Posts tagged basil

This one’s for Mom

This is hands down the easiest recipe you’ll ever use.  It’s my Mom’s favorite, and every time I come home the first thing she does is tell me to make it (if she’s not home she’ll leave a note telling me to, because she wants it ready for when she gets home).  I turn to it for parties, dinners, snacks… you name it and I guarantee you, this one’s a winner.  It’s bruschetta that’s based off a recipe I got from an easy Italian recipe book made by Hunt’s, and it’s so simple but so delicious (the perfect combo if you ask me).  If you’re like me and your kitchen is always fully stocked with spices, then you’re good to go.  If not, you may have to grab a few things or skip a few steps.  It’s always beneficial to keep the basic spices around if you ask me, and if you’ve been reading most of my posts, you’ll notice they certainly won’t go to waste (I use basil, oregano and black pepper in anything I possibly can).  Without further delay, I give you my favorite recipe of all time:

You’ll need:

  • One 28 oz can of Petite Diced Tomatoes (the original kind works best), or smaller if you’re serving less people
  • Olive oil
  • Chopped garlic. The wet kind that comes in a jar works great for this recipe, but you can also use cloves
  • Dried garlic powder (yes you’ll need this kind in addition to the other kind)
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • Dried crushed red pepper(only a dash or so)
  • Ground black pepper
  • A dash of salt to taste
  • French baguette: one loaf is sufficient for this recipe, but if you’re serving a lot more people you may want to double the recipe and buy two baguettes
  • Mozzarella or Parmesan: you won’t need more then a quarter of a bag or a single block if you’re grating

Directions:

  1. I like to start with the bread so I can prepare the bruschetta while the bread is in the oven.  Preheat your oven to 400 degree and slice up the baguette into relatively thin slices (maybe half an inch) and place them on a baking sheet.
  2. Next brush every piece with olive oil.  Then sprinkle garlic powder over every piece, as well as black pepper. 
  3. Then sprinkle every piece with shredded cheese (or if some of your friends or family don’t like cheese, only sprinkle half of the pieces).  Stick the baking sheet into the oven for about 13-15 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and crispy on the outside.
  4. Now you’re ready to start the bruschetta.  Drain the can of diced tomatoes, making sure all the extra juice is gone, and place them in a medium-sized bowl.
  5. Next add the olive oil.  I’m not a big fan of measuring things out when I cook, but my guess would be about a tablespoon and a half.  As long as it looks like the tomatoes are moist enough (without being soaked) in olive oil, you’re probably good.
  6. Then toss in about a tablespoon of the canned chopped garlic and stir everything together.
  7. After that throw in the dried spices: oregano, basil and a dash of crushed red pepper.  I would say use about two teaspoons of the basil and oregano, maybe more.  You want the mixture to look about two parts red and one part green once everything is stirred together.
  8. Add about a teaspoon of black pepper and sprinkle salt to taste.
  9. Stir everything thoroughly, but not too much since you don’t to come up with some sort of tomato sauce
  10. When your bread is done, let it sit for a few minutes, then arrange the pieces on a serving tray.
  11. Place a spoonful of the bruschetta on each piece of bread, making sure not to load too much on each piece so it’s not hard to pick up the bread and eat it.
  12. If you have some dried parsley powder around, it’s nice to sprinkle some on each piece of bread.  The green adds a pretty touch.

Here’s a visual guide:

Starting with the bread gives you time to make the bruschetta, so that the bread is done around the same time the mixture is done, and you’re ready to go faster.

Strain the tomatoes:


Next add all your spices:

Take out your bread and let it cool for a few minutes:

Place a spoonful of bruschetta on each piece of bread and you’re ready to serve:

And that’s all!  Easy enough, right?  It’s so fast, and everyone loves it (ask my friends and family, they’ll attest).  The best part is, if you have leftovers you can do almost anything with it: put it on chicken or steak, on top of salad, or just on it’s with wheat thins or pretzels.  Another Italian classic done easy and cheap… enjoy!

Here’s some other tasty bruschetta recipes to try:

A fresh bruschetta recipe from Giada de Laurentiis of the Food Network

An extensive guide to from Bruschettarecipe.org

About.Com\’s bruschetta page featuring a variety of ideas and recipes to try

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“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” -Yogi Berra

I know, a Red Sox fan turning to a Yankee for quotes, not cool.  But I like it, and it rings true, especially in this case.  Pizza is one of my FAVORITE things to make for a variety of reasons.  It’s super quick and easy.  There’s really no need for measurements or directions of any sort.  You can pretty much put anything edible on a pizza and as long as you cook it for the right amount of time it’ll probably come out good.  It’s one of the best recipes to get creative and have fun with, and that’s my favorite part.  

The pizza my roommates and I made last night is a relatively healthy recipe, and it’s pretty low budget: all the ingredients came out to about $15 (less if you already have some things at home).  It’s also the reason I chose the quote above.  No matter how hard we tried, the entire thing was gone by the end of the  night.  It’s a white pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and roasted garlic, and everything you’ll need to know is listed below.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb Pizza dough (I usually just buy it at the store, but you can make it too if you’re feeling daring)
  • Flour (enough to cover your surface and the dough)
  • Basil leaves.  Here’s where we ran into trouble!  Good ole’ Grand Union (the Storrs grocery store) didn’t have any fresh basil leaves, so we had to resort to dried basil.  But if you can get your hands on the fresh stuff, it really does make a difference.
  • Tomato: about one half, sliced thin
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • One head of garlic: you may not need the whole thing, probably only half or a few cloves
  • Oregano(dried or fresh, up to you… once again, Grand Union fails in the herb department)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. A few hours before (or overnight) you need to let the dough rise.  Roll it into a ball and cover it with flour before putting in a bowl covered with Saran wrap and keep somewhere in room temperature.  Last night we were crunched for time, so I only let it rise for about 2 or 3 hours and it came out fine.
  2. Once the dough has risen, you’re ready to start making the pizza.  Before anything, preheat your oven to 275 and chop up the garlic clove.  Now there is a certain way to do this, so for those of you new to the kitchen, check out this video to see how it’s done.  Once you’ve chopped the garlic into really, really small pieces, throw it all on an oven sheet and stick it in for about 7-10 minutes or until it’s golden brown.
  3. While the garlic is roasting, slice up your tomato half and the mozzarella cheese.  We loooove mozzarella at my apartment, so the more the better.  But for a healthier option, ease up on the cheese and add more tomatoes.
  4. Roll your pizza dough out into a flat circle or rectangle.  We use a rectangle to fit the cooking sheet we have, and a point that I continuously fail to remember (including last night) is that it’s always better to prepare the pizza ON the cooking sheet, because transferring it can be a major production (picture all three of us with spatulas heaving the thing onto a sheet trying not to spill flour and cheese everywhere).
  5. If you don’t have a rolling-pin, try to flatten the dough as much as possible using spoons and your hands.  Make sure you get all the air bubbles out.  With a pin, it may not look pretty, but I guarantee you’ll get the same taste, which is definitely what’s important.
  6. Don’t forget about your garlic in the oven, you’re going to want to check on it periodically so it doesn’t burn.  When you eventually take it out, turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
  7. Next add all of your toppings.  I like to start with a base of parmigiano-reggiano, spread evenly all over the entire pizza.  Next layer on your mozzarella slices and tomato slices and fresh basil leaves.  The best presentation is when these are spread evenly with only minor overlaps (you don’t want to cover all of the tomatoes with mozzarella, etc.).  Don’t forget about the garlic in the oven!  Mix these small pieces in as well.
  8. Next spice it up with oregano (dried in this case), and some salt and pepper, and you’re good to go!
  9. Throw it in the oven (hopefully you’ve already turned it up to 400, if not, do so now) for about 13-20 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on the edges, and the cheese is melted golden on top.  If you use a lot of cheese like we do, it may take longer (less cheese, less time, obviously).  I know 13-20 is a wide range, but I say that because some people like it crisper than others.  We tend to use the entire 20 minutes, but make sure you keep checking on it to decide when you want to take it out.

Here’s a visual step by step, so you can check your progress by comparing to the pictures:

chop up and roast the garlic

Roll out your dough and cover lightly with four

Cover with toppings, spreading everything evenly

Throw it in the oven at 400 for 13-20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the edges

Give it a minute to cool, then serve with salad for a delicious meal!

And there you have it!  The recipe does sound a little intimidating, but I promise it’s easier than it sounds.  Like anything else, practice makes perfect, and before you know it you’ll be making a menu’s worth of pizzas, and I want to hear all about it!  Send me recipes for your favorite pizza, or if you have any topping ideas you’d like me to test out, please let me know!

I give extensive praise to the Food Network, per usual, and their wealth of information about making pizza and dough.  There are hundreds of recipes to try on their website, from plain and simple to exotic and unusual.  

Here are some other great websites to check out when making pizza:

Just like it sounds: pizzamaking.com

Pizza fan Billy Reisinger and his very thorough pizza making guide

Making pizza from allrecipes.com: be sure to check out all the links on this page for different types of pizza!

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Perfect pesto, perfect meal

Great news for the pesto lovers out there: it’s good for you!  According to FinQooArticles.com, it’s good for digestion, the immune system, gout, muscle pains, rheumatism, and the respiratory system, plus basil has been proven to be a cancer preventative herb and aid with diabetes.  That being said, it’s also absolutely scrumptious on pasta, pizza, bread, or as a marinade.

Pesto is pretty easy to make, and once it’s done all you have to do it add it to your meal: paired with pasta and chicken is my favorite.  For those of you who are running from class to the library and only have time to boil some pasta and add pesto sauce, there are some great mixes out there that you just have add olive oil to, like Sweet Basil Pesto Mix by Simply Organic, or Tastefully Simple’s Dried Tomato and Garlic Pesto Mix.  You can look for these packaged dried mixed at your grocery store, usually in the pasta or sauce section.  

There are a ton of variations on pesto.  I find that using basil has the best flavor, but others use spinach or cilantro.  If you have the time to, try your hand at making your own pesto.  It’s healthier than buying it packaged, it’s so fresh and delicious, and REALLY easy to make.  Plus besides the fresh basil, and maybe a clove of garlic and pine nuts, you probably have everything else you’ll need.  Here’s the recipe I like to use:

You’ll need:

  • About 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil- probably about 3 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped up
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts (You can substitute walnuts or almonds here, or you can make it without any nuts if you prefer)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I like a little more pepper than salt)
  • A blender

Directions:

  1. Place everything (seriously, everything listed above) in the blender and pulse a few times then process until the mixture if fairly smooth.
  2. Some people like pesto at room temperature or cold, but I prefer it a little warm, so I put it in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes and stir with a whisk before serving.

And that’s all, folks.  I told you it was a simple recipe!  Like I said, my roommates and I usually enjoy pesto with pasta and chicken.  But for the healthier option, use it as a sauce over grilled chicken breast and serve with vegeatbles or salad.  

The Food Network has a ton of uses for pesto and an extensive collection of recipes.  This one’s my favorite for a spicy twist:

The Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis kicks it up with this spicy pesto

Here are some other great pesto recipes to check out:

A ton of variations on pesto from Cooks.com

The classic pesto from AllRecipes.com

For a visual aid, and a trick about storing pesto, watch this short video from Good House Keeping:

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