Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Sweetest Thing

In the summer, basil literally runs wild in my planters... which is why I use it as often as I can. From flavoring water to making pesto for crackers-- it's my go-to 'spice'. Basil is an herb that you really cannot over-use. It's easy to incorporate into multiple dishes in the same day, and you never get too much of the flavor.

While I have dozens of ways that I incorporate it into our meals daily, these are a few of my absolute favorite ways of enjoying it this season. 

Steeping to make flavored vodka is surprisingly easy


1 liter vodka (Tito's is an affordable choice that works well)

The rind of one lemon

2-3 stemmed basil bunches

Wash basil and dry. Put into the bottom of a glass container/bottle along with lemon rind. Pour vodka into container. Let sit in a dry/cool/dark spot for about 3 days (under the sink or in your pantry). Take out, and strain into another bottle. Then you have a fabulously flavored spirit with no chemical additives. Just splash with soda and ice and you have the perfect cocktail! The infused bottle will last months in your refrigerator.

The ultimate refreshing!


Four fresh ears of corn, shucked and cleaned

2 TBSP room temperature butter

Two ripe heirloom tomatoes

8 large leaves of fresh basil, torn

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup lime juice

2 TBSP good olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Rub the butter onto the corn and place ears onto the grill. Char evenly on all sides, approximately 12 minutes total. Remove from grill and cool. Chop tomatoes into bite size pieces and put into bowl with basil leaves, onion, oil and lime juice. Slice corn from the cob onto tomato mixture. Put in salt and pepper and lightly toss and chill until ready to serve. Keeps well for leftover servings the next day, too!

The star ingredients of the main course

Yes, there's a movement for people to go 'meatless' for better health, but that doesn't mean your  dinners have to be any less interesting. I found a recipe from Mario Batali utilizing eggplant, and my carnivore husband loves it! I altered it a bit, and made sure to get fresh veggies from the Farmer's Market, which makes it that much sweeter.

How it looks on the second layer, with basil layer atop tomatoes


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 small-medium eggplants 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 2/3 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted under broiler
Most recipes call for coating the vegetable with a flour mixture, then a sauté step... and then baking. Been there, done that- -and it is just too much trouble! This is a super-easy version that's just as tasty without all of the hassle (and with far less fat and calories).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Slice eggplants into 1/2 inch slices. Salt on both sides, pepper the tops and put onto a baking sheet.  Place in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove and cool on a plate. Reduce oven temp to 350.
In a 9'*12" oiled baking pan (I use a square, metal cake pan), place 5 slices of the eggplant as bottom layer. Top with 1/4 cup (on each slice) crushed tomatoes and chopped basil to cover. Top with a slice of mozeralla cheese and a TBSP of grated parmesan. Repeat layers to three slices of eggplant with toppings and finish with Italian style breadcrumbs. Put into oven and bake for 30 minutes, finishing on broil for the last 3-5 minutes. Bring it out bubbling, and sprinkle a bit more of the grated cheese on top, which will lightly melt just before serving.

Healthy and delicious