web analytics

Archive | basil RSS feed for this section

Caprese Salad (insalata caprese)

caprese salad by The Culinary ChaseInsalata caprese is a tomato and mozzarella salad from the island of Capri. This simple yet delicious Italian antipasto makes perfect use of local heirloom tomatoes which are available now in grocery stores and markets.  Extra-virgin olive oil highlights the sweetness of the heirloom tomatoes and is the only dressing needed. What makes this salad shine? Like anything else, it’s the quality of the ingredients.   The tomatoes and mozzarella must be fresh – plain and simple, end of story.  If you live in New York or where there’s a large Italian community, fresh mozzarella is everywhere.  It doesn’t matter where I shop, I can always find in-house made mozzarella and with a choice as to salted or not.  I picked up the mozzarella on Sunday and a sticker on the plastic wrap said it was made at 12:30pm…still slightly warm!  I could visualize the salad and couldn’t wait to get home to chow down.

For 2 people, you’ll need –

1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
basil leaves

heirloom tomatoes by The Culinary ChaseArrange slices of tomatoes and cheese on a plate or platter so that they are overlapping each other. Scatter basil leaves and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Please don’t add any vinegar or lemon juice as you will kill the delicate flavor of fresh mozzarella.  A chunk of bread will go nicely with this salad to mop up any of the leftover juices from the tomatoes and olive oil. Enjoy!

Homemade Pesto

homemade pesto by The Culinary ChaseAlmost every cuisine on our planet has found an important role for garlic and is among the oldest known horticultural crop. Egyptian and Indian cultures referred to garlic 5000 years ago and by the Chinese 2000 years ago. Pesto hails from the northern region of Liguria and is a Ligurian superstar! Pasta isn’t the only place you can find pesto on. Try it on bruschetta, in a vinaigrette, tossed with vegetables, in soups, polenta, quiche filling, mayonnaise.

Garlic’s good for you. It acts as a warming herb for the digestion and respiratory tract and is an important antibiotic and antiviral remedy for colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other infections. When selecting a head of garlic, look for large, clean, firm bulbs with unbroken, dry skins. Remove any green shoots from cloves because they give a bitter taste that persists when garlic is cooked. Store garlic in a cool, dry place where air can circulate. Refrigerating garlic inhibits flavor and dehydrates the cloves.

pesto recipeThe Culinary Chase’s Note: I prefer to use a pestle and mortar as I like to see the bits of crushed ingredients whereas the food processor tends to make everything smooth. The pestle bruises the basil releasing its perfume into the garlic and pine nuts. Put the basil leaves and garlic in mortar and crush. Add a pinch of sea salt and crush until almost creamy. Add the pine nuts and continue to crush; stir in olive oil.  At this point, you may need to add more salt or any of the other ingredients to your satisfaction.   This makes about 2 cups.  If you have any left over and don’t plan to use right away, place in an ice cube container and freeze for future use.  Enjoy!

Thai Larb

Thai-Style Pork LarbThe other night John and I were watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Guy Fieri was visiting a diner in Hawaii called Opal’s. It’s owned by a Thai family and as we watched the larb come together, our mouths started to water. It has been far too long since we had this! Larb is the national dish of Laos and can be made with ground meat or fish and flavored with fresh herbs and spices.  Thai larb is easy to make, perfect finger food and a fun way for your kids to eat more veggies.

Serves 2
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon agave or honey
1 to 2  teaspoons hot sauce
handful slivered red onion
handful cilantro
handful fresh mint
handful fresh basil
Boston lettuce, remove 4 layers (use as cups)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned (alternatively you can use the potato peeler)
handful finely sliced purple cabbage
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

larb ingredientsPan-fry ground pork in a bit of olive oil until no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any liquid. Add lime juice, fish sauce, hot sauce and agave to fried pork – stir. In a bowl toss onion, cilantro, mint, basil, cabbage and bell pepper. Add pork to vegetable mixture and lightly toss. Fill lettuce cups and fold up like you would a tortilla.

larb fillingThe Culinary Chase’s Note: You can use ground chicken, beef, or fish if you don’t like pork.  and a wonderful way to incorporate veggies into a meal.  Enjoy!