Category Archives: sweet basil

Polenta Gratin with Provençal Vegetables

I spent most of the day trying to figure out my new camera and took a gazillion photos of this polenta gratin, of course most of them are not fit for prime time. I hope the photos I post here do it justice, because it is a wonderful vegetarian entrée, a hearty baked polenta gratin filled with melted Parmesan cheese and layered with scrumptious vegetables and herbs. So as a result of struggling with my camera I’m posting my meatless Monday dish just in time for farmers market Tuesday, so you can hopefully purchase some of the vegetables from your local farmers if you decide to try this delicious vegetarian dish this week.

Here’s is another of the best of my photographic attempts, sans fork! This is going to be a busy week and today is the only day I have to spend working on my blog, so here goes with the recipe, the dishes in the kitchen will have to wait. I used several sources to get ideas for this recipe and besides following the directions on the package to cook the polenta, I did my own thing with the selection of the vegetables, the cooking and the layering of them in the gratin. Random question, does anybody have a good recipe for kohlrabi? My husband, Scott just came home from Veritable Vegetable with a load of beautiful veggies including kohlrabi, hmm, what to do with this bulbous green veggie? First the recipe for my gratin.

Ingredients and Directions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing on baking dish
1 small head garlic, cut about 1/8 inch of the top off the head
1 red onion, chopped in medium pieces
2 zucchini, sliced in rounds
1 red bell pepper, medium size slices
1 green bell pepper, medium size slices
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
4 small tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 small bunch sweet basil, roughly chopped in small pieces
1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

    Preheat the oven to 450°F

    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the red onion, zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant and the head of garlic on the baking sheets. Brush the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, until soft and browned. Remove from the oven and cool. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and mix in with the vegetables.

    In a medium bowl combine the chopped tomatoes, sweet basil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

    Bring the water to a boil, add the salt and slowly whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often. Be careful not to burn yourself as the hot polenta has a tendency to jump out of the pan at the unsuspecting stirrer! Cook and stir until it thickens and is cooked through. Take a spoonful out and let cool before tasting, it should be done in 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the butter and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese.

    Prepare a medium size baking dish by brushing it with a small amount of olive oil. Place all the roasted vegetables on the bottom of the dish, evenly distributing them. Cover the vegetables with half of the cooked polenta. Place all of the tomato mixture over the first layer of polenta. Pour the remaining polenta over the tomato mixture. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of Parmesan cheese.

    Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for about 25 minutes. The gratin should be hot and the cheese on top melted. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

    Serves 6


    Green Bean, Basil and Radish Salad

    Why has everything gone wacko? Who knows? All I know is that after a couple of weeks of vacation followed by a baking spree that left the people around me rolling their eyes in disbelief and a weekend of wedding festivities topped off by eating a piece of red velvet wedding cake, I had a hankering for my old friends, healthy vegetables. I was so into my piece of wedding cake and I kept looking at my husband’s slice, then I started eying a tray of wedding cake slices on plates that was left on a table next to me and I seriously started thinking, how tacky is that to nab another slice of wedding cake, I mean how often do you even see red velvet cake and it was so good! Plus I did dance quite a bit and must have burned a few calories, yeah right. Anyway, I was left with that sensation of desire for more red velvet cake that I usually satisfy by making the darn thing and eating it! Only this time I’m really feeling the effects of all my indulgences in my enlarging waistline which I couldn’t believe the skirt I just bought 6 weeks ago was tight, yuck! So, it’s back to my good buddies in the vegetable section of my local market. I’m really lucky that I love vegetables because many people don’t like them, my friend Margaret who was told by her doctor to eat more veggies is struggling to eat salads. I don’t have that problem, I just really have a sweet tooth, as we say. I come from a long line of Danish butter loving people, that I really identify with, and for the next while I need to break with that tradition and try not to put sour cream on my beets and things like that. The other thing that’s gone wacko is I can’t get my camera to focus, go figure so I used my husband’s camera and I can’t get that to focus either, must be a problem that’s going around! So, I’m posting this recipe with the most focused photo of the bunch, I will persevere and get to the bottom of this focus problem, I think it’s called get new glasses!

    I’m going to try a few new recipes from ‘The Herbal Kitchen’ by Jerry Traunfeld, this is one of my favorite cookbooks that is of the healthier variety in my collection. I’m starting with this salad recipe and I’m sure they will get progressively less healthy as I go along.

    Ingredients and Directions

    6 servings, I ate almost the whole thing myself, do you think there’s a problem?

    1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
    2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
    1 pound fresh green beans
    1 bunch radishes, cut into wedges, about 2 cups
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1/2 cup thin shavings Parmigiano-Reggiano

    Stir the shallots and vinegar together in a large mixing bowl and let them sit for awhile to mellow the flavor of the shallots.

    Boil the beans in a large pot of salted water until crisp tender, about 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the beans. Drain the beans and plunge in a bowl of ice water, drain again and dry off.

    Add the beans to the shallots and toss in the radishes, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Put on a platter and top with the shaved cheese.

    Think red radishes and not red cake! Just be sure to use tender green beans and you will be happy with this combination of colorful vegetables. You can also try different herbs in place of the basil, like tarragon or dill. Goat cheese might be a nice switch from the Parmesan.

    Stuffed Artichokes

    This is a fun way to eat an artichoke, alone or with a friend. I had artichokes prepared this way for the first time in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco in the eighties, so I guess this recipe goes with shoulder pads and dingle ball earrings! This recipe serves two people generously or it could be shared by four people as an appetizer.

    2 artichokes
    1/2 fresh lemon
    1 cup bread crumbs, toasted
    1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/4 cup capers
    1/4 cup minced sweet basil
    1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    1. With a large knife, trim the top 1/2 inch from the artichokes. Cut off the stems and using a paring knife peel around the base and trim about 1/4″ off the bottom. Break off the tough leaves from the bottom. Rub all the cut edges with the lemon half.

    2. Put the artichokes bottom up in a steamer and cook for about 20 minutes over simmering water. Check to see that an outer leaf pulls off easily and is tender.

    3. Cool them upside down for 5 minutes, turn over and place in a small bowl. Separate the leaves and scoop out the center including the choke.

    4. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir together. Now you are ready to stuff the atichokes.

    5. Mound up the filling in the center and spread the rest out over the artichokes.

    Serve while they’re warm or wait and serve at room temperature.

    Raw Vegetable Salad with Lime Dressing

    This salad recipe was inspired by a week in Hawaii enjoying Lori Mildren’s salads. Lots of raw veggies in our salads at every meal. Fun to prepare, colorful and delicious. My interpretation of a ‘health salad’.

    1 small head of Napa cabbage, sliced thin
    1 small bunch of radishes, sliced
    1 bunch scallions, sliced thin, including green part
    1 small cucumber, sliced
    1 small bunch of sweet basil, or a combination of herbs; mint, oregano, parsley, chopped into small pieces
    1 small head of broccoli separated into florets and cut into bite-sized pieces
    1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    1 cup sliced carrots
    1/2 small lime, juiced
    1/2 teaspoon lime zest
    1/2 cup olive oil
    Sea salt
    Freshly ground black pepper

    1. Place all the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl.

    2. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper to taste.

    3. Stir the dressing into the vegetable mixture. Serve or cover and refrigerate.

    Serves 6-8

    Potato Corn Basil Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

    This version of potato salad is from ‘Hip Kosher’, I made a few small changes to use some ingredients from my pantry. The dijon mustard vinaigrette smells great when you pour it over the warm potatoes. My husband Scott loves corn so I am always trying recipes with corn. This salad would also be great with grilled corn.

    6 medium size red bliss potatoes
    4 ears of corn, cooked and kernels scraped from the cob
    1 large chopped shallot
    1 medium garlic clove, minced
    1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped in small pieces
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

    1. Cook the potatoes in salted water for about 20 minutes or until you can pierce with a fork. Drain the potatoes and cool on the counter while you make the rest of the salad.
    2. In a large bowl mix together the corn kernels, shallot, garlic and basil.
    3. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
    4. Slice the warm potatoes, most of the peels will slip off, don’t worry about the remaining ones. Layer the potatoes over the corn mixture and coat with the vinaigrette. Carefully stir the corn mixture and warm potatoes together, try to keep the potato slices from breaking. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Makes 6 servings.

    Garden Tomato Pasta

    5 Cups sliced small heirloom tomatoes

    2 Cups chopped fresh herbs (sweet basil, chives)

    2 Minced cloves garlic

    2/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil

    1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar

    12 Ounces penne pasta

    Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

    Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional for serving

    1. In a large bowl combine the sliced tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir together and let sit at room temperature to develop flavor.

    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package (9-10 minutes).

    3. Drain the pasta and put it on top of the tomato mixture and toss.

    4. Add the grated Parmesan.