Thai Basil!

Our little raised bed garden is rocking this year. We got some organic basil and tomato starts from Tallahassee May of Turnbull Creek Farm and Tana Comer of Eaton Creek Organics. The basil, especially, is booming! The intense heat wave last week, though, gave us a scare so I went and picked a bunch of it all at once and was forced to make some pesto. I usually make a few jars of pesto every year. I’ll freeze some and give some away. I have several posts (and here) from years past about all the different ways I have found to use pesto. To be quite honest, I get a little tired of pesto now but I love growing basil because it does so well and I love the taste of it and pesto is such a good way to use all the excess. I often try either not using nuts or varying the type of nuts and always seem to make it different each time just to keep myself interested in the idea of pesto. I was thrilled to come up with this new recipe last week which is totally different from the classic and incorporates two different types of basil- Thai Purple and Lemon Basil.

Thai Pesto
Thai Basil (the purple leaves)
Lemon Basil
1-3 Cloves of Garlic (I used one big one)
Red Pepper Flakes
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Marinade for Chicken
½ cup Rice Vinegar
½ cup Tamari (or soy sauce)
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Thai Green Curry Paste
2 Tbsp Raw Cane Sugar

Several Kale Leaves
Juice of ½ Lime
Sea Salt
Several Romaine Leaves (although you could use any leafy green mix really)
1 Carrot, chopped
1 Lemon Cucumber, sliced
Cilantro & Basil Leaves, chopped
Black Pepper

Make the pesto and place in a jar in the refrigerator. I did not include measurements because it isn’t exact and can be very flexible. I just used a small bowl of thai basil, a small handful of the lemon basil, and a handful of cilantro. I only used as much olive oil needed to keep it all wet and keep my little grinder happy. Add sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

Mix up the marinade and then place the chicken in it and in the refrigerator for a couple hours. Meanwhile, make the salad. I like to mix the kale in the bowl first with the lime juice and salt. Massage it with your fingers or with a fork. Let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the other salad ingredients. Then mix all the salad ingredients together and set aside while you prepare the chicken. Remove the chicken from the marinade, lightly dust with flour, and the fry it up in the grapeseed oil. Once you flip the chicken pieces, top each with a little of the Thai pesto so it can warm up on top of the chicken. Serve the chicken strips on the salad greens.

I made this same recipe again using salmon. I marinated 2 pieces of salmon for an hour. I cut up some onions and sauteed them in an iron skillet. Once the onions were almost done, I pushed them to the sides of the pan and placed the salmon in the middle of the pan, flesh side down. I cooked it for 5 minutes on medium and then flipped them to skin side down.

I poured the marinade in the pan and topped each piece of salmon with Thai pesto. I cooked for 1 minute on this side and then turned the stove off and let sit for about 5 minutes.

This meal was accompanied by a bottle of Uriondo Bizaiko Txakolina, a white wine from Spain, which I found at Woodland Wine Merchant. Yum!

I served the salmon and onions over brown rice. I topped the plate with chopped basil and green onions. Delicious!


Dreaming of Spain (As I Listen to Davis Raines)

Grant and I love Spanish food. For years, we have dreamed of traveling to Spain to experience all the amazing food and wine first-hand. While living in Seattle, we settled for celebrating special occasions at one of our favorite restaurants, Harvest Vine, and shopping for all of our favorite Spanish ingredients at the Spanish Table down near Pike Place Market. Grant learned to make an incredible Paella from an old Spanish man who he knew through his wine job way back when. Now, living here in middle Tennessee, we still dream of our future trip to Spain and enjoy a Paella feast from time to time made with ingredients we’ve either ordered online, had friends bring to us, or scraped together serendipitously through various trips all over town.

Big Smokey’s Paella, March 2012

A couple years ago we stumbled upon an Anthony Bourdaine episode in which he was in Spain, enjoying the grilled Spring onion festival with a family in the countryside. We were reminded of this last week as we grilled up a bunch of vegetables, and decided to throw some spring onions on.

As we tasted them, we were immediately reminded of our friend, Bray’s Romesco Sauce and thought that would be the perfect dipping sauce for the sweet grilled onions.

This is one of Bray’s most famous dishes so I immediately contacted her for the recipe. Meanwhile, the spring onions had run their course and were no longer available at the farmer’s market but we found some red scallions and some green onions and we made it work! We also grilled some potatoes and zucchini to enjoy with it and decided to grill the red peppers for the Romseco instead of using jarred roasted red peppers which the recipe originally called for. Here is our adaptation of Bray’s recipe which she originally adapted from an Epicurious recipe.

Grilled Pepper Romesco Sauce
1/3 cup Whole Raw Almonds, blanched to remove skins and then toasted
1 slice Whole Grain Artisan Bread, torn into pieces
1 Garlic Clove
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ tsp Smoked Paprika
1 large Grilled Red Pepper, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
½ tsp coarse Sea Salt, or to taste
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Tbsp water to thin out a little

Finely grind almonds, bread, garlic, red pepper flakes, and paprika in a food processor. Add grilled peppers, vinegar, and salt, then purée, adding oil in a slow stream. Add a little water to thin out (because grilling the peppers makes them drier). We found the sauce to be so versatile- delicious as a dipping sauce but also amazing on sandwiches, over pasta, as a bruschetta topping, and as a side dish on top of grilled potato rounds! YUM!

(Side note: I never knew how easy it was to blanch almonds. All you have to do is throw the almonds in boiling water for 1 minute exactly. Remove from the water. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze each almond in your fingers and the skins slip right off! Easy! The whole process took about 10-15 minutes.)

Speaking of sauces, we had a major heat wave this week and suddenly, our poor little raised bed garden was in danger! I saw the basil begin to shrivel up so I picked a bunch of it to save it and made a couple different pestos. I made a classic walnut one with the Genovese basil and with the Thai Purple basil, I combined it with a little lemon basil, cilantro, garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt and olive oil for a Thai sauce. Not yet sure exactly what we will make with it but I think it would be great as a marinade for a grilled chicken satay, a start to an Asian salad dressing, or to top a piece of grilled fish.

Also last week, I finally got to hear the great songwriting and sound of Davis Raines. This guy is the real deal, y’all. He’s from Alabama and he has an old school country music vibe. I felt like I had discovered a lost country music soul! Listening to his new album, Santa Maria Hotel, I am sometimes reminded of Merle Haggard and occasionally he conjures up a little of Wayon’s spirit with some cut-time drum beat but this album is not a copy cat album of any sort. It is all Davis Raines and really great. What a great list of musicians on this album, too- you need this album! (You can see a youtube of a Nashville performance at Douglas Corner here.)

Davis Raines at the Station Inn June 2012 (phone photo!)

I’m going to make some more of those homemade Vanilla Wafers this weekend to enjoy with some homemade Peach Ice Cream!!!

Vanilla Wafers
½ cup Unsalted Butter
½ cup Raw Cane Sugar
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350. With a mixer, mix sugar and butter together until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix. Refrigerate for about half an hour. Roll dough out to ¼” on a well floured board. Cut with a small cookie cutter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet and they will crisp up.

And I close with this little tip- Vinho Verde helps keep you sane during the heat wave!

Stay cool, y’all!