Fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella…three of my favorite things to eat, in one great salad…Caprese Salad! It makes a nice lunch or light dinner. And in the summer, if you have a garden and grow tomatoes and basil, it’s so nice to be able to go out to your backyard and pick your meal fresh from the garden! Here’s a gardening tip too: instead of using bug sprays on your tomato or basil plants, plant big bunches of marigolds near them—I’ve found that marigolds are great at helping to keep the bugs away!Continue reading
I’ve grown basil every summer for many years–sometimes in a garden, but lately in a large pot, since I don’t have space for a garden right now. I love making homemade pesto with my basil! It’s really easy to make and there’s nothing like cutting fresh basil from your own garden or pot to make it. What probably takes the longest time in making this recipe is picking the basil leaves off the cut stems…but even that task is enjoyable because you get to sniff the wonderful aroma of fresh basil while you’re doing it! Here’s a simple recipe I use…it’s a good starting point, and you can adjust the amount of certain ingredients (like the garlic, for example) to suit your taste. You can use a food processor or blender–a food processor probably works best, but a blender will work, too.
BASIL PESTO by NancyC
Makes 2/3 to 3/4 cup
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves. packed
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 3 Tbsp. pine nuts (I often substitute pecans or walnuts, because they’re less expensive)
- Dash or two of salt, to taste (optional)
In a food processor or blender, add the basil, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic; blend or process until smooth (the mixture is on the thick side, so if you’re using a blender, you may have to stop the blender and stir with a spoon to help it along). Add the Parmesan cheese and nuts (and salt, if desired) to the basil mixture, and blend well. Spoon it out of the blender or food processor into a small bowl (or covered container if you’re going to use it later).
I mostly eat pesto spread on a thick slice of crusty bread. It’s also really good on the Asiago cheese bagels you can buy at Panera Bread or Atlanta Bread Company. If you’re a sourdough bread fan like I am, it’s good on that too!
Do you grow your own basil too? What do you like to make with it?
This cool, summer soup sounded good to me because it didn’t involve any cooking, and it has been so hot these past couple of days! This is a “raw food” recipe. You may have heard about all the health benefits there are to eating raw. I’ve read a little about it, although I’m no expert on the subject.
I found this recipe over at Beach House Kitchen and modified it slightly. I loved the way it tasted! I actually liked it much more than I thought I would. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since I love all the ingredients in this soup…tomatoes, red pepper, onion, garlic, basil, avocado…but I think my favorite ingredient is the sun-dried tomatoes. They really make this soup wonderful!
This soup is so easy to make, too–all the ingredients are mixed in a blender, then you just pour it out and serve. It’s the perfect super-easy, super-healthy summer meal!
TOMATO BASIL AVOCADO SOUP adapted from Beach House Kitchen
Makes two cup-size servings (3/4 cup per serving; for two “large bowl” servings, double the recipe)
- 4 medium size tomatoes, cut into fourths
- 1/2 of a sweet red pepper (seeds removed), chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (use the ones that are packed in oil in a jar–I used julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, so I didn’t need to chop mine)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 of a medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup well-packed basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 of an avocado, cut into chunks
- dash of salt to taste (optional)
- additional basil leaves, whole or chopped, for garnish
Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ingredients are well-blended and mixture is just slightly chunky (you may have to stop the blender once and help the mixture along with a spoon). Pour into soup cups or bowls, garnish with additional basil leaves, whole or chopped, and serve immediately.
NOTE: This soup doesn’t take long to blend, especially if you have a high-power blender–it just took mine a minute or two to blend all the ingredients. If you have a lower-power blender, it may take a little longer.
This is only the second cold soup I’ve ever made–I’ll have to try more of these out! Have you made any cold soups? Or have you tried out any raw food recipes lately?
I have a confession to make…I have never made homemade pizza! I’ve been wanting to make some, though, and very recently I had the opportunity to review a cookbook/guide to pizza-making called Thursday Night Pizza, written by Fr. Dominic Garramone, and published by Reedy Press. So this was the perfect time for me to attempt making pizza from scratch.
Father Dominic hosted a popular PBS show, Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, for several years and has tested his pizza recipes for the past twenty years on his fellow monks at the Saint Bede Abbey. After all that testing, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with any of his recipes! The book includes instructions for making 3 different pizza doughs, 8 sauces, 2 pestos, and several dozen recipes for pizzas (including some pizza appetizers and a few dessert pizzas).
The hardest thing was deciding which recipe to try first…there’s the the Four Cheese Tomato-Top Pizza, Italian Beef Pizza, Carbonara Pizza, Spicy Thai Peanut Chicken Pizza, Spinach Pesto Pizza, and Muffaletta Pizza, to name a few. I finally decided on the Pizza Margherita, because all the ingredients–fresh basil, tomato, mozzarella, and garlic–are favorites of mine. In the cookbook, it’s described as “A classic pie that is both rustic and elegant in its simplicity.” I like rustic and simple! 🙂
Now as far as the pizza crust goes, Father Dominic says homemade dough is always the best, so I used his recipe for Italian style dough (for a thick crust) on page 32 of his cookbook. It’s not that hard to make, and the crust was really good! However, when you make homemade dough, it does add a few hours to your pizza-making process; if you don’t have the time, you can use pre-made pizza crust, like the Boboli brand, or whatever type of crust you prefer. For the Pizza Margherita, a thick crust works best. Father Dominic also recommends using a pizza stone instead of a pan if you have one, and I did have a round pizza stone. But if you don’t, just use a pizza pan.
Here’s the recipe…
PIZZA MARGHERITA (from Thursday Night Pizza)
- Recommended crust: 8-12 oz. of Italian style dough (from page 32) OR pre-made thick pizza crust
- 4 large plum tomatoes, diced and drained
- 1 garlic clove, mashed and minced
- 3 or 4 large leaves of fresh basil, cut into strips (I found some fresh basil at my grocery store; even in winter, more stores are carrying fresh herbs now and you definitely want fresh basil for this)
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces (I bought an 8-oz. block of mozzarella and shredded it with a grater)
- some cornmeal, for dusting your pizza stone or pan
Using your fingertips, hand-stretch the pizza dough to 12″ to 14″ and place on a pre-heated cornmeal-dusted baking stone or pizza pan. Toss diced tomatoes with garlic. Top the dough with the diced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Bake at 500 degrees until the crust is lightly browned and the mozzarella is fully melted (about 10-12 minutes). Remove from oven and top with strips of basil before serving.
If you like adding extra seasoning to your pizza, you might want to add a dash of salt or pepper to suit your taste.
This is a really nice and thick, cheesy pizza. And if I can make homemade pizza, I know you can, too! The recipes in Thursday Night Pizza are easy to follow, so don’t feel intimidated about trying any of them out!
If you’re in a “salad rut” and wanting to try something new, try this Italian Panzanella! When I saw this recipe and photo over at MarthaStewart.com, it looked and sounded so good and healthy! As I looked over the ingredients, I discovered that I liked everything that was in it. So I tried it out the other day…I thought it was really good. I had never made anything like it before, but it was very easy to put together. Martha’s website mentions that the cannellini beans and provolone cheese, mixed with the veggies, make this a “well-balanced vegetarian meal.” I’m not a vegetarian, but I do like to eat healthy, so I give this recipe a “thumbs up!” This makes 4 servings.
- 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups large cubes of Italian country bread* (or your favorite bread)
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into small chunks
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
- 4 ounces provolone cheese, diced (buy the cheese unsliced)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Whisk together vinegar and oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add beans, cubed bread, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and cheese. Toss these ingredients with the vinegar and oil mixture; cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours. Stir in the basil just before serving.
*Italian country bread has a chewy, coarse texture that holds moisture well without becoming soggy. Also known as pan bigio, it is typically made with whole wheat flour or a mixture of white and whole wheat flour.
Linked to Vegetarian Foodie Fridays.