Thursday, March 27, 2008


Whenever I am trying to create a simple yet amazingly flavorful meal somehow I always think of basil. Basil adds so much flavor to just about anything, and it is so aromatic and beautiful looking as well. Basil is often considered a symbol of love; in Italy, a pot of basil placed on a balcony signaled that a woman was ready to receive suitors.
Basil can simply be tossed with garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and angel hair pasta, sprinkled in a tossed salad or with rice. My favorite pasta in the world is a simple pesto with basil, pine nuts and garlic. Most heavenly of all, snuggle the leaves between slices of fresh bread along with red, ripe tomatoes, sweet onion slices and fresh mozzarella. Basil is a member of the mint family and is one of the most widely used culinary herbs. There are so many different varieties. Experiment with mint basil, lemon basil, opal basil and sweet basil just to name a few. The red-hot flaming pasta I've included below is really simple and a showstopper. The lemon pecan pesto is delicious with pasta, chicken or fish. The Thai Green Curry has a wonderful basil influence and proves that it is not just for Italian food. So go ahead and try out some of these recipes and share some of the love herb and good food with your friends and family.

Lemon Pecan Pesto

1 Cup Lemon Basil Leaves
2 Cups Sweet Basil Leaves
1 Cup Pecans
1/2 Cup Fresh, Grated Parmesan Cheese
4 Cloves Garlic
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil and lemon in food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and process. Add the lemon juice, zest and the remainder of the oil. Serve with pasta, chicken, fish or stuff into fresh cherry tomatoes for a tasty appetizer.

Marinated Roasted Pepper, Olive and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

6 large red bell peppers
1 cup whole Greek or pitted ripe olives
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves o
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Pre heat the oven set on broil. Broil bell peppers with tops about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, until skin is blistered and evenly browned. Place peppers in a plastic bag and close tightly. Let stand 20 minutes.
Remove skin, stems, seeds and membranes from peppers. Cut peppers into 1/4-inch strips. Place peppers, olives and cheese in glass bowl. Shake remaining ingredients in tightly covered container; pour over pepper mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

Red Hot Flaming Pasta

1/2 cup vodka
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup half and half
1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Fresh ground pepper
12 oz pasta of your choice
(Also great with Ravioli)
Parmesan cheese

Soak the crushed pepper in the vodka for 1 hour. In a large pot bring salted water to a boil add pasta and cook until andante about 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat a large skillet and when it is hot pour in the vodka mixture. Swirl it around then light it with a match. Be very careful it will really flame. Add the butter, half and half and marinara sauce. Bring to a light boil. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce and coat well. Sprinkle with basil, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve at once.

Green Chicken Curry

This green curry is rich and creamy with just the perfect kick. It is so simple to make so don’t be intimidated if some of the ingredients seem unfamiliar. Most are available at a good supermarket and all are available at an Asian market. Be sure to remove the lemongrass stalks and lime leaves before serving, as they are really stringy and tough to eat. Keep in mind that you can make it with shrimp, or vegetarian. I like it with the snow peas, but you can use any vegetable you like.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut bite size
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemon grass stalks, bruised and cut
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 pound snow peas
15 basil leaves

In a wok or frying pan heat the oil. Add the green curry paste and stir-fry until bubbly and fragrant. Add the chicken, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Add the snow peas and cook for another minute. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and serve over rice.

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