Posts Tagged ‘basil’

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak Skewers with Basil Butter

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

First, I got a grill. Then, Rachael Ray dedicated a whole issue of her magazine to grilling recipes. The magazine had a great feature listing tons of grilled skewer recipes, including this one.

The dry-rub gave the steak an awesome flavor. It was slightly sweet with a smoky, spicy flavor. David grilled the skewers expertly, and we finished the steak off with a pat of basil-spiked butter. These were awesome. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak Skewers with Basil Butter
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2010

  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into 16 slices
  • 16 cherry tomatoes

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil; season with salt and pepper; refrigerate.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons each sweet smoked paprika, garlic powder and extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon each chili powder, dried basil and dried thyme and 2 teaspoons dry mustard. Add 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into 16 slices, and 16 cherry tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Thread 2 pieces of steak, ribbon-style, and 2 tomatoes onto each of eight 12-inch skewers. Cover and grill, turning once, until the steak is just cooked through, about 7 minutes. Top with the basil butter.

Note: When grilling with skewers, it’s a good idea to soak the skewers in water for 15-20 minutes before loading them up with food. Wet skewers are less likely to burn over the high heat of your grill.

Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

David and I have not, historically speaking, been big fans of polenta. My first experiences with polenta were way back when my mom was doing Weight Watchers in the late 90’s, when someone on the message boards convinced her to try the pre-made kind. It came in a tube, we sliced it and tried to pan fry it with olive oil, or maybe even cooking spray. Yuck. No flavor at all. Weird texture. No thanks.

Then, Alton Brown convinced me to try again. Not really compatible with Weight Watchers this time, since his recipe calls for plenty of cheese, butter, and whole milk.  It was also mildly complicated, as he extolled the virtues of “real” polenta, and asked me to avoid the instant stuff. Trusting Alton, I did. This was better than the first time, but I still remember being disappointed. Handfuls of good-quality cheddar, wasted. I ate my spoonful, but I didn’t really like it at all. It was mildly better sliced and pan-fried, but not great. I was ready to write off polenta altogether.

Except…

Something makes me WANT to like it. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why I’m so determined. I’ve had it at restaurants, and still wasn’t a fan. Cheese couldn’t save it. But for some reason, when I saw this recipe at the Cooking Light site, I was willing to give it another try.

And this time, I was pleasantly surprised. The fresh sweet corn adds additional flavor and texture that the other recipes I tried were lacking. The parmesan added a salty richness, but the flavor wasn’t overwhelmingly cheesy. The fresh tomato and basil balanced the flavors. I subbed shallots for onions (I do this often—where onions are too much for me, I’ve learned to like the milder taste of shallots) and even liked the flavor that they added. It was really good. I went back for seconds. I’m pretty sure David did, too. And I even ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I never got around to slicing and frying this batch, but next time I make it, I’d make sure I got to try that with the leftovers. And there will be a next time.

Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2008

Ingredients

  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (2 medium)
  • 4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1  cup  instant dry polenta
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  chopped tomato
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in broth, corn, and garlic; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Slowly add polenta, stirring with a whisk until polenta is thick (about 5 minutes). Add cheese, stirring to melt. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove from heat; sprinkle with tomato and basil. Serve immediately.

Note: Bonus points for this recipe—I got to use my dutch oven! A heavy saucepan would work just fine though.

Spaghetti Sauce

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I’ve been crazy-busy at work lately, traveling at least a couple of days a week. That’s why the blog’s been so quiet–between the actual being on the road part, and the being exhausted when I get home part, there hasn’t been a lot of noteworthy cooking going on. There also hasn’t been a lot of grocery shopping going on. Much of what’s happened lately has been thrown together at the last minute, based on whatever’s in the cabinet.

Which led me to make my own spaghetti sauce. We had tomatoes, tomato paste, shallots, garlic—just no actual spaghetti sauce. I could’ve gone to the store, I guess. But instead, I took the “lazy” way and made the sauce from scratch. It turned out to be quite tasty!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine

Heat the oil and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, red pepper and wine. Simmer 30 minutes or more over very low heat, stirring occasionally. For meat sauce, add one pound of browned ground beef or cooked Italian sausage. Serve over hot spaghetti noodles.

Bruschetta

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh, ripe tomatoes. While summer isn’t quite here just yet, the tomatoes at our local supermarket have been showing some promise–enough that I took a chance on them and went ahead and made some Bruschetta.

Bruschetta is actually one of the very first things that David and I started to make when he moved into his first apartment and we started cooking. The tricky part is that our Bruschetta is one of those “a little of this, a little of that” kind of recipes. I’m going to do my best to capture it below.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta with Pannetini

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (Roma tomatoes, if available)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Minced Garlic
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes (optional – can be dry-packed or oil-packed, diced)
  • Garlic Bread, thinly-sliced & toasted (other options include crackers, toasted Italian or French bread, or Panetini. The Panetini can be found at your grocery store, near the Bakery, with the bagel chips).

Directions

  1. Seed and dice the tomatoes and put into a bowl with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar. The exact amounts depend on how many tomatoes you use, but for about 10 servings, I use about 10 full size tomatoes, with ½ Cup of Olive Oil & 3 or 4 Tablespoons of Balsamic.
  2. Add sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Add approximately 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
  4. The basil needs to be chopped very finely or minced in a food processor (I have also used what we call “Basil Paste,” which you can find in your produce department with the little clamshell packages of fresh herbs).
  5. Add the parmesan cheese…about ½ Cup to ¾ Cup.
  6. Then, just mix together and add salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with the bread, crackers, or Panetini for dipping.

I don’t really measure as much as I mix and taste, until it comes out right. If your tomatoes are very acidic, a Tablespoon of regular table sugar added to the mix (strange as it sounds) will go a long way. You can add more or less balsamic vinegar, depending on your taste. The ingredients themselves can be very forgiving…the Parmesan can be anything from imported Parmigiano-Reggiano to the stuff in the green can for this, though I prefer the real stuff. Same with the basil…if you want to use dried basil, you can. It won’t taste quite as bright, but it will work. You need much less dry basil than fresh.  The bruschetta gets better the longer it gets to hang out, so making it the night before is best, but give it at least 30 minutes to an hour before eating, if you can.

Leftovers can be mixed with canned chicken to make an Italian Chicken Salad, put over
lettuce for a Bruschetta Salad, or put over cooked pasta to make a pasta sauce. You can also add diced fresh mozzarella if you want. (Like I did for this batch).

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil, & Artichoke Lasagna

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

This vegetarian lasagana was one of the dishes I made in my pasta-making class. Though I’m not normally one for vegetarian anything, and I never would have expected to like artichokes, this dish was surprisingly good.

I used a basic pasta dough recipe to make my own lasagna noodles, but you could use dried pasta if you want, just be sure to cook the pasta first–there’s not enough liquid in this lasagna to cook dried noodles.

lassagna

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil & Artichoke Lasgana

  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles, cooked (or fresh & raw)
  • 16 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 & 1/2 cups pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 cup marinated artichokes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 glass pan with cooking spray.

2. Spread a thin layer of pesto on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with sheets of pasta. Spread with pesto, followed by ricotta cheese, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.  Top with another layer of pasta and repeat, finishing the dish with a final layer of cheese.

3. Baked, covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until heated through. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: Like I said, I’m not much for vegetarian dishes, but this was very good. If you feel the need to add meat, I think grilled chicken would go very well in this lasagna.

Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Basil Gnocchi

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Chicken Parmesan doesn’t need much explanation. You all know what I’m talking about. Crunchy chicken breast, tomato sauce, cheese. Usually with pasta. This recipe is a little different from how I usually make Chicken Parmesan–adapted from the Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts that I’d made earlier in the week. I topped these chicken breasts with provolone cheese for a change from the more mild mozzarella.

If you’ve never tried gnocchi before, they’re Italian potato dumplings–like little nuggets of pasta. I like the ones stocked by Trader Joe’s, but you can usually find them in the pasta aisle of your regular grocery store.

Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Basil Gnocchi
Adapted from EatingWell Magazine

  • 4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, divided
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning blend
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 package gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings)
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place both kinds of breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Stir in Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Dip each chicken breast in the egg white, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Top each chicken breast with 3 Tablespoons of spaghetti sauce and one slice of cheese. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

4. While the chicken bakes, boil gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. In a medium sauce pan, stir cooked gnocchi, remaining spaghetti sauce, and pesto together and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, alongside chicken.

Cheesy Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for healthy recipes that don’t look like healthy recipes. Partly because I’m not generally a fan of HEALTHY healthy food. Partly because I don’t care for very many vegetables. Partly because I like cooking too much to give up all the tasty things I love to make. Partly because if I want to eat healthy, I’ve got to find a way to make sure my “test kitchen” wants to eat it also.

This recipe sounded promising from the start. Cream cheese? Pesto? Crunchy chicken breast? Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Hardly sounds healthy at all, really. Except that the cheese is low-fat cream cheese, the pesto is made with heart-healthy olive oil, the breading is egg whites and super-crunchy panko and the chicken is briefly pan-fried before being finished in the oven–giving it all the crunch of a fattening fried chicken breast, with much less oil.

Cheesy Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Adapted from EatingWell Magazine

  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese (neufchâtel cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning blend
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Combine cream cheese, pesto and pepper in a small bowl with a fork.

3. Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up each breast and place one-fourth of the filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and filling.

4. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place both kinds of breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Stir in italian seasoning and garlic powder. Hold each chicken breast half together and dip in the egg white, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)

5. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per chicken breast: 233 calories; 7 g fat; 71 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 30 g protein; 1 g fiber; 231 mg sodium.

Note: This is one of the most decadent healthy recipes I’ve come across in a long time. If you’ve never used neufchâtel cheese you’ll be pleasantly surprised; it’s like cream cheese, but has 1/3 less fat than traditional cream cheese, without any of the aftertaste or texture problems of “low fat,” “reduced fat,” or “fat free” cream cheese. Look for the “1/3 less fat than cream cheese” in the product name, and you’ll know you’re buying the right one. I did use a small container of storebought pesto, only because my basil crop wasn’t quite ripe for picking. I served this with Pesto Mashed Potatoes, which is code for leftover mashed potatoes with pesto in them (about 1 Tbsp of pesto for every cup of mashed potatoes). The whole dinner was delicious.