Posts tagged ‘Basil’

Creamy Pesto Pasta

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Friends, I present you with not such a great picture of a very delicious dish. I was inspired by a friend who cooked a similar dinner for us in the summer, and I thought that I could make my version a little bit lighter (and use up my cream cheese!) by subbing in cream cheese for heavy cream. It worked perfectly, resulting in a thick, creamy, but not-too-heavy sauce. The fresh taste of the vegetables balances this dish nicely, and it is heavenly when served with some garlic bread, a simple green salad, a nice white wine. You can make your own pesto, of course, but premade pesto makes this so easy to throw together. It’s your call. Either way, you’re in for a scrumptious meal.

Creamy Pesto Pasta
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

3 cups dry whole wheat pasta, a short shape like penne or fusilli
6 cups of water
¾ cup pesto, store-bought or homemade
½ cup Neufchatel cheese or cream cheese
2 cups mixed vegetables, finely chopped
(I used ½ cup each of carrots, broccoli, peas, and bell peppers)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, cut up your veggies into small bite-sized pieces. (The vegetables I used worked really well, but I can also imagine green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, or zucchini being especially good in this dish.)
  3. In a large pan, combine the cheese and pesto and heat on low until the cheese is melted. Stir constantly during this process to mix the pesto and cheese.
  4. Add the veggies to the sauce and cook about 5 minutes, or until the veggies are tender but still bright and slightly crisp.
  5. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.

January 23, 2010 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

Basil-Balsamic Baba Ganoush

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I brought home a bag of baby eggplants the other day to make the eggplant and goat cheese pizza that I posted last week, but it soon became clear that I had too many eggplants for just one culinary project. Falling back on an old standby, I decided to whip up a batch of baba ganoush, a Mediterranean dip similar to hummus that I like to use as a dip for veggies and crackers. It also makes a great addition to sandwiches and wraps.

I roasted my eggplants and then opened my cupboards, and found that I was missing two out of the five ingredients for this extremely simple recipe. Time to improvise! I substituted balsamic vinegar for lemon juice, basil for parsley, and pine nuts… well, those I just threw in for fun. In the end, I had a dip very much like baba ganoush but different enough from the original recipe that I thought I should share it with you. I hope you enjoy it!

Basil-Balsamic Baba Ganoush
Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. eggplant (about 1 medium eggplant or 3 baby eggplants)
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place face down on a cookie sheet. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the skin is blistered and the flesh is soft and browned. Let cool.
  2. When the eggplant is cool, scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a blender or food processor.
  3. Add other ingredients to blender (or food processor) and pulse until smooth.

Adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles

August 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Eggplant Pesto Pizza

Eggplant Pesto Pizza

It may surprise some of you to learn that I had never heard of eggplant as a pizza topping until a few years ago, when Sean and I visited Rome. It was there that I first experienced what the smoky flavour of a thinly sliced, roasted eggplant can do for a pizza – and I was impressed.

It wasn’t until we moved to New Haven, though, that I really fell in love with eggplant on pizza. Here, the eggplant is breaded and fried and often (at least in our circles) combined with the piquant bite of pickled cherry peppers.

For this recipe, I combined the flavours that we remember from Rome with the combinations that we’ve come to know in New Haven. I roasted the eggplant, both for health’s sake and because this method really allows the smoky flavour of the eggplant to shine through. That flavour is complimented here by the piquant peppers and the creamy goat cheese, while the mellow, melty mozza ties the whole thing together.

Eggplant Pesto Pizza

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 prepared whole-wheat pizza crust
1 small eggplant (about 10 ounces)
olive oil cooking spray or a spray bottle of olive oil
½ cup pepperoncini, cherry peppers, or other pickled peppers, sliced
½ cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
½ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

  1. Place all basil, oil, and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice the eggplant as thinly as possible, leaving the skin on. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and spray lightly with oil. (Putting oil in any clean run-of-the-mill spray bottle works well and it’s cheaper than cooking spray).
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Place eggplant in oven while it’s preheating.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the peppers, shred the mozzarella, and crumble the goat cheese. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface.
  5. When the oven has preheated, remove the eggplant. Place the pizza dough on the cookie sheet. Spread with pesto, and layer eggplant on top, grating pepper over the eggplant. Sprinkle with goat cheese, peppers, and mozzarella.
  6. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until mozzarella has melted and crust is browned.

August 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

Caprese Crostini


Need to impress dinner party guests or potluckers without breaking a sweat (ie. turning on the oven)? Caprese Crostini will do the trick, and it’s ridiculously easy to make if you use prepared pesto. Using pesto here instead of fresh basil leaves intensifies the basil flavour and lends a nice texture to the snack. If you’re making this for a dinner party, you can prep all of the ingredients in advance and then put the crostini together in minutes so that they’ll be fresh when your guests arrive.

Caprese Crostini

1 baguette, preferably whole wheat
3-4 roma tomatoes (enough to cover the baguette when sliced)
1 lb. large bocconcini balls or mozzarella
½ cup pesto (recipe follows)
several grindings fresh black pepper (about ½ tsp.)

  1. Prepare pesto if making your own.
  2. Slice the baguette into 1″ slices, and slice the mozzarella and tomatoes thinly.
  3. Spread each baguette slice with pesto, top with one slice mozzarella and then one slice tomato.
  4. Grind pepper over crostini and serve.

Fresh Basil Pesto
makes 1 cup

3 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
3 cloves garlic, chopped
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup pine nuts
¼ tsp. each freshly ground salt and pepper, or to taste

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth.

September 10, 2008 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

Summer Sensation Pasta


Thanks to free BBQs, receptions and ice cream socials for new students, I have not really had to cook since I arrived in New Haven. But I know you need recipes, so here’s one that I wrote a few weeks ago that was super delicious, and should still be in season.

This recipe resulted from a vague craving for pasta and a need to start emptying out the pantry in preparation for the big move. Although a wide range of divergent ingredients got thrown into this one, it came out well-balanced and pretty delicious. Serve with a simple green salad and a cold summer wine, if you’re so inclined.

Summer Sensation Pasta
Serves 4

12 oz. whole wheat pasta (your choice, we used linguine)
1/2 tsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup cooked black beans
2 cups peas
1/2 tsp. chili flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and simmer until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat oil and saute garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pine nuts and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until they release their juices, about 2 minutes. Add artichoke hearts, beans, peas and chili flakes and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss pasta with tomato mixture and remaining ingredients. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

August 23, 2008 at 8:40 am 1 comment


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*All entries tagged "vegan" and "gluten free" meet those dietary requirements to the best of my knowledge as long as the vegan or gluten free instructions are followed (where applicable). It is always wise to double-check ingredients (especially when dealing with packaged foods) and to confirm ingredients and preparation methods at restaurants.