Basil Chive Vinaigrette

Nothing smells like fresh basil – definitely my favourite herb.  Summer is the only time of year I make this vinaigrette, when the basil is plentiful and salads grace every meal.

Basil Vinaigrette 1

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz (45 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except for the olive oil.  Give it a good whiz, until all the herbs are bright flecks of green, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and smooth.

Basil Vinaigrette 2

I really think this needs either an immersion blender or food processor to get the consistency.  If you don’t have either, chop herbs very fine and whisk it all up.

This will yield about 1 pint jar, and I’d suggest trying it in a variety of ways …

Basil Vinaigrette 3

salad dressing   ~   vegetable dip   ~   blend with cream cheese for a spreadable bread topping   ~   toss with zucchini ribbons   ~   brush over grilled chicken or seafood

 

Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls with Peanut Dressing

I’ve been trying to simplify some of my dinner plans ….. as much as I like puttering in the kitchen for a couple of hours after work (what I call kitchen yoga), there are times I just need to make a quick dinner.  This is one of my favourites …. quick, easy, healthy and most of all, absolutely delicious.  You don’t really have to make the peanut dressing to drizzle over, but honestly, isn’t everything better with peanut sauce?

coconut-curry-noodle-bowl

Tonight’s version of this bowl included prawns, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy and lots of colourful peppers.

PEANUT DRESSING:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 heaping Tbsp natural salted peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
splash of lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
splash of very hot water (only if too thick)

COCONUT CURRY:
1 tablespoon oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

BOWL: (These are suggestions, use whatever veg you have on hand)

4 ounces rice or egg noodles
1 tablespoon oil
half an onion, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
sesame seeds & chopped peanuts for topping
limes for serving
a handful of fresh basil & cilantro for serving

I’ve also used snow peas, zucchini, sweet peppers & bean sprouts.

To prepare your peanut sauce combine all ingredients except the hot water, blend well and stir in just enough of the hot water to allow everything to become smooth and creamy.

Preparing the curry sauce is pretty easy.  Heat oil in a sauce pan and stir in shallots and fresh ginger, saute briefly just until translucent and stir i the curry paste.  Fry curry paste for 2-3 minutes, just to allow flavours to wake up.  Stir in the coconut milk, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes just to allow flavours to get to know each other…… Taste …. if you can handle a bit more heat stir in the hot chili paste.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Taste again and adjust.  Remember, every brand of these ingredients will have a slightly different profile, and you need to make adjustments for that.  Last thing is to add the lime juice.  It should wake everything up and make you want to keep tasting …..

The method is fairly flexible, saute your veg in a wok with the oil just until crisp tender and set aside.  Alternatively, if you are using egg noodles, once you have removed the egg noodle from the boiling water, plunge the veg in for just 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and remove.

SERVING TIME:

Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl, layer on the veg, and sprinkle with toppings.  Gently pour over the coconut curry.  You can make this as saucy as you like by doubling up the curry sauce if you want more of a soup.  Drizzle over the peanut sauce and enjoy!

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

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At this time of year the tomatoes are plentiful, and I do not like to see any go to waste …. also don’t have quite enough time to can it all!  This is my go to, for whatever amount of tomatoes I have ripe at the time.

Fill a roasting dish with tomatoes, (roughly chopped, skin on), garlic, onion, sweet peppers and entire stalks of fresh herbs.  (I also sneak a few carrots in there) Drizzle over some good quality olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 for 2-4 hours, very flexible.  This also works in the crockpot.

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Allow to roast until reduced by about half.  Remove the stalks of fresh herbs, they have done their job …..

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Puree with immersion blender or food processor (if you use processor make SURE you have left room for steam to escape or this can be a nasty experience).  Stir in 1 small tin of tomato paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Depending on the acidity of your tomatoes, you might like to stir in a bit of sugar, but taste first.img_9396

It is easy to just put the cooled sauce in a marked freezer bag, and put it in the freezer to enjoy all winter long.

Lemon, Shrimp & Spinach Pasta

This makes a very quick dinner, fresh and delicious.

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Ingredients
For the lemon oil:
1/2 cup warm extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested (in wide strips)

For the pasta:
1 pound linguine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup sliced zucchini
16 ounces frozen shrimp
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 lemon, zested
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces spinach (about 3 packed cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Optional:  1/2 – 1 tsp chile flakes & 1 tbsp butter

 

For the lemon oil:
Combine the olive oil and the lemon zest in a small bowl and reserve.
For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and saute until just tender.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked linguine, lemon juice, lemon zest, chile flakes, butter, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the spinach.  Using a mesh sieve, strain the lemon zest out of the reserved lemon olive oil and add the oil to the pasta. The zest can be discarded. Add some of the cooking water to desired consistency. Add the chopped parsley to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately. (dusted with parmesan if you like)

Linguine with Shrimp and Spinach

I’m really going to try and simplify a few meals …. seems as though I look at 20 or 30 minute meals and only use that as a starting point … always adding more dishes. Next thing I know I’m looking at 60 minute meals … Usually that is just fine, it is my kitchen yoga after a busy day at work. However – sometimes, like when my beautiful Sloan and Stella are helping out, a 20 or 30 minute meal is the way to go.

Freshly harvested corn, spinach and tomatoes make this deliciously simple pasta dish extra tasty.

Freshly harvested corn, spinach and tomatoes make this deliciously simple pasta dish extra tasty.

Here is one for you to try – deliciously simple and when made with fresh tomatoes and spinach out of the garden, not to mention the first of this years corn, it really is enough.

You can use any pasta you like for this – the main point is to cook it in enough salted water – be generous with that salt, and have lots of water. Cook pasta until al dente.

3/4 pound pasta
1 pound raw shrimp
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt
lemon
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in boiling water, in the last few minutes of cooking time, toss in the shrimp and cook ONLY until the shrimp is opaque and slightly pink throughout. Neither pasta or shrimp do well when overcooked. Drain well, reserving a bit of the pasta water in case needed.

Return to pot and add in freshly grated lemon zest, the juice of 1 lemon, chopped fresh tomato, 2-3 tbsp olive oil and the 4 cups of baby spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If it seems a bit dry, this is the time to add a bit of the pasta water. Parmesan cheese grated over finishes it all off.

Served with the fresh corn on the cob it really is a great meal – quick and easy too.

Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp, Capers and Tomatoes

This pasta is quick, light and easy. Most of these ingredients are things I have on hand anyway, so as a last minute dinner it always works – add a fresh, crisp green salad and some garlic toast and your meal is perfect.

Plump juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and spring onions combine with capers for a quick easy dinner.

Plump juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and spring onions combine with capers for a quick easy dinner.

Put on a large pot of water to boil – salt only once it has come to rolling boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, heat a fry pan and stir in:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter

Once melted, stir in
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
when lightly brown, stir in
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, stir for 30 seconds and add:
3 pounds large shrimp – shelled and deveined
Stir occasionally and cook only until shrimp are cooked through – around 3-4 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper
Finish with 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice and a knob of butter.

Stir well and set aside.

By now your water has come to a boil and you are ready to cook your angel hair pasta – add a generous amount of salt to water, then pasta (enough for 4). Cook for time listed on your pasta container – being careful not to overcook. Drain – reserving 1 cup of the pasta liquid.

Return the pasta to the pot, toss in the shrimp mixture, including and juices, along with:
2 small tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp capers
green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Stir well, adding pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce up a bit and season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you don’t have any frozen shrimp on hand, this works really well with chicken too!

Toasted Crumbs

Do you ever have left over garlic toast? Bread that is past its “best before” date? Or – as has occasionally happened ….. just forget to take the garlic bread out of the oven to serve??? I can relate to all this very well. Don’t throw it out!

The tastiest use of forgotten or leftover garlic bread is to make bread crumbs.  You'll never buy bread crumbs again!

The tastiest use of forgotten or leftover garlic bread is to make bread crumbs. You’ll never buy bread crumbs again!

Allow it to completely dry out by cutting or tearing it into pieces – then spread on a baking tray and just leaving it be. If you want it toastier just put it in a moderate oven (350) and allow to toast a bit more.

When totally dried out, give it a whiz in your food processor, and you have the tastiest bread crumbs – particularly if you are working with leftover or forgotten garlic bread. If you don’t have an immediate use for it, put crumbs in a ziplock bag in the freezer – stays for ages and so handy to have.

~ ~ Melt a little butter in a frypan and crisp the crumbs up – serve sprinkled over pasta!