Fresh Basil

by Cate on May 18, 2005

Basil! It’s all I could smell on the ride home from the grocery store yesterday, and every time I opened up the refrigerator once I put it away. And, of course, while chopping it up tonight, the smell just intensified. I love the smell of fresh basil. I digress … first the dinner report.

Dinner tonight was one of those no-fuss, no-muss types of meals. Simple, no-frills food that’s perfect for a weekday dinner. I took a Caesar Salad recipe I found online and made some changes to it. When I made it, I wasn’t holding out much hope for it. It just seemed too, well, simple. It basically consists of lettuce and dressing. That’s it. I think I’m just used to the salads where you toss other things into it as well … olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, etc. Something! I was pleasantly surprised by the dressing though: crisp, tasty and simple. I’d make it again, but think I’d add some shrimp or chicken to the salad just to take it up another level, while still keeping it dressed down and simple.

Dinner was Spaghetti Carbonara. My own recipe, it’s a great go-to dish that requires no thought at all. To resolve some of the guilt for the crispy bacon in it, I cook my bacon a bit differently. I preheat the oven to 350 and put two wire racks on a cookie sheet. Then I lay the bacon on the wire racks and bake it to the desired level of crispiness (we’re an extra crispy bacon household). By cooking bacon this way, most of the grease drips off the bacon onto the cookie sheet, making it probably as healthy as bacon is going to be. Works for me.

Dessert was Oatmeal Cookies and Raspberry Parfaits. Oatmeal Cookies are a no brainer. The Raspberry Parfaits are from Dave Lieberman also. More of a put-together thing, as opposed to a recipe, they worked. Pretty in a clear glass, seconds to assemble and hit the spot. Not a WOW thing by any means, but a nice, simple ending to a weeknight meal.

Now that I’ve got dinner out of the way, back to my basil.

Making lunch tomorrow for the office. I made Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and BASIL. Very, very simple recipe, but flavorful and only 4 points for anyone following WW. Another no brainer recipe really, and one that’s been done a thousand times before, a thousand different ways. I also made Artichoke Tarts, which went from the oven, to my mouth, to the trash. I very rarely throw food away, but these just didn’t pass muster. I can’t pinpoint exactly what made them garbage, they just were. Perhaps too much masking of the artichoke goodness. I suppose I’m an artichoke purist. Growing up, my mom, sister and I loved artichokes and we all still do. Funnily enough, none of the men will touch them. Mom makes a simple dipping sauce of vinegar and olive oil and away we go. Don’t get me wrong, I love artichoke dip and other recipes with artichokes in them (remember the pasta from a few weeks ago?), but think this maybe had too much competing with the artichokes. It had cream cheese, grated Cheddar, mustard, cayenne, roasted peppers and artichokes mixed together to form the filling for the tarts. One of the women at the lunch is REALLY on the fence about artichokes and this wouldn’t help, so all the more reason … in the trash they went. Dessert for tomorrow’s lunch is going to be Chocolate Pudding Parfaits. No rocket science there either. So now that the Tarts went into the trash, I have unexpected space on the menu for a side thing for lunch tomorrow. Think I’ll repeat the Bean and Cheese Nachos from two weeks ago — super simple and so yummy you’d never guess they were low fat.

Enough about MY lunch … what are YOU eating for lunch?

Tune in tomorrow when I finally nail down my Supper Club offerings. Until then… off to watch Britney and Kevin: Chaotic. :)

Raspberry Parfait
Yield: 2 servings
6 tablespoons raspberry jam
2 tablespoons water
1 (10-ounce) pound cake
3/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together jam and water, set aside. Cut the pound cake into thin slices about 1/8-inch thick. Take one of the wine glasses that you will use to serve the dessert in and cut out a circle from each slice of cake by pressing the rim of the glass into the cake. When you’re done, wash the glass. In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream with a whisk or electric mixer until it just begins to hold soft peaks when you pull the beaters out. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue beating to soft peaks. Drop a couple of large spoonfuls of the cream into 2 wine glasses then press in a cake round followed by a thin layer of raspberry sauce. Repeat until you’ve almost filled the glass. End with a layer of cake, then cream and then drizzled berry sauce over the top.

Caesar Salad
Yield: 6 servings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 heads romaine lettuce hearts
1/2 lemon
Shaved Parmesan
Anchovy oil from can of anchovies packed in olive oil

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, few pinches of salt, about 15 grinds pepper, juice of lemon half and the anchovy oil. Cut lettuce in bite-size pieces and put in bowl. Toss with dressing. Sprinkle shaved Parmesan over the top.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie May 18, 2005 at 4:59 am

Our garden seems to have recovered from an attack of…something (bugs? rabbits? who knows), but just to be safe, we planted an extra basil plant in a pot on our front steps. Right next to the enormous (I’m talking four+ feet tall) rosemary bush we ‘inherited’ from the in-laws. Talk about convenience; I don’t even have to walk to the garden for fresh herbs these days…just to the front porch!

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Sue May 18, 2005 at 5:48 am

Oh gosh, my lunches have been pathetic lately. I dash home and toss together whatever. Today it was a kind of deli plate — whole wheat tortillas dipped in mild ajvar, which is a bottled red pepper sauce from the Middle Eastern market – quite delish.

Also some sliced baked teriyaki flavor tofu, a sliced baked beet, and some romano with embedded whole peppercorns.

For dessert, slices of canteloupe.

Tomorrow I will pick up a little something and dine with my parents. For the next 2 months I am spending Weds and Fridays working in their town and this gives me a chance to pop in on them.

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Susan May 18, 2005 at 4:38 pm

The raspberry parfaits sound so nice! You really do things up well for company – wish I could come to visit. =)

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Cate May 18, 2005 at 4:59 pm

Stephanie – I am so jealous! Basil AND rosemary? I keep trying to grow herbs and fail miserably. How hard can it be? Get sun, give water. Apparently I’m missing something, because a second season is going by … and I have nothing! I still have the herb plants I bought a few weeks ago, so fingers crossed. Forget about vegetables!

Sue – not a big tofu fan myself, but the hummus sure sounds delicious. Just finished the Pasta Salad and it was yummy stuff – fresh, full flavors and simple to make – what more could you want.

Susan – thanks! I love to entertain and try to do it at least once a month, whether it’s a small dinner party or a full-blown affair. Figure it’s good practice for the restaurant I want to own one day, and great justification for all my kitchen toys and cookbooks. :)

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Cate May 18, 2005 at 5:01 pm

Just reread the comments – no idea WHERE I got hummus from, Sue. I meant ajvar. Got some from Trader Joes awhile back and made panini sandwiches with that and grilled chicken. As Rachael Ray would say – YUM-O!

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