Key Ingredient: Basil

Why Basil?

Although Basil’s peak season doesn’t hit until July, I’m starting to see it floating around the Union Square green market. So when I decided to host Shabbat last Friday and heard that ramps were out of season, I knew that it was the perfect time to grab some basil!

Basil is the ultimate summer herb. Its rich flavor allows for endless food combinations  and makes the perfect addition to fresh fish, seasonal tomato & mozzarella salads, textured vinaigrettes, or flirty cocktails! And after deciding on making salmon for my Shavuot Shabbat, I knew a homemade pesto and some bucatini would be the perfect complement!

The How’s & Why’s of Using Basil

Basil is traditionally used fresh in cooked recipes. It is usually added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. I have also been told that basil should be torn rather than cut. When basil is cut, its edges turn black which is why pesto was previously made in a mortar and pestle. But to save time,¬† I like to make my basil with an immersion blender. In my experience, the pesto darkens in color over time so I’d recommend using your fresh pesto within three days or freezing it.

Tips on Storing Fresh Basil

Fresh Basil can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. I also like to make a big batch of pesto and then freeze individual cubes in my ice tray so that I can use them later for individual portions. After the cubes are frozen, they should be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag (in the freezer) for up to three months.

The Six Ingredients Behind Pesto

Pesto is traditionally made with 6 (easily substitutable) ingredients:

  1. Basil (Spinach, Arugula)
  2. Pine Nuts (Walnuts, Almonds, Macadamia Nuts)
  3. Olive Oil (Walnut Oil, Garlic Oil, Chicken Broth)
  4. Grated Parmesan Cheese (Pecorino Romano, Asiago)
  5. Garlic (Green Onion, Ramps, Shallots)
  6. Salt

Optional Ingredients: Lemon, Chili Pepper, Roasted Red Pepper

But for convenience and variety, I like to change it up a bit so this time I decided to use walnuts in place of pine nuts. Most bakers usually have walnuts laying around their kitchens and they also tend to be less expensive than pine nuts. So feel free to use any of the substitutions listed above to create your own fun variation or you can just follow my recipe below.

Basil-Walnut Pesto Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, or more to taste

PREPARATIONS

  1. Pull basil leaves from stems, wash and dry.Pesto Ingredients
  2. Place the dried leaves and remaining ingredients into bowl and blend with immersion blender until the mixture is completely blended and all of the ingredients have been broken down.
  3. Serve as a vinaigrette, sauce, or topping on a beautifully seared piece of salmon!Basil Walnut Pesto
Seared Salmon with Basil Walnut Pesto

The Rustic Galette

Galette is a general term used in French to designate different types of round and flat crusty cakes. It’s also a great substitute for a pie when you are pressed for time or want to cut out some carbs. And MY galettes are a delicious and healthy alternative. I like to use whole wheat flour and bran for my crust and substitute raw Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar.

Turbinado sugar, also known as “sugar in the raw” is a steamed cane sugar which is similar in appearance to brown sugar though it is a bit paler. Turbinado sugar is a healthier alternative to white, refined sugar. It is lower in calories since it tends to hold more moisture. Turbinado sugar isn’t processed as much as white sugar, so it is naturally healthier for your body (www.associatedcontent.com). Turbinado sugar can be substituted for both white and brown sugar in most recipes.

But back to the galettes… My favorite galettes to bake are peach & strawberry. It’s great to use seasonal fruit as it is easy to find and fairly affordable. The best fruit in season right now and also great for galettes are peaches, strawberries, plums, nectarines, and rhubarb. These fruits are also great to mix and match as their flavors meld together after they are baked. Below you will find some pictures of the last galette I baked.

PEACH & STRAWBERRY GALETTE

Ingredients

1 Hartley Confections Pie Crust (refrigerated)

3 semi-firm peaches, sliced

1/2 cup of slices strawberries

1/3 cup of turbinado sugar

1 tbsp turbinado sugar

1 egg white

1 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Slice peaches 1/2 inch thick and strawberries. Place sliced peaches and strawberries in large bowl and cover with sugar. Gently mix sugar and fruit with your hands so that the fruit is evenly covered with sugar. Let the fruit sit for about 10 minutes so that some of the sugar can be absorbed.

3. Remove refrigerated pie crust and roll it out into a ten inch circle. Gently place the peach slices 1 inch from the border of the pie crust. You should have enough peaches to make two circles. Please reference the photos for placement. Then place the leftover strawberries in the middle of the peaches.

4. Once fruit is in place, carefully begin folding over the outer edge of the crust piece by piece. The outer crust of the pie should have many folds giving it a “rustic” appearance.

5. Mix egg white with milk and brush the outer crust with the mixture. Then finish the galette by sprinkling 1 tbsp of turbinado sugar over the crust. You may also sprinkle the top of the fruit mixture.

6. Bake the galette in the center rack of the oven for 20-30 minutes until the crust is firm and slightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes an serve warm. You can also dust the top with confectioners sugar before serving.