Saturday, August 20, 2011

Repurposing Basil, Part VII (Homemade Pizza, y’all!)

OK, simplicity itself. Homemade thin-crust pizza is simply wonderful.

Go to Kroger (or other supermarket of your choice). Get a packet of dry pizza dough. This will cost you about six bits.

Get a pizza crisping pan. This is one of those round pizza pans with all the holes in it. $15 will get you one that will last forever.

Follow the instructions on making the pizza dough. Let it rise. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450. If you’ve got time to roast your vegetable toppings, great. Otherwise (like in this case), we simply sliced up the contents of a jar of roasted red peppers. Also some shiitake mushrooms and a number of basil leaves. (You can use whatever you like, though.)

Spread the pizza dough on the crisper. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese across the oil. Top with...your toppings. Sprinkle with, in this case, goat cheese.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown nicely. Remove. You should have something that looks a lot like this:

Pizza...sweet, glorious pizza...

Slice. Pour yourself a glass of bubbly. Be happy. Fun.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Repurposing Basil, Part VI (Extra-healthy red snapper in foil packs)

As the heat continues to blister us here around the neighborhood, light & fresh meals are the order of the day. If you’ve followed us here, you know that I love to do foil pack meals on the grill. Only problem – when it’s seven skadillion degrees out and the air feels like reclining on a damp sponge, even grilling can be a chore.

We took it easy. The Sweet Partner in Crime put together this delicious foil pack recipe with some fresh snapper filets in the oven. This is an incredibly simple, flavorful recipe that’s also super-healthy. No oil or butter was harmed in the creation of this dish. It’s unnecessary here:

  • 2 (8 oz.) snapper filets
  • 12-16 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp. dill weed
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme or 4-6 sprigs fresh
  • 8-10 leaves fresh basil, cut into small strips
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Put one of the filets in the center of a piece of foil. Top each with half of the ingredients listed above:


Seal the foil tightly to make a couple of pouches:

Pack it up!

Bake for 25 minutes (cooking time may vary based on size and thickness of filets). Let stand for five minutes at room temperature. Be careful opening the packets. You’ll get a blast of steam when you do. Empty into bowls and serve with some crusty bread for sopping up the juices.

Dig in!


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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Repurposing Basil, Part V (Basil-laced fresh tuna salad)

Tuna salad’s a summery dish, no? This was originally a Martha Stewart recipe for a sandwich filling, but we changed a few things up, made it a lot healthier (and tastier, in my opinion!) and turned it into a meal. You could use it for sandwiches, but I think just serving it with good bread on the side is more workable:

  • 1 lb. fresh tuna steaks
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. sherry
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. Kalamata olives, drained and halved
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil, cut into strips
  • zest from one lemon, cut into thin strips

Cook the tuna how you’d like it – grilled, pan seared, roasted. Your choice. When cooked, cut the tuna into small chunks. Combine olive oil, sherry, shallot, olives, basil, and zest strips in a bowl. Add tuna and toss until coated and mixed thoroughly. Season with salt & pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.

Serve either in a sandwich or on its own. Yum!




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Monday, July 25, 2011

Repurposing Basil, Part IV (Mediterranean Roasted Eggplant & Barley Salad)

Another way I’ve been using basil lately is simply to substitute it for other herbs. In recipes like this one, the zing of the basil works well with the yummy roasted & earthy flavors. This started as an Epicurious recipe:

  • 1 1/2 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/4 cups pearl barley (8 oz)
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup water
  • juice of a 2 lemons
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion, optional
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped basil
  • Preheat oven to 425. Toss eggplant and zucchini with 2 tbsp. oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread in single layer in two shallow pans. Roast 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until veggies are turning golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer all vegetables to one pan to cool.

    Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute scallions, cumin, coriander, and cayenne for 1 minute. Add barley and saute for 2 minutes longer, until barley is well-covered in the mixture. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes and empty the barley into the now-empty baking pan to cool further.

    Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, salt & pepper to taste, and 1/2 tbsp. oil in a large serving bowl. Add barley, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients. Toss to coat. Serve at room temperature. (You can make it ahead and refrigerate it, but it really needs to be served at room temperature.)



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    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Repurposing Basil, Part III (Angus Beef Brunch Melts with fruit salad)


    Where were we? Ah, yes. Weekend. Sleeping in. Taking it easy. A bit too late for breakfast, so we’ll slide right into a throw-together brunch. With more basil, of course.

    Take a couple of good Everything bagels, split them, and toast them. (You can use other types of bagels if you wish.)

    On top of each bagel half, put a few slices of thin-sliced deli Angus Beef. (As the Kroger guy said to me, “Are you sure you want this? It’s real rare.” I assured him that I did.) Top the beef with a few leaves of fresh basil and a half a slice of swiss cheese. Put this in a toaster oven or under a broiler until the cheese melts.

    Meanwhile, slice some fresh peaches and a couple of bananas. Take a few leaves of fresh basil and slice into ribbons. Toss everything with some blueberries. Sprinkle with a little bit of powdered sugar.

    And floating a spring of fresh basil in V-8 gives it a yummy bouquet.

    There you go – brunch in 10 minutes with basil appropriately integrated. Enjoy!



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    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Repurposing Basil, Part II (Basil-infused Sockeye Salmon, Grilled Pattypan Squash & Roasted Beets)

    A recent trip to Lexington to spend some quality dude time with my friend The Chad yielded a deliciously unexpected result. The Chad and his lovely wife participate in a Community Sponsored Agriculture program. If you’re unfamiliar, a CSA is a program in which you buy a “share” of the output of a local farm. Each week or two, members pick up a variety of fresh veggies. Like the proverbial Gump box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

    When I was there, The Chad had picked up his share as well as the share of some friends, as they were on vacation. As a result, he had vegetables in every nook and cranny of his kitchen. He so much as begged, “ me from this vegetal avalanche!” So I did.

    Among other things, I ended up with a bunch of lovely looking beets and the first-ever pattypan squash I’d ever run across. A pattypan squash is a summer squash which looks like...well...a pan. It’s “flying saucer” shaped. It’s got a neutral flavor – like a very firm zucchini.

    We were in the mood for some grilled stuff, so I simply sliced the pattypan in half, brushed both sides with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic. The beets we sliced into rounds and put in a foil pack with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. There was some nice-looking sockeye salmon at the supermarket, so I snagged a couple of pieces and gave them the salt/pepper/olive oil treatment. I covered the tops of the filets with basil leaves.

    Fired up the grill to medium-high and put the beet pack on there after a couple of minutes while the grill was heating up. After about 10 minutes, I killed the burners on one side of the grill. I’ve been cooking more and more fish over indirect heat. I’ve found that to be a much more forgiving cooking method. I put the fish over the now-off burners.

    The squash went over direct heat. I grilled that for 6-7 minutes on a side. Everything finished at more or less the same time. When we dished it up, it looked like this:



    The basil did infuse the fish with a nice, light herbal flavor – a good counterpoint to the smokiness from the grill and the earthiness of the vegetables. Quite a nice little dinner.


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    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Repurposing Basil, Part I (Penne with Chili-Rubbed Beef and Pineapple Salsa)

    Hello all...

    Yes, yes, it’s been next to forever since I’ve updated The Man Who Cooks. Lots of life events, transitions, and just plain laziness stood in the way. I thought about letting this little domain lapse into the ether, but thanks to a flash of inspiration around Vine Headquarters, I thought I’d get back in the ring and take another swing.

    What’s the inspiration? A big-ass patch of basil, that’s what.

    Fresh basil. Can’t live without the stuff during summertime. There’s something about the soil and sunlight in our garden, though – the stuff grows out of control if we don’t continually chop it back. Even with our barbering, we end up with jar after jar of frozen pesto at the end of the season.

    I’m not saying that’s necessarily a negative, mind you, but I know I’m not alone here. Basil tastes best when it’s new. If you leave a basil plant to its own devices, the leaves lose some flavor, the stems get woody, and it’s just not as good.

    To keep waste to a minimum, we decided to “repurpose” the basil by incorporating the stuff into as many things as we could this summer. Our attempts will follow.

    Here’s the first installment. This pasta, adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, makes a really nice summertime pasta. The original recipe called for cilantro, but I think the basil’s spiciness gives a nice counterpoint.

    • 1 lb. flank steak (I used a couple of pre-packed bacon wrapped filets instead)
    • 2 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon cooking oil
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 tbsp. salt
    • 8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained 
    • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • juice of one lime
    • 1/2 c. chopped basil
    • 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
    • 1 pound penne

    Heat the broiler. Rub the flank steak with the 1 teaspoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Broil until medium rare, about 5 minutes per side. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then cut it into thin slices.

    In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the pineapple, the remaining oil, the jalapeño pepper, shallot, lime juice, bail, black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Stir in the sliced steak.

    In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until just done. Drain and toss with the salsa and steak.


    Served this with a glass of Albarino. Tasty, tasty lunch...



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    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Earthy Shade of Winter (Spiced Lentils & Roasted Cauliflower)

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    Sick of winter? Yeah, me too. Soup and stew season, for sure. The cold also lends itself to cravings for heavy, meaty food – and I was in the mood to make something a little healthier. This pair of vegetarian dishes were absolutely splendid side by side.

    The cauliflower recipe originally called for golden raisins, but I thought the cranberries gave a much brighter flavor. The lime juice was a last minute addition to the lentil recipe. Lime juice just goes so well with greens and earthy flavors for balance.

    To drink? A dirty, funky Bordeaux. Decant well, people. Enjoy!

    Spiced Lentils with Mushrooms & Greens

    • 1 c. lentils
    • 1/2 lb. sliced portabella mushrooms
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • 1/2 tsp. coriander
    • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
    • 1/2 lb. Swiss chard or other greens, large stems discarded, leaves chopped coarsely
    • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
    • juice of a lime

    In a small saucepan, bring the lentils, some salt, and 2 1/2 c. water to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

    In another saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms, some salt, and a splash of red wine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-7 minutes, or until mushrooms have given off most of their liquid. Add spices and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted – about 3-4 minutes.

    Add the lentils with the cooking water to the mushrooms & greens. Bring to a simmer. Simmer 4-5 minutes. Add the parsley and lime juice.


    Roasted Cauliflower with Dried Cranberries

    • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
    • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tbsp. dried cranberries
    • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
    • 1 tbsp chopped parsley

    Preheat the oven to 375. Spread the cauliflower florets in a baking pan and drizzle with vinegar and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Toss until coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Roast for 40 minutes or until tender.

    In a small skillet, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Add the cranberries and saute for a minute or so, until berries are hot. Add the raisins to the cauliflower along with the parsley and cheese and toss to mix.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Coconutastrophe, Part II (Shrimp Masala)

    So, something to do with your newly smashed up coconut? Well, you might consider something along these lines:


    • 4-5 cloves garlic
    • 1 2” piece of ginger, chopped
    • 1/3 c. of your just drained coconut milk
    • 2 bags frozen large shrimp, thawed, peeled, deveined
    • 1 (16 oz) bag frozen sliced okra, thawed
    • vegetable oil
    • shallot, chopped
    • 1 serrano pepper, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. garam masala
    • 1 can coconut milk (you won’t have enough in the coconut)
    • 1/2 c. shredded coconut
    • 1/2 c. chopped cilantro
    • basmati/jasmine rice

    Pulse ginger, garlic, and coconut milk in a blender until it’s a paste.

    Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry shrimp for 3-4 minutes until mostly cooked. Remove shrimp from wok and set aside. Add a little more oil. Stir-fry okra for 2-3 minutes and set aside.

    Add a little more oil. Stir-fry shallot & pepper for 1 minute. Add garlic paste and garam masala. Cook for 30 seconds. Add remaining coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Return shrimp to wok. Simmer for 1 minute. Return okra to wok and simmer for 1-2 minutes.


    Meanwhile, make your rice. Serve masala over and top with cilantro and coconut:


    Verdict? Pretty tasty.

    That said, As much fun as it is to use household building tools in the kitchen, I’ll probably stick to getting my coconut pre-attacked. Some external labor is worth paying for.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Coconutastrophe, part I

    Ever seen a coconut at the store and thought, “You know, it’s just too much trouble. I have no idea how to even get into one of those things. How do you open a coconut?” Well, never fear. Got you covered. We received a coconut as a gift as the result of a recent Caribbean-themed dinner party and decided to make use of it, so here’s how we were able to get into this brown, furry potential weapon of destruction.

    What you’ll need:

    • a coconut
    • a glass jar
    • a good sized nail
    • a hammer
    • a towel

    As you can see, we’re ready to go:

    IMG_1839If you look at the top of your coconut, you’ll see three dark indentations that resemble the holes in a bowling ball. This is your point of entry. Get your nail and drive it into the indentation. Remove the nail and repeat. When you do it, however, remember to keep your wine clear:

    IMG_1840After you’ve driven the holes, invert the coconut over a jar of some kind to drain the tasty milk:


    You’ve now got an empty coconut. Now is when the fun begins. Wrap the coconut in a towel, put the towel on a hard surface, take your hammer, and go to town:

       IMG_1845 IMG_1847

    And there you have it. Get a sharp knife and slice the coconut meat from the shell. This process can take awhile, so I recommend at least having some music on in the background. You can also take some of the pieces, if they’re flat enough, and just shred the coconut.


    What to do with all this coconutty goodness? More on that next time…