Herbed Butter

herbed-butterSummer is the season for fresh herbs and nothing kicks up dinner a notch like having some fresh herbed butter to slather on homemade baked goodies. Get ready to impress your guests with a loaf of homemade bread and herbed butter fresh from the garden – they are both so easy to make!

 

 

herbed-butter-2Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Your favorite herbs – my favorite combos are basil and garlic, chive and garlic, and dill and parsley
Whatever your favorite combinations are, my rule of thumb is 1 clove of garlic and 1 tbsp. minced herbs per stick of butter
Sea salt

 

herbed-butter-3Pulse herbs and garlic in food processor, add softened butter, and mix thoroughly (do no whip). Scoop herbed butter in wax paper, and roll into a log. Put in refrigerator for 1 hour to set, remove and slice into rounds. Spread onto freshly baked bread, sprinkle with sea salt, and 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

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and FarfalleSpring is upon us, and that means fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Even if you don’t do any gardening at home, the quality of vegetables found in the grocery store has improved significantly over the past few weeks, and makes me want to ditch the red sauce and full bodied red wines with pasta in favor of fresh veggies and a lighter, crisp white wine.

Nothing tastes more like summer than fresh basil.  If you have no other vegetable or herb plants, get a potted basil plant. Dried basil loses so much flavor, and the little packets of basil cuttings are pretty expensive – $4.00 for a little packet!. I picked up a big beautiful potted basil plant at Trader Joe’s for $3.49. With a little TLC, it will last the whole summer long. Or even better, I’ll take enough cuttings from it to make 4 or 5 plants, and live happily in pesto-Calabrese-salad heaven all summer long!  (More on how to propagate basil from cuttings later.)

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch chunks
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 zucchini, grated, excess liquid squeezed out and discarded
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
8 oz. Farfalle, prepared according to package
½ cup reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper
8 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Note: the easiest way to chiffonade basil is to stack the leaves on top of each other, gently roll the stacked leaves and chop into ribbons using a sharp knife. It’s the perfect garnish for any summer dish.

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle 2

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle 3

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle 4Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes, and season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. In a heavy sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. Cook chicken for 4 minutes per side until golden. Meanwhile, grate zucchini into a bowl using the medium side of a grater, squeezing out and discarding the excess liquid. Remove chicken from pan and add additional tbsp. olive oil. Sauté zucchini, garlic and crushed red pepper for 10 minutes. Add chicken, cooked pasta and reserved pasta water, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with basil ribbons and parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014