with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and dust with freshly ground pepper. Eat!

Dead simple to make, but incredibly tasty.

August 18, 2009 at 3:51 pm 3 comments

Summer vegetable pizza

homemade pizza and salad

Homemade pizza is a wonderful thing to eat. We usually keep some pre-made pizza crusts or some homemade dough in the freezer and end up making pizzas once or twice a month. The toppings are always different and this is part of the fun. The recipe below uses summer vegetables that I love including zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms and shallots, which are all available now from Alberta and BC through our local farmers’ market.

Summer vegetable pizza
2 12″ pizza crusts, either storebought or homemade. For gluten-free, we order Lakeview Bakery‘s rice flour pizza shells through Spud.ca
Crushed tomatoes (open a tin can of crushed tomatoes and save whatever you don’t use for the pizza for a recipe like polenta)
Fresh or dried oregano, thyme, basil and parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Hot pepper flakes

Place pizza shells on baking sheet. Spread crushed tomatoes over top and sprinkle with a generous topping of fresh or dried herbs. Meanwhile, saute zucchini, mushrooms, shallots and red pepper until they’re soft and smelling great. Season with salt and pepper and spoon onto the pizza shells. Top with mozzarella, parmesan and a small dusting of hot pepper flakes. Bake in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes until the top of the pizza is nicely browned. Serve with salad on the side. Rose wine is a great match for pizza.

June 13, 2009 at 3:46 pm 1 comment


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