Roasted Basil Chips

What do you do with 50 cu. ft. of basil!?

We have this insane basil plant growing in our garden.  We’ve been trying to figure out ways to use it all, and with the craze of kale chips going around, I thought that maybe basil chips would be worth a try.  After looking around a bit and getting some guidelines on a time and temperature, we gave it a shot.

It turned out to be really easy, and fantastically delicious.  My wife, after her legs stopped wobbling, said, “I’d marry you all over again.”  Roasting the leaves made the flavor so potent; it was incredible.

Ingredients

  • Basil leaves (enough to cover a cookie sheet)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Preparation

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Cover the baking sheet with foil.
  • Pick enough basil leaves to cover a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl, and with a basting brush, put a thin layer of oil on both sides of each leaf.
  • Spread out the leaves on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.  I prefer kosher salt because the large grains give a nice sharp salt taste.  Sea salt would also work.

Basil leaves basted with oil

  • Roast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the leaves turn dark and crispy.  You should hear some popping as the leaves crisp.

Basil leaves after roasting

  • Remove from the oven and place the leaves on a paper towel and let drain for a minute.  Holding the two sides of the paper towel, toss the leaves gently back and forth to blot more of the oil.

Notes

  • Most of the recipes I found said to drizzle the leaves with oil, but this doesn’t get a consistent covering, and trying to toss the wet leaves is going to be more difficult than it is worth.  I chose to use a brush and baste each leaf.  The whole batch took less than five minutes.
  • These leaves, while delicious, are very thin and are not hearty.  Making enough to sit down to have a snack would take quite awhile, and the flavor is so potent that eating enough to satisfy hunger would likely leave you feeling ill.  Use these as garnishes or to supplement something else that you are eating.  After tasting them (and eating five or six), we used the rest of the batch as a garnish for our dinner (we had the scallops from a previous recipe).
  • Just as a reference, here is a single branch of our basil plant, after harvesting for this recipe.  The plant is still about 5′ x 5′ and 4′ tall.  We’ll have many more rounds of basil chips, pesto and red curry before the hundreds of visiting bees even notice a difference.

Basil branch

MIA

I am amazed how much my new job is taking out of me.  Nearly all new jobs have a learning curve and an intense start-up period.  But I really expected it to calm down long before now.  I’ve been in my new position for four months now, and I still struggle to find time even to think or feed myself at the end of the day.  Forget about deep contemplation, writing out my thoughts, or some semblance of creativity in the kitchen.

I kept waiting for the calm to come, so I could resume my life.  But I still see no calm on the horizon.  So I’m going to have to fight my way back into my life.  My hope is that this will include writing.  That I can achieve a post each week, if nothing else.

I apologize for being MIA for the past several months.  And I appreciate your patience.  And I’m trying to resurface.

As the Dust Settles

Some days, I don’t know how to keep moving.  As the world crumbles, as boulders crash on my left and my right, moving seems fatal.  And once the dust has settled, every path is blocked.  Things seem pointless and life seems like a battle that can’t be won.

But often, God sends a beam of light through the chaos.  And if I’m paying attention in these moments, I see a little glimmer of hope in the midst of rubble and dust.

The beam doesn’t move the boulders.  It doesn’t clear the rubble.  It doesn’t make anything easy.  But it is a glimpse of light in the darkness.  A reminder that God is at work.  It may not feel like it; it may not look like it.  But He is moving.

So we press on.  We try to climb out of this sea of boulders, not sure which path may lead us out.  And we try to be available for whatever God may place in our paths.  To recognize that the areas in which He is moving are seldom the places we expect.

It’s not always clear how, but we try to remember, and we try to press on.

on why millennials are leaving the church

Quote

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

—Rachel Held Evans in a post on CNN

Poached Eggs for Dummies

Who knew poaching eggs could be so easy?

Poaching eggs used to seem like such a daunting task, but once I had tried it a few times, it really wasn’t that difficult.  It did take a few attempts to dial in the technique, but now my wife and I have poached egg breakfast sandwiches every weekend, and sometimes toss one on top of some pasta or vegetables.  With a little practice, and a little preparation, they can be a simple and delicious addition to a variety of meals.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 C white vinegar
  • 1T kosher salt
  • water to fill a large pot

Preparation

  • Use the freshest eggs you can.  The fresher the eggs, the better the white will form around the yolk.  The vinegar helps to pull the white around the yolk.  Some don’t like vinegar and claim it makes the eggs taste funny, but I’ve never noticed a difference and I’ve tried with and without vinegar.  If you don’t like it, just skip the vinegar, but make sure your eggs are very fresh.
  • Crack each egg into its own small bowl or ramekin.  This will allow you to have more control as you place each egg into the water.  Bowls with shallow / angled sides will work best.

Eggs - Bowls

  • On a plate, arrange four pieces of paper towel or napkin.  I take two tear-a-size paper towels, cut each in half to make four pieces, then fold each piece in half.  These paper towels will allow the eggs to drain, and will give you a way to move and arrange the eggs.

Eggs - Paper towels

  • It is important to get all of this prepared early; once the eggs go in the water, they only cook for three minutes, so you don’t want to be running around trying to get everything ready.
  • Fill a large pot with water, add vinegar and salt.  Heat water over high heat until not quite boiling.  With my stovetop and pot, I look for small bubble to be forming on the bottom of the pot, but not too many, and not reaching a full boil.  The pot I use has a very thick bottom, so it retains heat well.  Depending on your stovetop, the size of your pot and how cooked you like your eggs, you may need to adjust when to put the eggs in the water.  When first trying it, err on the side of undercooking your eggs because you can always leave them in the water an extra 20-30 seconds if they aren’t done enough.

Eggs - Water

  • Once the water is where you want it, place the eggs, one at a time, in the water.  If you are using a small pot, you may need to do the eggs in multiple batches.  If your pot is large enough, work to place the eggs as far apart as possible from each other.  The technique I’ve found to work the best is to partially submerge the bowls in the water to let some water into the bowl before tipping the eggs into the water.  So dip the bowl into the water, tilt it until some water pours into the bowl and then slowly tilt the bowl to tip the egg into the water.  The egg will sink to the bottom.

Eggs - Place in water 1Eggs - Place in water 2

  • Repeat to place all four eggs into the pot.

Eggs - All eggs in water

  • Leaving the pot on the burner, cover the pot, turn off the heat and set a timer for three minutes.  This is another area where you may need to adjust, depending on your equipment and how you like your eggs.  I like my eggs to come out with a solid white and completely liquid yolk.  If you want your yolk firmer, you will need to cook longer.  Like running egg white?  Cook less.
  • When the timer goes off, take off the lid and survey your eggs.  Usually, the eggs will have risen to float at the top of the water, and there may be a bunch of white foam.  If the eggs are still on the bottom of the pot, you can use your slotted spoon to gently nudge them off the bottom.  If you do this, make sure to scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pot; don’t try to pull the egg up or it will break.
  • Using a slotted spoon, gently lift out the first egg.  The egg should jiggle a little since the yolk is liquid.  If it seems like the whites aren’t firm, you can put the egg back in the water for another 15 seconds and check again (if you do, check the other eggs while you’re waiting since they may be ready).  When the egg is ready, lift it from the water and turn it onto one of the paper towels to drain.  Repeat to remove each egg from the water.

Eggs - Draining

  • When you’re ready to place the eggs (either straight on a plate or on top of another part of the meal), pick up the edges of the paper towel to cradle the egg.  Move it alongside wherever you’re arranging the egg, and in a smooth motion, flip the paper towel to roll the egg into position.

Eggs - Arrange 1Eggs - Arrange 2Eggs - Arrange 3Eggs - Arrange 4

The eggs may not turn out perfectly the first time.  There are a lot of factors that play into when the eggs should be placed in the water and for how long to cook the eggs.  The details above are what work for me with my equipment and tastes; you may need to increase the cook time, or let the water get closer to a boil before adding the eggs.  If you’re using a gas stovetop, you may need to leave the burner on low, or leave the eggs in the water longer.  But give it a shot, expecting that you will need two or three times to practice.  Once you’ve worked out the kinks, just be consistent and the eggs will be as easy as pie.

Poached eggs can be used in a variety of ways.  It can simply be the way you prepare eggs for a standard breakfast, you can put it on toast, pasta, vegetables, or even a burger.  For the pictures, we were making open-faced breakfast sandwiches with eggs, salmon, capers, cherry tomatoes, arugula and parmesan on ciabatta rolls.

Eggs - Finish

Messy

Today is the third birthday of our little house church.  It’s been quite a journey.  I once heard someone say that house churches are “messy”.  You can’t just put on your best face for an hour or two a week and then go about your separate lives.  In a house church, you really share your lives with one another: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And that gets messy.

In our culture where everyone is expected to be in control at all times, to present a happy, perfectly-pressed life to the world, messy can be uncomfortable.

But Jesus was all about the “messy”.  He dealt with illness, pain, heartbreak, and uncleanliness.  The sinners, the outcast, the broken.  He didn’t expect people to present perfect lives to the world.  He expected them to walk alongside one another, to carry one another’s burdens, to recognized brokenness and strive to meet needs.  And none of that is possible if we keep the “messy” swept under a carpet and only present a picture of perfection to the world.

So I think the “messy” is good.  It’s right.  It’s honest.

It isn’t always easy, but it’s where we’re meant to be.

So here’s to three years (and counting) of messy.  May God continue to give us the strength to share the messy in our own lives and to accept the messy in others’.