Citrus Vinaigrette

Citrus VinaigretteSummer is the season for fresh vegetables, less cooking (inside anyway!) and eating a little lighter. This is the perfect citrusy dressing for a side salad, or my favorite entrée salad – Maryland Crab Cake Salad – fresh greens, red onions, peppers and cucumbers tossed with Citrus Vinaigrette topped with crab and a spicy remoulade. The tangy vinegar is balanced by the sweet honey, and it’s the perfect light dressing to enhance the flavor of garden fresh vegetables.

 

Citrus Vinaigrette 2Making vinaigrettes at home is really easy, and they taste so much better than store bought salad dressings. You can experiment with different types/flavors of vinegar to compliment your salad style – and the best part – have control over the quality of ingredients. Most vinegars are pretty tart, and store bought salad dressings are either too bitter for my taste or include some sort of artificial sweetener I can taste from a mile away. Using honey balances the vinegar naturally.

 

Maryland Crab Cake SaladIngredients (dresses 2 entrée sized salads or 4 side salads):
2 tbsp. citrus vinegar (I use Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
1 tbsp. honey simple syrup (or ½ tbsp. honey and ½ tbsp. water)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour over your favorite salad and toss to coat. Enjoy!

 

Pistachio and Basil Pesto

Pistachio and Basil PestoWhew! The last few weeks have been hectic. Packing, moving, unpacking… but we are all settled in to our new home and ready to enjoy the summer. Basil is my all-time favorite summertime herb, so much so, that one basil plant just isn’t enough in my house. Of course when I make pesto, I think pasta, but it’s also great on pizza, in soups, and – my newest favorite – on sandwiches. Doesn’t a grilled cheese with mozzarella and prosciutto, topped with bright and aromatic pesto sound indulgent?  This pesto sauce also takes less than 5 minutes to make; all the ingredients are thrown in a food processor and blended until smooth.  Easy and delicious!

Pesto is traditionally made with toasted pine nuts, but the grocery store sells pistachios in the bulk section, where I can buy just what I need for a single recipe. Pistachios are also less expensive than pine nuts, so it’s a win-win to me.

Pistachio and Basil Pesto 2Ingredients (serves 4):
¼ cup unsalted pistachios, toasted (see below)
3-4 cups loosely packed basil leaves
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, quartered
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

To toast the pistachios, preheat a small skillet on medium heat. Add pistachios and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place toasted pistachios, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, garlic, crushed red pepper and olive oil to a food processor.  Pulse until ingredients are smooth, scraping the sides with a spatula as necessary. Season with salt and pepper and toss with your favorite pasta for an easy weeknight meal.

Enjoy!

Propagating Basil

Planted basil at 2 weeksFresh fruits, vegetables and herbs make everything taste better. I love summer, and nothing tastes more like summer than fresh basil. You can find packets of cut basil at most grocery stores, but there is nothing better than growing your own at home. Most of the time, a potted plant is less expensive than those little packets anyway, and with a little care you will have fresh basil all season. Did you know that many herbs, including basil, can be easily multiplied by taking cuttings and letting them root in water? I don’t know about you, but I can’t make all the pesto, pizza, sauces and salads I want with just one little plant.

Basil cuttings in water

Basil cuttings in water

So I make more.

The fastest and easiest  way to multiply basil plants is to buy a big healthy plant at the beginning of the growing season, and root additional plants from cuttings. Basil is one of the easiest plants to do this with. Here’s what to do –

 

 

 

Basil cuttings at 3 weeks

Basil cuttings at 3 weeks

 

Take 4 inch cuttings from basil plants, about an inch below secondary leaves. Remove lower leaves and stick in a glass of fresh water so the water covers the nodes where the lower leaves were removed. Place in a sunny window, and after a few days, you will see roots starting to form, looking like small white bumps. Change water every few days and after 3-4 weeks, you will have cuttings with strong root systems ready for planting.

 

Planted basil cuttings

Planted basil cuttings

That’s it! It doesn’t get any easier than that. I’ve also done this with Rosemary and Thyme with similar results. Hooray for free plants!

 

 

 

 

 

Planted basil at 2 weeks

Planted basil at 2 weeks