I picked some basil leaves today to use in a Pasta Pomodoro. This is a staple food for me because I always have the ingredients on hand: spaghetti or angel-hair pasta, basil, tomatoes, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. I sauté the garlic in oil, then I stir in chopped-up fresh tomatoes & basil just to warm them up. Once the pasta is cooked I toss it with the fresh sauce or I pour the sauce on top. Optional: add salt & pepper, to taste; and parmesan cheese.
Basil is easy to grow, though it is a little finicky. It grows well either in the ground or in a planter. It likes a good amount of sun and does not like to be over-watered. It is best to let it dry out before watering the soil completely. But don’t wet the leaves if you can help it! If the leaves are wet too much or it sits in water, it can get a fungus (spots on the leaves), especially if you live in a humid place like I do. You can pick the leaves as you need them. Ideally you should use the leaves fresh. You can also dry the leaves, or freeze for later use.
I must say I had great fun with the WHAT ARE THE 9 HERBS? contest. I’ve posted all the comments/entries on the original webpage post, so you can go back there to see what everyone said. I did receive additional entries via email…from the folks who covertly peruse social media sites but don’t dare make a comment online. You know who you are, you people that are in hiding out there! No one guessed all nine herbs correctly but a couple of people came very close so I am calling it a tie and am giving them both plant presents.
And the two winners are…. Ryan (@ryanelberson) and Julia (travellingbanana.com)! Ryan got the most right: 7 out of 9. Yay Ryan! He didn’t exactly follow directions; he posted the answers on Instagram rather than on the website, as requested, but that’s okay. Instagramers aren’t known for their propensity to follow directions, so he’s forgiven. Julia guessed 6 correctly. There were a number of other people who guessed 6 properly but she was the first. Julia’s originally from the UK and is currently residing in the same area code as me, so she gets her present hand-delivered if she wishes! Ryan, I’ll track down in Instagramland.
Thanks to everyone who entered and those of you who cheered the rest of us on.
This is the conclusion of the Zoodles/Squoodles Pasta War I reported about yesterday. Notice that I listed Zoodles first, before Squoodles. This was intentional. If you look online you will see that Zoodles usually get top billing. I’m not sure why but I decided to follow this standard, just in case there is a good reason for it.
To make this dish, I julienned the zucchini and squash with my new “Heart Peeler.” Every gizmo has a gimmick! This gadget came in a nifty package with pictures of all the amazing things it can do. Of course it has its own Facebook page and website for fans to further worship at the altar of the peeler. To its credit, it did do what it was supposed to do. My zoodles/squoodles came out great. For raw food fans, the noodles can be eaten uncooked, which I will try the next time. This time, I sautéed the noodles with a little oil, before topping them with a home-made pesto sauce. Since the noodles have a high water content, they did get a little mushy when I sautéed them but they tasted delish.
Pesto is very easy to make. Just mix together in a food processor or blender: 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts and 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. To this add fresh pepper and salt if you want. This is what is generally considered a “traditional” recipe. The purists eat pesto raw. I prefer to mince the garlic and sauté it lightly in oil first, then I toss chopped fresh basil from my garden into the sauce pan. It’s a little gentler on the stomach (and breath) if the garlic’s cooked a little. In this dish, I sprinkled the pine nuts on the top rather than mincing them into the sauce; and I shredded parmesan cheese along the perimeter of the plate to make it pretty. For those that don’t eat dairy, just omit the cheese. So, do I like the zucchini & squash noodles as much as conventional wheat noodles? Sure do.
I helped my sister plant her first little herb garden on a ledge in her back yard (in Maryland), two months ago. We stuck the little plastic tags that came with the tiny plants into the ground, along with the herbs, so she would remember which herb was which. She also put a wire barrier around the plants to protect them from foraging rabbits. Today the basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary are all thriving and are being used in recipes…including a mysterious biscuit recipe her husband used the parsley in, this morning.
Starting a new basil plant is easy. Just clip a piece off an existing plant and put it in water. The cutting should be similar in size to the clipping in the picture. Wait for the herb to grow roots and then transplant it into a planter with potting soil or into the ground.
Harvesting a little basil to make a salad from a new plant that I haven’t transplanted yet. It’s best to cut off the large leaves and tips so the plant will get bushy. Basil is probably my favorite herb.
There’s something to be said for giving up on a sick or sad plant after you’ve tried everything and it is still giving you grief. I had purchased a small Basil herb and transplanted it in a self-watering container. I made the mistake of giving it too much water, causing it to get a fungus, turn yellow and drop most of its leaves. I then tried to remedy the situation by placing it in the bright sun to dry out and watering it only sparingly.
I waited patiently for the basil plant to recover to be able to cut off leaves for use in salads and on pasta. A week went by, then another, then another. After three weeks, it still looked yellow and very sad and had only grown back a few tiny leaves. I’m a big basil user and am used to having a robust plant I can harvest leaves from continuously, so this was rather distressing.
When I was at the grocery store this morning I saw this beautiful Basil plant for sale, with large unblemished leaves, calling my name. SOLD! I’m happy to have healthy basil in my garden again. My old basil plant is still in a coma, in intensive care. Perhaps it will recuperate. If it doesn’t, I give-up.
“I want to grow something edible; will you help me?” my sister asked. “Sure, let’s plant some herbs. That is the easiest thing to start with. Which do you like to eat?” I said. After discussing the different herbs, we settled on Sweet Basil, Parsley and Oregano; and off we went to buy some little plants at the local garden supply. We got back to her house with her new herbs and found the ideal spot to plant them: the corner ledge of her terraced yard. Here they will be out of the way of the lawn mower and next to some begonias she waters regularly. And in the raised bed, the herbs will be easy to harvest when they are ready. Since the herbs were grown in peat planters, all we had to do was dig holes in the ground sufficiently deep to accommodate the little planters, cut off the wrapping on the top of the containers, plop the planters in the holes, then pat the soil around them and cover with mulch. It rained that night, so the plants where thoroughly drenched. The next morning the herbs looked like they had already grown a little bit!