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

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

Salmon and Beet Salad

This is a great use for leftover salmon.  It’s delicious and so fast to prepare if you roast the beet ahead of time.

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 beet
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 c arugula
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar – I recommend fig balsamic
  • ½ pound cooked salmon
  • Handful of walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp goat cheese

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 400°.  Wash beet well.  Cut greens to within an inch of the root; save beet greens for another use.  No other preparation is necessary.  Place beet in a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Drizzle beet with olive oil, wrap loosely in the foil, and seal the edges to trap in moisture.  Roast beet for 45 minutes.
  • Once beet has cooled enough to be handled, carefully open foil container.  Pop off greens and tail and gently peel off skin.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.  (Beet can be prepared a day ahead; refrigerate until needed.)
  • Toss arugula with basil leaves, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle with vinegar and oil; toss.  Divide among two plates.  Top with beets, salmon, walnuts, and goat cheese, dividing between plates.

Pomegranate Mojito

My wife and I recently bought some Pama, a pomegranate liquor, at our local Spec’s after tasting it with some champagne.  So when I happened upon a pomegranate mojito recipe, I thought I would give it a try.  I already had a very tasty mojito recipe from our friend, Andrew, so I modified it to use the Pama, and the result was really good.  You still have all the light refreshment from a traditional mojito, but with a bright fruitiness added in for good measure.  And even though it has 4 oz of alcohol instead of the 2 oz in the traditional recipe, it is still light and refreshing.

Pama mojito

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 12 mint leaves
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or substitute 1 oz simple syrup)
  • 1/2 oz lime juice (1 small lime or 1/2 a large lime)
  • 2 oz Cachaça 51 (or other white rum)
  • 2 oz Pama (or other pomegranate liquor)
  • ice
  • club soda
  • [optional] sprig of mint for garnish

Pama mojito ingredientsPreparation

  • Combine mint leaves, sugar and lime juice in a tall glass
  • Muddle the three ingredients in the glass
    • Muddling should just be bruising the mint leaves to release their oil; no need to pulverize the leaves
  • Fill glass mostly full with ice (I add this before the rum to reduce splashing)
  • Add rum and Pama to glass
  • Fill glass with club soda
    • Depending on your taste, and the size of the glass, you can adjust how much club soda to use
  • Stir to chill and mix drink
  • [optional] take an extra mint leaf, slap it between your palms to release the oils, and rub it around the rim of the glass
  • [optional] garnish drink with a mint sprig

Avocado and Pepper Salad

This salad is really light and fresh and so quick to whip up.  It’s great with lighter meals as the weather starts to warm up or to balance a heavier dish.

avocado pepper saladServes: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 green garlic or green onion
  • 1 small handful cilantro
  • Italian dressing

Preparation

  • Pit avocado, slice into eighths, and peel.  Arrange 4 slices on each plate.
  • Dice bell pepper and place in a small bowl.  Finely slice green garlic and add to pepper.  Coarsely chop cilantro and add to pepper.
  • Generously drizzle pepper mixture with Italian dressing.  Mix to incorporate.  Continue drizzling with dressing and mixing to incorporate until pepper flavor does not overpower the tang of the dressing.
  • Spoon pepper mixture over avocado slices.

Braised Leg of Lamb

We served this lamb Monday night at our Passover Seder.  Not only was it delicious – one guest who hadn’t eaten meat since high school had some of this lamb, when he heard the oohs and ahs from everyone else – it also reheats excellently, so we were able to prepare it the day before, and then just reheat it for the big meal.

There wasn’t time for many pictures during the Passover Seder.  This photo was taken while the juices were reducing, after the lamb came out of the oven.

braised lambServes: 10–12

Ingredients

  • 2 lb tomatoes
  • 4 lb boneless leg of lamb
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches fresh rosemary
  • 2 bunches fresh thyme
  • 4 c red wine
  • 2-4 c chicken or beef stock

Preparation

  • Blanch tomatoes to remove skin.  When cool enough to handle, peel, chop, and set aside.
  • Salt and pepper lamb.  Heat oil in a dutch oven.  Add lamb to brown.  Transfer to a plate.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until golden (about 10 minutes).  Add herbs and deglaze pot with wine.  Cook until wine is reduced by ½.
  • Preheat oven to 250°. Return lamb to pot; add tomatoes and enough stock to almost cover lamb.  Bring to a boil and transfer to oven.  Bake covered for 2½-3 hours.  Transfer lamb to a plate.
  • Return pot to stovetop; reduce juices by ½.  [Can be made 1 day ahead.  Allow to cool.  Refrigerate lamb and juices together.]
  • Return lamb and juices to pot to reheat.  Transfer lamb to a deep dish and slice or tear into pieces.  Spoon braising liquid over lamb.  Serve additional juices along side.