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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