Posts tagged basil
Tofu is tasteless. Really. That’s why I was a little nervous that my kids might not like it. So I came up with a bit of a strategy for introducing them to the mashed up soybeans. First, it had to be firm tofu cut into little squares. I was going to make the squares up myself but I was happy to find that firm tofu comes in pre-cut squares (and they were on sale this week). Second, I needed a sauce that would soak into the tofu and add a burst of flavor. Last, I wanted to put it in something that was already familiar. Tacos.
I ran across a recipe in a recent issue of Cuisine at home that seemed to fit all my criteria. I tweaked the recipe to pass along here. The recipe starts by having you make your own flour tortillas. I was all for DIY tortillas but let me tell you for the amount of work you put in, I’d suggest buying smaller flour tortillas instead and brushing them with sesame oil before toasting. Same flavor, a lot less mess (my youngest was covered in flour head to toe). I also added in fresh basil to give the filling a needed zing (Thai basil would have been even better, but you work with what you have, right?). It’s optional, but I recommend adding some fresh herbs into the mix–cilantro or even parsley would work here too.
Prep & cook time: 30 minutes or less (unless you make your own tortillas, in which case, it could be hours)
4 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces (I cut those in half too)
1/2 cup shredded carrots (had these out, totally forgot to use it)
1/2 red pepper cut into slivers
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups firm tofu cut into squares
1/4 cup basil, cut into slivers (opt. but very, very good)
Small flour tortillas (often located in the refrigerator section at the grocers)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. vinegar
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (opt.)
- Toast the flour tortillas in a medium-hot skillet, brushing them with sesame oil before adding them to the pan. Cook until warm and slightly crisped and place in a tortilla warmer or wrap in a clean kitchen towel until the filling is ready.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- In a non-stick cook pan or a wok (preferred) bring 1 teaspoon sesame oil to medium-high heat and add the eggs. Cook through and remove from pan. Slice into thin strips.
- Add another 1 teaspoon sesame oil to the wok and add the tofu. Cook until the squares start to crisp. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add 1/2 of the sauce. Cook just until the cubes are coated and remove from the wok.
- More sesame oil. Yup, add another teaspoon to a medium-high pan and then cook your veggies in this order: red peppers, carrots go first for about 2 minutes, then add the green onions. Wait a minute. Finally add in the cabbage, basil, eggs, and tofu.
- Now you have a choice: Do you kiddos like it saucy? If so, add the rest of the sauce, if not, serve it as a side. (I went less saucy myself.)
- Mix the vegetables together for about a minute and then use as a filling for the tacos.
- Serve the tacos alongside rice. (My kids liked adding the extra sauce to their rice.)
Kids’ reactions: Clean plates all around. None of my kids even noticed the tofu. My two youngest kids picked out each and every red pepper sliver, but not a piece of tofu remained. Even Mr. Squid was a fan. I even made tofu fried rice the next day.
Question: what do you do with leftover spinach? You know when you’ve forgotten about a bag of spinach and it ends up mushed in the back of the fridge until you discover it there. It’s a not so fresh that you want to make a salad out of it, but you don’t want to throw it away. Around our house, I often saute “leftover” spinach and put it in baked ziti, pasta, or even smoothies.
Flipping through the July/August issue of Cuisine at Home, I found another idea–green rice. The simple recipe uses a puree of spinach and cilantro to serve with BBQ shrimp (I wasn’t impressed with the overly sweet “creole” shrimp recipe). The flavor-infused rice is a great way to perk up a normally ho-hum side dish. Here are my two versions:
Green rice with spinach & cilantro
*Works well with spicy Mexican or American dishes
Prep time: 30 minutes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup Basmati or Jasmine rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 serrano chile (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft.
- Rinse the rice in cold water, then add it to the pan; cook for about one minute.
- Stir 1 cup broth and the milk into the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minute until tender.
- Meanwhile, puree the spinach, cilantro, juice from the lime, pepper (if using) and 1/2 cup chicken broth in a blender. Stir the spinach mixture into the rice and heat through (about 3 minutes).
Green rice with spinach & basil
*Works well with Italian or French dishes
Substitute 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves for the cilantro, a lemon for the lime, and add a dash of cayenne pepper in place of the serrano.
My youngest shied away from trying the rice at first saying, “What’s the green stuff, mom?” But after watching her older sisters finish off their plates she downed hers too. I served the rice with a wedge of lime for squeezing. I’ll definitely make this again.
I’m keeping it simple and fun this week by passing along a few mini-meal ideas we’ve been trying out–welcome to bistro pizza week! Now you can definitely make your own pizza dough, but to keep this meal fast I buy pre-made dough from an Italian grocery store near our home. With dough at $1 per bag, I pick up three and make four mini pizzas with each.
It’s fun to play around with the small sizes and experiment with the flavors. But to start off, I’m passing along a classic–Margarita pizza, topped with only three fresh ingredients: mozzarella cheese slices, roma tomatoes and basil. Named after an Italian queen whose visit to Naples inspired the idea, I find the simple ingredients are appealing to picky eaters. Maybe it’s that the ingredients are so easy to identify, or that every part of the pizza is fresh, but this is the most requested pizza at my house. We even picked up yellow tomatoes to make it again this week–gotta tweak right?
Note: It’s easy to double or triple this recipe and it makes for great leftovers to send in kids’ lunches–or to have for breakfast…
Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 mini-pizzas
1 bag pizza dough
2 roma tomatoes
1 bunch basil
8-12 ounces fresh mozzarella
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Divided the dough into four equal pieces using a floured knife.
- Roll each dough piece out into a 5-6 inch circle, then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
- Brush each dough piece generously with olive oil.
- Place tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh ground pepper on top.
- Bake for 10 minutes, remove pizza and add basil then cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until cheese is golden. (You can leave the basil on the whole time if you don’t mind it getting a little crispy. I actually like the basil crisped so I put it on at the beginning of cooking, it’s up to you!)
Coming up later this week:
- Meatball margarita pizza
- Breakfast pizza failure
- Apple gruyere pizza (a new favorite)
We’re trying to have veggie dinners at least once a week around here. The bounty of fresh vegetables certainly helps. That, and having friends with gardens who drop by their extras. Yesterday a surplus of ripe tomatoes and basil gave me an idea for dinner: My kids like caprese salad, which is simply fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. To make that a meal I added the cheese into an omelet and chopped the tomatoes and basil to serve on top. I used fontina cheese instead of mozzarella since it melts better and has a stronger flavor, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Also, I like a little meltiness in the inside of the omelet so I added a bit of American cheese. If you’re not an American cheese fan, you don’t have to include it. Another addition: sauteed portobello mushrooms. I cooked them in a basil oil to bring out even more of the herb’s flavor; regular olive oil is fine too.
Per serving, ingredients
1/4 shredded Fontina cheese
1 slice deli American cheese
1/2 tomato, diced
4 basil leaves, minced
handful shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
Whisk the eggs together and add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large saute pan bring 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter to medium high heat.
Pour the eggs into the pan and just when it starts to heat through add the cheeses, and mushrooms if you’re using them, in the center (except for the Parmesan).
Once the cheese melts, slide the cooked eggs gently off the plate, folding them over twice or once, depending on how you like your omelet.
Add sliced tomato, basil and Parmesan cheese on top. Serve immediately.
Your turn–have you had any good veggie meals lately you care to share?
Lately, when friends or family come to visit me in Cleveland they have one restaurant request: Melt. I’ve got to thank The Travel Channel and Adam Richman for that. When Richman visited Cleveland, he took–and won (sorry for the spoiler!)–the Melt challenge. The grilled-cheese-on-steriods packs 13 different cheeses, 3 slices of bread, and a hearty helping of fries to make for 5-pounds of food. Yikes! No way, I’d ever want to eat that much food in one sitting.
But what I did like about his trip to Melt, and the popularity of the restaurant, is that grilled cheese sandwiches are considered, cool, even trendy. Now I haven’t had a Melt sandwich yet (so far the lines have been way too long for me, despite the host assuring me, “It’s not too bad, 45 minutes or so, and that’s pretty short for us). I wasn’t up for waiting. Neither were my kids–so I grabbed some ingredients at the store and told Mr. Squid, “Surprise me.” He did.
Using a few finds from our garden (okay, my basil plant that has survived a whole month–that’s a record for me and growing greens), and sauces and such from the fridge, he came up with ‘the Italian.’ That’s the only name I could come up with for this creation, but if you have a better one, please do tell!
*Note: Mr. Squid has two ‘must-dos’ when it comes to grilled cheese. The first is that all of the main ingredients need to be heated before adding them (“No one likes to bite into a cold part of a hot sandwich”) and second that the slices should be crisped and the cheese melted separately before putting them together at the end.
Here’s how Mr. Squid put ‘the Italian’ together:
- First, he added a little basil olive oil to the griddle and then placed thin slices of Roma tomatoes, strips of fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese on top. He let that heat just until the Parmesan started to melt and then set it aside.
- Next, he heated a combination of roast beef and smoked turkey on the griddle.
- Now that all the mixins’ were heated, it was time to put the sandwich together. He used thick cut Italian deli bread that he’d coated with a thin layer of butter. On the top piece he also added mayo mixed half and half with Balsamic vinegar.
- He placed both on the griddle then added the tomato-basil mixture to the top piece followed by sliced peperoncinis for a bit of vinegar spiciness and then a slice of Swiss cheese.
- On the other piece of bread he added a slice of American cheese followed by the deli meat.
- Once all the cheeses are melted, he carefully pressed the two sides together and pressed them down with the spatula.
There you go–grilled cheese worth the wait. Plus, I didn’t even have to tip the waiter. One of these days, I gotta go to Melt, but for now I’ll keep letting my hubby and kids come up with tasty grilled cheese combos.
Your turn–do you have a favorite grilled cheese creation? Are you a Man v. Food watcher?
Forget the beef, earthy portobello mushrooms taste even better. And when you top them with pesto mayo, fresh basil and thick-cut bacon? Tasty. My meat-loving brother-in-law even asked for a bite–having never had a portobello mushroom before–and liked it! In fact, I think I even saw a hint of envy…
Prep time: 5 minutes + grilling
4 large Portobello mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
Grill seasoning mix
Garlic powder (optional)
Onion powder (optional)
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
Bacon (if desired, you know you want it!)
1/4 cup mayo (or reduced fat cream cheese if you’re trying to go light)
1 Tablespoon prepared pesto
- Wash and dry the mushrooms. Remove the stems.
- Bring the grill to high heat.
- Brush the olive oil on one side of the mushroom. Sprinkle with seasonings as you would hamburgers. I use a mesquite grilling mix along with garlic and onion powders and then salt and pepper.
- Place the mushrooms on the grill with the oiled side down. Grill until the mushroom starts to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Brush the non-oiled side and then flip the mushroom. Grill 5 more minutes or until browned and tender.
- Mix the mayo and the pesto (I added a few sun-dried tomatoes too).
- Slather the hamburger bun top with pesto mayo. On the bottom part layer the mushroom, tomato and basil.
“I was so excited when I found borage at the nursery,” gushed my mom recently. Borage, or starflowers are edible, beautiful and just happened to be a regular sight on our dessert plates growing up. (My mom would also freeze starflowers in ice molds to suspend in punch bowls during parties; I loved it.) Frequent visitors to MKES might wonder where I got my hankering for trying new flavors. Maybe from frequent trips to my mother’s garden to trim edible flowers, like borage, or pansies, to dress up dishes. Now, I have none of my mother’s gardening skills, but I do love experimenting with spices, ingredients and techniques in the kitchen.
And herbs? We had mint, chocolate mint, parsley, sage, rosemary, and oregano thyme. Just the other day I asked my mom what kind of basil she had in her garden. “Sweet, cinnamon, Thai…” I have no pictures of my own gardening efforts to pass along, I’ll just have to rely on hers for now. Update: I have kept my indoor basil plant alive for a week now. It’s looking good although the cilantro plant didn’t even make it 3 days.
Your turn–what culinary skill did you learn from your mom? And hey, if it’s how to read the back of a box of brownies, that counts!