Sunday, June 15, 2008

Basil Explosion

With all of the heat and sun this week, my small cache of basil really took off. The plants responded really well to pinching and I was able to harvest two pretty big (its all relative of course) bunches of basil. So when it came to planning my local meal, I had to make something basil- centric.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Basil Pesto

I love gnocchi but often find them heavy and certainly too difficult to make. I found this recipe on and made it with local ingredients a few times. We have a great Italian specialty store across the street (Russo's) who makes fresh ricotta. I cut and pasted this entire recipe from the website and have used it without any adaptations other than adding an additional egg instead of the parmesan.

The original link: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi
Serves 4
1 (16-ounce) container of whole-milk ricotta
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 - 1 cup flour
Set a strainer line with three coffee filters or paper towels over a bowl. Add the ricotta and let the cheese drain for about an hour. (This can be done several days in advance.)
In a large bowl, mix the strained ricotta, egg, cheese, and 3/4 cup of the flour until all ingredients are incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Check the dough by rolling a bit in your hand. It should be a bit tacky. If it clings to your fingers like bubble gum, incorporate more flour one tablespoon at a time until you reach a tacky, workable consistency. Refrigerate for another 15 minutes.
Before shaping, put a large pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil. Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour and set it close to your work space.
Sprinkle your hands and work surface with a little flour. Break off a tennis-ball sized piece of the dough and roll it into a thick log about 3/4-inch thick.
Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the log into 3/4" pieces. You can leave them as little 'pillows' or shape them into the traditional grooved gnocchi by rolling them off the back of a fork with your thumb.
Transfer this batch to the baking sheet and toss with flour to prevent sticking. Repeat rolling process with the remaining dough.
Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and half of the gnocchi. Gently stir the gnocchi to make sure they don't stick. Once they bob to the surface, let them cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander set over a bowl to finish draining.
Repeat with second batch of gnocchi.
Toss the gnocchi with sauce and serve immediately.

Homegrown Basil Pesto

Nothing is quite as simple as a nice fresh herb pesto. I also didn't have much on hand so a pasta dish that only required a small amount of sauce was perfect.

2 cups fresh basil (washed and well dried)
I skip the pinenuts but you would use 1/4 cups, toasted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (not local)
Small (2 tbs) extra virgin olive oil

I put everything in the food processor or blender and whirl away.

Red Wine Sangria Sorbet

2 cups red wine (or white) I always use the last of a bottle
1/2 cup fruit (strawberries and apples this time)
2 cups water
1/2 cup well chopped basil
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bayleaf

I love to bake but it gets too darn hot in the summer. So after last week's heat wave, its time to take out the ice cream maker. I have a separate ice cream machine that takes up way too much room but I've also heard that the kitchenaid attachment is good. I don't eat a lot of milk but do love to make sorbets and frozen yougert. They are easier and give you the opportunity to really play with flavors. David Liebovitz (my go to dessert guy has inspiration on his blog).

The Red Wine Sangria Sorbet is a really easy dessert that is perfect for a really hot evening. Its pretty simple. Make Sangria (I used a mix of local red and white wines that I had around the house) and make a 1:1 ratio of sangria to water. I am also not a stickler for consistency and my sorbets rarely stay frozen for long. I added farmers market strawberries and apples. You can add what ever you have on hand. I also add cloves and a bay leaf for flavor and because I had it, I threw in some basil that I pulled out of the "garden". You can then make the sorbet according to your ice cream maker's directions or just drink it.

Strawberry and Mint Frozen Yougert (also Strawberry Basil is really Good)

Frozen yougert is almost as easy as sorbet. There's no heating and you don't have to perfect making a custard. You could probably do this without the maker, just mash up the fruit and herbs and throw them in a cup of yougert and in the freezer they go. I really love the combination of fruit and plain yougert and this recipe can be modified in a ton of different ways.

2 cups strawberries (Farmers' market) - some mashed in the food processor and some cut into chunks)
1 cup fresh mint leaves (out of the "garden")
4 cups plain yougert (I used the 2% but the full fat kind is really good)

Just mix in the ice cream maker according to directions. I didn't this time but you could make a simple syrup with the mint or basil to put over the top.

I didn't make these this week but wanted to post them with my very highest rating: Basil Rhubarb Cocktails


mia said...

WOW does that all sound amazing. The sangria sorbet has me wondering (yet again) if I have a place for an ice cream maker -- Maybe I will try it granita style.

San Francisco Photos said...

I love basil and it's so fragrant. I usually just leave a bunch of it sitting in a cup and tear off small amounts each time I need it. It's also a great way to deodorize the kitchen area!