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Tag Archives: basil

It’s Time for Some Naan-sense

One of my major pet peeves used to be seeing–and especially hearing–people eat on TV.  Those snack commercials with the close-ups of psychotically enthusiastic people crunching a chip grossed me out, and I could not understand why advertisers would feature people extolling the virtues of their product with full-mouth-induced speech impediments:  “Wow, thatsh sho tashty!”

Honestly, I still hate those commercials, but ironically, I love watching the Food Network and other food based reality shows.  For one thing, rarely are chewing or crunching sounds audible when food is sampled. Thank you, sound engineers.  And also, they seem to train their show hosts to speak clearly with a big honkin’ mouth full of a fussily arranged and pleasantly garnished dish.

Bill and I relax and unwind at night while watching The Next Food Network Star, America’s Next Great Restaurant, and Hell’s Kitchen, among others.  One of the appealing things about these shows–besides feeling superior when experienced chefs mess up a rudimentary task, such as cooking pasta–is that sometimes their creations and/or ingredients are intriguing.  This will occasionally inspire us to try new foods and new recipes.

For example, Bill’s mouth was watering like Homer Simpson dreaming of donuts while watching The Next Food Network Star last week.  Contestant Vic Vegas Moea was making lamb burgers, and lamb is one of Bill’s favorites.  So, the next day we hit the grocery store so that he could buy the ingredients and try it out.   While he was in the bakery department, futilely searching for individual hamburger buns (he really didn’t need a package of eight), I wandered around perusing the rest of the baked goods, doing my own Homer Simpson impression.  I snagged a bag of pretzel bagels and skipped over to add them to the cart, just as Bill noticed packages of freshly baked Tandoori Naan.

Naan is a type of bread that we have seen on various cooking shows–usually used by Indian-influenced chefs.  It is a leavened flatbread cooked in a tandoor (a clay oven).   We had never tasted it before, and Bill decided on the spur of the moment that he was going to use it, instead of a bun, for his lamb burger.   We got home, and Bill went to work on Vic’s recipe, while I tried to decide what I was going to have for lunch–I do not eat lamb.

I took a look at what we had around the kitchen, and decided to do a bruschetta type of creation.  I brushed both sides of my piece of naan with olive oil, topped it with sliced golden tomatoes and basil from our garden, and finished it with some fresh grated parmesan cheese.  I put it under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese.  Holy cow, was it ever spectacular!  The naan was pillow-y soft, with just a bit of chew.  I will be purchasing it often from now on.  I truly think just about anything would taste better on it or with it, but it really was a fantastic complement to my simple toppings.  Just consider it my Italian-Indian fusion experiment.  Sounds classy–like it could be on one of those shows.

Here is the link to the lamb burger, which Bill describes as one the best things he’s ever eaten!  (He didn’t use anything from our garden, but I had to post the recipe since he liked it so much.  The “mayoli” has garlic in it, and we do grow garlic–it just isn’t ready yet.  And it calls for dried basil–guess he could have used fresh, but he stuck to the directions on this one).

LAMB BURGERS WITH CARAMELIZED RED ONIONS, MAYOLI AND FETA

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/lamb-burgers-with-caramelized-red-onions-mayoli-and-feta-recipe/index.html

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Fishing for Compliments? Make Farfalle with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon!

Yes, we used basil from our garden in today’s featured recipe, but this dish is not about basil; the star is smoked salmon. If you had told me a week ago–heck, a day ago–that I would be feasting on smoked salmon, my response would have been, “Ewww.”

I am not particularly fond of fish. Tuna fish mixed with Miracle Whip and onions has been the extent of my seafood consumption for most of my life. Sometimes I can eat shrimp, but other times it grosses me out. Especially when there are feet. Or frightening long antennae that touch me from the plate (see picture of Scary Prawn). I have been trying to eat more fish, though, because I know it is healthy. In the past year I have developed a taste for the fish sliders at Seeburger’s Cheeseburgers in Mount Clemens, and I have tried various fish tacos that I truly like. I can also eat fish and chips, as long as I have unlimited tartar sauce. I know that pretty much negates the healthiness of the fish, as does the deep-frying, but I’m taking baby steps.

I was not particularly interested when Bill decided to smoke some salmon in the smoker that his parents got him for Christmas. I have tried smoked salmon in the past and do not care for it unless it is disguised with mounds of cream cheese. But, this was the debut of the smoker, and Bill was really into it, so when the fish was done I bravely tried a piece. Surprise: it was tasty and not at all fishy! We have been enjoying it on bagels and crackers with the requisite cream cheese, and the recipe that we discovered last night for dinner was too delicious not to share. The link to the recipe is below.

We have clay soil, so we have not attempted cultivating our own asparagus patch. Therefore, the main veggie in this dish was store-bought. We didn’t actually measure any of the ingredients. We just eyeballed everything according to our taste, and also added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. The result was an incredibly light, fresh dish that we ate as a complete meal. The briny, smokey taste of the salmon is perfect with the lemon and bow-tie pasta. And when you get a chunk of pistachio or sun-dried tomato, it is a happy little surprise. We had seconds, and then thirds, raving all the while. Being that Bill is not big on asparagus, and I previously shunned salmon, this dish was a surprising hit!

FARFALLE WITH ASPARAGUS AND SMOKED SALMON: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/farfalle-with-asparagus-and-smoked-salmon/detail.aspx

The Side Dish Sidekick / Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

As I write this, it is that time of day again:  time to come up with a side dish for dinner.  Bill is the main cook in our household and a proud carnivore.  He has a knack for experimenting and putting flavors together, and is one of those who likes to whip up a breakfast of omelets, bacon and hash browns.  I love big breakfasts, but I am also good with just cereal.  Before he came along, my only actual cooking consisted of three things: scrambled eggs, spaghetti (although I once set water on fire making it), and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I grew up in a house with an electric stove, but after college I lived in an apartment with a gas stove. I never used it once because I was convinced that it would explode.  That’s when I learned how to make grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron.  On an ironing board.

Being an animal lover, I also don’t like to touch raw meat or even think about it.  Ground beef and boneless chicken breasts are my limit, and even then, I have to go into a deep state of denial about what it actually is.  I would be a vegetarian, but I have an unfortunate tendency toward anemia and cheeseburgers.   So, nowadays when we make dinner, Bill usually grills or otherwise prepares the meat, and I am his Side Dish Sidekick.  This is why I enjoy the garden so much:  I use whatever is abundant in the garden and incorporate it with other ingredients we have on hand.  I have even learned to enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.

Since not much is ready to pick yet, I have been building my part of the menu around our fresh garden herbs. Below is the link to what has been my go-to side dish for a few years now.  It is as simple as making a boxed noodle or rice dish, but without the powdery, MSG-laden flavor packets.  I have been substituting I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter for the real butter, and sometimes I use vegetable stock in place of the chicken broth. Admittedly, it is not something I can make with an iron, but fortunately I have made my peace with the gas stove.

ORZO WITH PARMESAN AND BASIL:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/orzo-with-parmesan-and-basil/detail.aspx