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Archive for the ‘Basil’ Category

In the strictest sense, a pesto is anything that is made using a pestle via pounding and crushing.   Fresh pesto alla genovese, made with fragrant basil leaves, delicious pine nuts, and salty Parmigiano cheese, is one of my absolutely favourite foods.  In August, when basil is at its finest, I will often make enough pesto to satisfy my family’s pesto cravings for a year.  We freeze it in icecube trays or small Tupperware, and it stays reasonably fresh in the freezer for up to 12 months (still far far tastier than any store bought you can find). Except this year, it is March and I’ve already run out – a true sacrilege!

Basil in March comes in teeny tiny impossible to see containers (at least in Halifax), so I decided today was the day to experiment and learn about an alternative pesto.  Inspired by the cookbook rebar, I mixed basil with Italian parsley, roasted almonds, and Romano cheese.

The result surprised me – slightly milder than pesto alla genonese, but full of flavour and tasting of summer.  Perfect with a sliced tomato, tossed with pasta, or stirred into a soup!

Almond-Romano Parsley Pesto

(About 1 ½ cups)

Ingredients:

½ bunch Italian parsley

2 cups basil leaves

½ cup roasted almonds

2 garlic cloves

½ cup grated Romano cheese

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place all the ingredients save the oil in a food processor.  Pulse until to combine.  In a thin stream, gradually pour in the oil.  Combine until smooth.

–       Catherine

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You'll devour the pine nut crunch topping!

A mon avis, nothing is more gratifying that to come home and discover your next month’s Bon Appetit monthly subscription is waiting for you.  The next two hours of your life will likely be spent oohing and aahing over the lovely delicious looking food.  This month’s feature was “remarkably sumptuous baked pastas” – and I decided to try one of the vegetarian fares.

My vegetarian adventures this month have taught me that I need to sneak in protein and iron wherever I can in my food.  Basil it turns out has a remarkable amount of iron (3.2 mg/100 grams of basil, just over 25% of your RDA) and pine nuts are full of protein (plus they are amazingly tasty).  The eggplant gives the dish subsetance, perfect for those of learning to live in a meatless world.  This dish – full of cheese, basil, and eggplant – certainly did the trick of delicious and nutritious.

The pasta recipe was a little more finicky that I am used to – nothing challenging, per se, but with a surprising number of components.   It is also incredibly creamy – the first few bites I had were overwhelming (I confess to rarely eating a rose sauce made with whipping cream), but by the end of my first bowl, I was lapping up every last drop.  The winning part of the dish is the topping: the pine nut crunch and mozzarella combo is superb.

Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch

(12 servings)

Ingredients:

Roasted Veggies

Olive Oil

1 unpeeled large egglplant, cut into ½ inch cubes (I actually used 3 chinese eggaplants because my grocery store was out of North American eggplant)

2 medium bell peppers, cut into ½ inch squares

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Pine Nut Crunch:

1 cup fimly packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup Parmesan cheese,

¼ cup pine nutes

1 garlic clove

Pasta Sauce:

1 pound rigatoni

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves

1 garlic clove

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated

½ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat over to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss veggies to roast with oil and salt and pepper.  Roast vegetables until tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender, but still firm to bite stirring occasionally.  Drain and return to pot.

In a food processor combine all ingredients to make pine nut crunch.  Blend until crumbly and set aside.

Create rose sauce by blending tomatoes, cream, basil, and garlic until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

Mix roasted veggies with sauce, Parmesan cheese, and pasta in pot.  Transfer to 13x9x2inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with pine nut topping followed by mozzarella.  Bake pasta until heated through, 25 to 35 minutes, and topping is brown and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes and serve!

– Catherine

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