Monday, July 16, 2012

Preserving Basil Like Nana........

My Italian grandmother taught my mother ( her daughter-in law) to preserve sweet basil with salt and olive oil.   Each summer my mother would make her one and only jar for the year.  The jar would sit in the back of the refrigerator where upon every Wednesday a leaf or two would be taken out very gently with the very tip of a fork, so as not to disturb the salt and layering.   Next, the basil leaves  would be placed into the pot of simmering sauce on the stove.  

I made my first jar of the summer today and I would be thrilled to share this simple way of preserving your own sweet basil.  You will need the following, a clean small jar, kosher salt, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
  1. Strip all the leaves off the basil stalk,  put them in the salad spinner bowl and rinse well.  Spin  until they are dry. 
  2. Pour a good amount of kosher salt in the bottom of the jar.   
  3. Cover the first layer of salt with the basil leaves. Pack each layer of basil down well.  Then continue with the salt, basil layering. 
  4. When you get to the very top of the jar,  cover with your last layer of  salt
  5. Pour the extra virgin olive oil over the whole thing using a spoon to press down all the basil leaves. Make sure all the basil is covered by the olive oil.   Store in the fridge.  
 Sometimes the basil leaves might turn dark green.  Not to worry, the basil is still safe to use and still very tasty in the sauce.  You can also use a little bit of the salt that clings to the leaves as the seasoning in your sauce. 

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Victoria Sponge...

    There is something about the name of this English cake that fascinates me.   It could be that I have had a slight fascination with anything British since the late Princess Diana.  Anyway, it makes me very happy to bake and eat something so quintessentially British. The cake is delicious and fit for a queen.

    Inspired once again by Dom @ Belleau Kitchen the cake was a breeze to make. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla were the simple ingredients for the sponge.   I used my home made strawberry jam from last year.  Actually it was more like strawberry syrup, so I re-boiled it, added instant pectin and threw it in the fridge to get cold.  Sliced up fresh strawberries and then whipped up some cream.  Dom might notice that I put the top layer of the cake on up side down.  By the time I noticed my mistake it was too late.  So pardon the lopsidedness of the top layer.
    Pop on over to Dom's blog for the recipe.  You'll be very happy you did.  Thanks again Dom, I loved everything about this cake.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Bruschetta With Home Made Ricotta.....

    This Italian girl just fell in love with her first batch of home made ricotta cheese. It was easy, it was quick, it was fun and it was delicious.  From start to finish it took only 15 minutes. 

    • 9 cups whole milk
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2-1/2 tablespoons distilled vinegar
      Here is the process:
    Heat the milk and buttermilk in a heavy pot to a temperature of about 185 degrees. Add in the salt and vinegar, stir and remove from the heat. Let sit until curds have formed, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
    Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Using a skimmer, carefully lift the curds out of the pot and into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Repeat until no more curds remain. Discard the remaining whey.
    Drain the curds for 5 minutes, then transfer to a covered container and store in the fridge until you are ready to use. The ricotta is best the day you make it, but will still be good for 2 to 3 days.

    To show off my fresh ricotta, I grilled up some French bread,  threw a small dollop of the ricotta cheese on  top and followed that with basil, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

    So good......

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Mint Simple Syrup.....

    There are always huge bunches of mint at the farm stand.  After I  made my tabbouleh the other day I had  a substantial amount of mint left over.  I decided to make a mint simple syrup to have on hand in the fridge in case I wanted to make a fancy drink or a funky ice tea.  Here is the recipe.
    • 1 cup sugar 
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves


    1. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to simmer add sugar and mint, and simmer 2 minutes longer or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and cool completely (about 30 min.). Pour through a  wire mesh strainer into a glass jar. Throw away mint. Cover the jar with lid, and store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    Ina's Tabbouleh.....

    Home made tabbouleh has a much brighter flavor than the ready made container you buy from the market.  The fresh parsley, mint and lemon juice impart that certain something that only fresh ingredients can give you.  This recipe is perfect as is, but I like to add a few things of my own (yellow peppers and feta) to Ina's Garten's recipe.


    • 1 cup bulgur wheat
    • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
    • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
    • 1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
    • 1 cup chopped  Italian parsley (1 bunch)
    • 1 English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
    • 2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


    Place the bulgur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

    Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 1 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. This is were I add one diced yellow pepper and 1/2 cup imported Feta Cheese. Season to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.

    Pop over to  Bee Haven Acres  for an awesome giveaway.
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