Posts Tagged BASIL

Cajun-Creole Jambalaya

jambalayaThis can loosely be called the Louisiana version of Paella. The only real difference is that I bake this in the oven to finish it off, as opposed to cooking it on top of the stove. This is a crazy good dish, a complete meal in itself.

Again, I first got turned onto Jambalaya on my travels to New Orleans in the eighties. Although the travels were for business, I never failed to tack on vacation time at the end of my business obligations to enjoy the food and culture of New Orleans. While a lot can be said about New Orleans crime and corruption, the one thing that is absolutely certain is that you will never be served substandard food and drinks in that town.

This recipe calls for Andouille sausage. I have never had a problem finding this in my local supermarket, but Tasso or some other kind of smoked ham is a great substitute here. Alternatively, buffalo chicken sausage is great also.

You will need a pretty deep baking pan for this. If your skillet is big enough and can handle oven cooking, you can simply work with that.

Ingredients

3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 cups)

2 cups Andouille sausage, cut in 1/4 inch pieces then quartered

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup chopped onion, divided

1 cup chopped celery, divided

1 cup chopped green bell peppers, divided

3 tbsp minced garlic

1 28-oz can Italian whole tomatoes, undrained and broken up by hand

1 tsp broken-leaf sage

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 whole bay leaves

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups long-grain rice (Basmati works well here)

Tabasco sauce (for the table)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat up 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken and Andouille sausage, and cook until browned. (The meats do not need to be cooked through.) Remove and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of the olive oil and heat up. Add 1/2 cup each of the celery, onion and peppers, along with the cayenne pepper, sea salt, garlic, sage, basil, oregano and thyme. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Now, we move to the pan you’re going to bake in. Add the meats and shrimp. Then add the cooked vegetables and all of the juices that are left from that process. Add the rice, chicken stock, the remaining uncooked half cup of the celery, onions and green pepper. Add the tomatoes and the bay leaves. Stir everything together.

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour on 350 degrees.

Serve with a full bottle of Tabasco sauce.

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Mediterranean Fish Stew

Mediterranean Fish Stew 2My niece reminded everyone the other day on Facebook that it’s getting to be soup weather. I, for one, believe it’s already here. And it’s not only “soup” weather, it’s “stew” weather. This is an amazingly aromatic fish stew that calls for a firm fleshed white fish, like hake, halibut, mahi-mahi…even catfish. Better still, try a combination of fish in this one.

It’s great with a nice, dry white wine and some crusty Italian or French bread. And don’t worry about the addition of the anchovies. It adds amazing flavor, and nobody will even know they are there. Even though you may have some friends who are anchovy-phobic, do not leave these out of the recipe!

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

2 Vidalia onions, chopped

1 celery heart, chopped

1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

6 large garlic cloves, minced

4 anchovy fillets, chopped

2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1.5 cups dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio

3 cups water

Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

2 wide strips orange zest

2 lbs firm, white fish (halibut, hake, catfish, mahi-mahi, cod…or any combination thereof), cut in pieces

Saffron (generous pinch)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Chopped parsley or slivered basil, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots. Cook for 10-15 minutes until thoroughly tender.

Add the garlic and parsley. Cook for several minutes more until the garlic is fragrant and becomes translucent.

Add the chopped tomatoes and anchovies. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often until tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture becomes aromatic.

Stir in the dry white wine and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water, return to slow boil. Add about 1.5 to 2 tsp sea salt, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. Stir frequently. Taste for salt and garlic. Add more if necessary. Remember that once the fish is added it will increase the depth of flavor.

Stir in the orange zest and the fish. Add a health pinch of saffron. Simmer slowly uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

Add the fresh-ground pepper, taste again, and adjust the salt if necessary.

Remove the orange peel, and remove the stew from the heat. Serve in soup bowls, garnishing with either parsley or slivered basil. Serve with crusty bread or garlic croutons.

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Martin & Bill’s Eggplant Caponata

EggplantI don’t know about you, but when I buy this stuff in a jar, it looks like cat food. That’s not the plan here. You should be able to identify the various ingredients in this great appetizer. This dish mixes the best tastes of summer with crushed red pepper and basil, among other things as you will see.

This dish is great on rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thinly sliced crusty bread.

The recipe calls for one large eggplant. If you use the Italian eggplant, they are generally a bit smaller so you’ll probably need two. The recipe also calls for pickled peppers. If you’re using pepperoncini or hot/sweet vinegar peppers, you should use about 3 or 4. If you’re using banana peppers, they are larger so you’ll probably need just two.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

1 medium or large red onion

6 garlic cloves

3-4 pickled peppers (Pepperoncini, hot or sweet vinegar peppers)

1 medium red pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

3 tbsp capers

6-8 fresh basil leaves, trimmed and cut in strips

1 tbsp crushed red pepper (more if you choose)

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thin-sliced crusty bread (for serving)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the pickled peppers and set aside for later.

Leaving the skin on, cut the eggplant into cubes. Roughly chop the onion, red pepper, and garlic. Put the ingredients into a bowl and add the crushed red pepper flakes and 3 tbsp of the olive oil, Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a baking sheet and scatter the lemon slices over the top. Place in the oven and cook for at least 25 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Then, transfer them to a food process and chop roughly. Don’t do this on an automatic setting. Do this more or less manually so that you don’t pureé the vegetables.

Transfer this back into a bowl, and add the capers, basil, pickled peppers and remaining 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. However, overnight results in a much better flavor.

Serve with rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or crusty bread. A nice red wine goes well with this.

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Baked Rigatoni with Fresh Tomatoes, Herbs, and Parmesan

RigatoniWhen I was a kid we called this “pizza macaroni.” My sisters and I still call it that. For this dish, you’ll need a lasagna pan because it’s “layered” like lasagna. This pasta dish is great as a leftover. Like most pasta dishes, it’s better the second time around!

You will note that I call for both olive oil and Parmesan in unspecified quantities. You’re going to have to “wing it” here! Don’t be nervous, you’ll see how easy this is once you get to the directions for this simple yet wonderful dish.

You can also use Ziti for this dish, but I prefer Rigatoni.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs Rigatoni

6-8 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in thin slices

1 cup fresh basil, trimmed and cut in long strips

3/4 cup chopped fresh oregano (or spicy oregano, which is what I use)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Shredded and grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring salted water to boil in a very large pan. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, throw in the rigatoni. Cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it’s just partially cooked (that would be less than al denté). Drain the pasta and rinse in cold water.

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of the lazagna pan, and put down your first layer of rigatoni. Don’t lay it down too thick. Just make sure the surface is covered. Add a layer of tomatoes, sprinkle on basil, oregano and grated Parmesan, then drizzle again with olive oil.  Repeat this process until all the ingredients are used. This should give you about 3 layers. On the top layer, you’ll also add some shredded Parmesan.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350-degree for about an hour.

Serve with additional Parmesan as well as crushed red pepper.

 

 

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Mediterranean Mussels

This is an incredible feast for very little money. Mussels are among the most economical shellfish, and they are delicious. If you pick them up at a supermarket, they are cleaned and debearded. All you need to do is rinse them in cold water prior to cooking (and be sure to discard any that are broken open). If you purchase them from a fish market, cleaning may be a bit more complicated, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

You need Fines Herbs for this recipe. You can buy them in a jar all prepared, or you can make some yourself. The recipe for them follows the main recipe.

Ingredients

2 lbs. Mussels (cleaned and/or rinsed)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion (chopped)

1 fresh lemon (seeds removed; cut in quarters)

2 Roma tomatoes (seeds removed and chopped)

8 cups water

1 cup white wine

1 cup clam juice

3 tbsp. fines herbs

3 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)

2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped; for garnish)

Loaf of Ciabatta bread (I like rosemary and olive oil), Italian bread, or garlic bread (you choose)

Directions

Use a nice, big pasta pan for this dish. Add olive oil, garlic and onions to pan. Cook for about 5 minutes. No more. The idea here is to add a bit of flavor, but not to overwhelm the flavor of the delicate mussels.

Add the water, salt, fines herbs, clam juice, tomatoes, lemons, and white wine. Heat for a bit, but do not bring to a boil. Add the cleaned mussels. I can’t give you a definitive time here. All you do is cook them until the mussels are opened. Serve in bowls with plenty of broth. That’s what the bread is for.

Great with white wine. If you’re not a white wine drinker, have some red. I’m not a believer in red for meats and red-sauce pastas; white for fish and chicken. You should be drinking what you like. The food police are not welcome on this blog, thank you very much.

I like this dish with an arugula salad. A simple arugula salad, which means just arugula and a simple Italian dressing. I’m going to give you the recipe for the Italian dressing below also.

Spoon the mussels into individual pasta dishes, throwing some chopped parsley on top for garnish. Don’t be shy with the broth. It’s delicious. That’s why there’s bread in the recipe.

Here is the recipe for Fines Herbs.

Fines Herbs

1 tbsp. chopped tarragon

1 tbsp. chopped chervil

1 tbsp. chopped chives

1 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tbsp. chopped marjoram

That’s it. A lot of recipes out there tell you the marjoram is optional. It isn’t in my book.

Simple Italian Dressing

This is a great dressing. I’m not a fan of heavy olive oil in my dressings. I like the light olive oils that are used for dressings and marinades. If I don’t have that on hand, I use canola oil.

McCormick  makes an awesome Tuscan Seasoning. It’s a mix of black pepper, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, basil, red pepper, onion, garlic, sun-dried tomato, red bell pepper and salt. Trust me. You don’t need to create this yourself. I keep a bottle on hand all the time. It’s one of those must-have things.

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (for dressings and marinades; not the one for cooking)

1/2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp. Tuscan Seasoning

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Shake it up. It’s ready. If you’re a cheese-o-holic like me, you can put some shaved Parmesan or Asiago on your salad. If not, it’s fine without.

By the way, I love those Good Seasons cruets for dressings. I don’t use the packets, but it’s worth buying the package just to get the cruet. Keeps well in the fridge for the next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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