Thursday, August 11, 2011
I have been waiting so long for this post!! I wanted to include everything to do with this luscious herb.
I cultivated my love for basil while studying abroad in Italy. I learned to put it in the obvious things...bruschetta, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, etc. In Italy, we didn't have cookbooks. We learned by trying and tasting...and tasting...and tasting. Did I mention I gained 20 lbs in Italy? Oh well, it was worth it. This was a great experience and has translated into my love of cooking as well as my cooking style these days.
Basil has a unique, minty flavor. The picture shown above is basil that I grow on my front stoop. I love having it handy for flavoring many dishes. I have started putting basil in almost everything and am discovering that it, indeed, CAN be put in almost everything. The following pictures and recipes are examples of how I have used basil in the last few months and how it can be used regularly in your home.
This first one might seem strange but go with me. Basil in eggs. My friend, Lila Scott, who owns Colorado Backyard Farms and specializes in planting organic gardens for businesses and homes recommended that I put basil in eggs when I was looking for new ways to use my favorite herb. I'm glad I took her advice because it is a delicious way to put a new spin on a breakfast classic.
I love putting fresh basil on pizza. Right under the cheese with the rest of your toppings...it's so good!!
I don't think I've mentioned my second love...cheese. I love any and all cheese but fresh mozzarella and parmesan rank right up there as a favorite. The mozzarella tomato panini with basil mayo is a new favorite. It's so easy and tastes so fresh! Here's the recipe for basil mayo:
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
5-10 basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp good olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Whisk together the ingredients.
Put on french bread and toast the fresh mozzarella and tomato in a panini maker.
Bruschetta is one of those easy things that I always forget about. It's a great thing to have for dinner parties or to throw together when you have a friend coming over. Chop roma tomatoes, sweet onion, basil, garlic and mix. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on french or italian bread and top with grated parmesan. So easy!!!
And now, here it is, the ultimate recipe that shows how versatile basil can really be...MANGO CHEESECAKE WITH LEMON BASIL DRIZZLE. Yes, you read right. Mango cheesecake with lemon basil drizzle. I had never made cheesecake before but this is a recipe I will DEFINITELY make again. It was a hit with friends and co-workers. From Giada DeLaurentis.
Mango Cheesecake with Lemon Basil Drizzle
Mango Puree Ingredients:
3 mangoes, seeded, peeled and sliced
1/4 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp sugar
Combine ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time, just until mixture will puree smoothly. Puree should be thick.
Mango Cheesecake Ingredients:
8 oz biscotti (I couldn't find this at any regular grocery and eventually went to an Italian bakery...I recommend skipping the regular grocery and going right to the good stuff)
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
2 cups mango puree
4 large eggs
3/4 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with two layers of heavy duty foil. Finely grind the biscotti in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.
Blend the cream cheese and ricotta in a food processor (I used my mixer). Add the mango puree, eggs and sugar and pulse until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the mango mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan (Thanks Grandma Ruth!!). Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the sprinform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Transfer hte cake to a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes. Place in the refrigerator and cool completely, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
Lemon Basil Drizzle Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Cool the syrup completely. In a food processor, combine the basil and cooled syrup. Pulse until the herbs are finely chopped. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
Slice the cheesecake and drizzle sauce. Serve.
I hope I've made it clear that basil can be used in so many wonderful and creative ways!! Have a new basil recipe for me to try? Post it please!
In the meantime, stop and smell the basil.