celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Taste of the Sun: Summertime Basil Recipes

This is a great time of year for food. I was at the Park Slope farmer's market on Saturday and the tomatoes, corn, peaches, eggplant, zucchini, melons all looked and tasted fabulously. The long, hot summer is fully expressing itself in the produce. There's nothing like the flavors the sun imparts to fresh herbs too.

I'm lucky enough to have a garden in this city. This year my basil plants are growing in abundance. I pick them every day and they keep offering up more precious green leaves. I throw the basil leaves into salads or on tomatoes and mozzarella for a classic Caprese salad. Also, I have a few favorite recipes that I thought I'd share. They are easy and perfect for something quick after work.


While pesto has been bastardized, it's still worth taking the trouble to make the real thing. It's best to use a mortar and pestle, but let's be honest, if you want to eat well after a long day at work, a food processor will do the trick. If you're not in the mood for pasta, pesto also goes great with grilled meats.

2 cups of fresh packed basil. One of my favorite cookbook authors, Viana La Place, says to NOT wash the basil, but instead to take each and every leaf and wipe it off with a paper towel. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about pesticides in my garden. But, again, who has the time to do that after work? For a quick after-work pesto: rinse, spin and dry thoroughly. Also, you can replace half a cup basil leaves with fresh mint leaves for a variation.

1/2 cup olive oil. Plus extra if needed. Italian cookery guru Marcella Hazan adds a dollop of butter to hers at the end. I find this step unnecessary.
1 tbs sea salt
1/3 cup pine nuts. Toasted 3-5 minutes at 375 degrees. You really don't want to over toast them. The flavor will take over.
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 clove garlic

Start by placing the harder food items in a food processor: garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano and blend. Then add the basil, sea salt, and oil. Blend until coarsely chopped. Try to avoid a runny pesto.

Papardelle in Basil Creme Fraiche Sauce

I am basically trying to recreate this recipe from memory. The original came from Ruth Rogers and Sarah Gray of the River Cafe in London. It was published in an issue of Gourmet, but I can't find it on their Web site. This is a dynamite and *simple* recipe, so I really want to share. This is the basic concept.

1 8oz. container of creme fraiche
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbs lemon zest, finely chopped
1/4 fresh basil leaves, sliced
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra for serving if desired
Salt and pepper to taste. I like using flaky sea salt like Malden's for some crunch and texture. You could also use white pepper if the black pepper would bother you.
1lb papardelle

Get a large pot of water boiling. When it boils add some salt. When it reboils, add the papardelle. Cook until al dente. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl, add reserved cooking water and pasta. Toss and serve.

Penne with Tuna, Basil and Lemon

It's really important to find the best jarred tuna in olive oil you can. Don't skimp. It just won't be the same.


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