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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

A poussin is nothing more than a baby chicken, under a month old and hardly bigger than a man’s fist. Each one makes a serving. They’re very good grilled or stuffed and roasted quickly.

This Shabbat is also Shmini Atzeret, the last day of the Sukkot week. The Little One is spending the weekend with her married sister so my husband and I are going to be a twosome, all on our lonesome. For our romantic dinner I decided to stuff and roast a couple of little birds surrounded with sweet potato chunks, and drink a lot of red wine. So this is what I cooked.

NOTE: Israeli Kitchen has moved. You’ll find the recipe for Poussins Stuffed with Rice and Pine Nuts on my delicious new blog:

http://www.israelikitchen.com

All the old posts and recipes are there – and new ones, too. See you there!

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This is such an easy dish. You don’t need to make a lot, just choose two or three colors of ripe bell peppers. Have ready a handful of basil leaves, olive oil, 1 clove of garlic per pepper, salt and black pepper. If basil isn’t in season,  a dusting of oregano does very well instead.

Rinse your peppers; slice them into wide strips.

Sauté them till they are tender, over a medium flame, in olive oil. Stir once in a while to prevent scorching.  This should take about 15 minutes.

Peel and chop the garlic coarsely. Add it to the peppers and stir again.   Let the garlic cook in the scant juices of the peppers, but keep a sharp eye on it so it won’t burn.

Season with herbs and salt and black pepper.

In 2 or 3 minutes more, it’s done.

Serve these savory, colorful peppers warm or cold as a piquant note to your meal. Or layer them into a sandwich with feta cheese and a fat slice of ripe tomato. Or make bruschetta with slices of toasted bread and serve as an appetizer.

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The recipe intrigued me when I saw it on Baroness Tapuzina’s blog. Garlic bread, onion bread, rosemary bread – OK – but I’d never had basil bread. It called for 1/2 cup of basil leaves, chopped or pureed. I had to make it.

The first time, I made it according to the recipe except that I used a full cup of basil leaves and pureed them with the oil. The bread tasted powerfully of basil and came out green. The Little One loved it. Husband tactfully said, “I’ll have to get used to it.” I thought it would be good as pizza dough.

The next time I made it, I went back to half a cup of pureed leaves. The bread was good, but tasted only faintly of basil. Also, I missed the deeper flavor that comes with an overnight fermentation.

Finally, I took the recipe and changed it to suit my taste. My readers know my preference for a prolonged first rise with little yeast.

So I made Basil Bread for the third time – with 3/4 cup of chopped, not pureed leaves – and it came out the way I like it. Well-risen, golden crust, moist crumb with small holes scattered throughout. The color light, attractively flecked with dark green. Most of all, there was a delicious, sweet/pungent aroma and taste of basil, in just the right proportion.

Mimi’s Basil Bread

Ingredients:

1/2 cube fresh yeast

1 cup plus 2 1/2 Tblsp.  warm water

3 1/2 Tblsp. olive oil

2 1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

3/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves

5 cups all-purpose flour

Method:

1. Rinse and carefully dry the basil leaves. Chop them into fine ribbons.

2. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in all the water.

3. Add the sugar; stir to dissolve. Add the oil, salt, and chopped basil leaves. Stir it all up.

4. Add half-cups of flour, stirring well each time, till you have a loose dough. This should take 4 to 4 1/2 cups. Mix well.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 6-8 hours. It will rise and be spongy by morning.

6. Next day, deflate the dough by stirring it. Sprinkle more flour in, first stirring, then kneading lightly,  till the dough is stiff. Let it sit by itself for 15 minutes to absorb the flour.

7. Add the rest of the flour – up to 5 cups total. Knead again, lightly, and form a ball of the dough. Dribble a little olive oil over it, then turn it around in the bowl a few times. Drape a kitchen towel over the bowl, and leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.

8. Preheat the oven to 350 F, 180 C, about 20 minutes before you plan to bake. At the same time, shape your loaf and put it to rise once again on a sheet of baking paper. It will be very light and bubbly when it’s ready to bake.

9. Handle the loaf gently, so as not to deflate it. Bake it for 30 minutes. When the crust is golden and sturdy, turn the loaf upside down to finish baking, 10-15 minutes more.

I’ve served this bread with feta cheese, as a salami sandwich, and plain, with fish soup. Very, very good!

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Windowsill Herbs

When I moved to my present apartment, I gave up a thriving garden. The moving van was actually at my door but I was outside, frantically digging up and potting plants to bring here. Most of them didn’t survive indoors; well, so I learned something. The young olive tree died, that had given me seven thumb-sized fruit back in the old garden. I grieved over that. Then, a surprise: out of a planter I’d brought along, a mulberry sapling came up.  I don’t even remember having stuck a ripe mulberry in that dirt, but that must be what I had done.

I didn’t give up growing herbs. At various times, my windowboxes have contained melissa, lemon geranium, thyme, oregano, strawberries, and rocket.

Right now in my kitchen window, there are: basil, sage, spearmint, comfrey, and garlic chives.

The view from my kitchen window is – not exhilarating. At one point I put a sweet potato into water and let the vine unfurl and grow all over the iron window guards, making a leafy screen to shut out the depressing construction. Later, I set down pots of culinary herbs . I love to lean out and snip a little of this or a little of that when the fancy takes me. A few bay leaves to stuff under the skin of a chicken…some sage to chop up with onion for an omelet…chives to scissor into a corn salad…

When chickweed or purslane appear in other windowboxes, I harvest them. While both are good eating, chickweed is especially welcome, both for flavor and for medicinal properties. Its salty, fresh taste is very good in salads.  To clear away eye infections, I crush the herb into a fresh poultice, or make a tea from chickweed I dried previously.

Here is a photo of chickweed, from last spring: you can see how I let it take over. Towards summer, when it starts going leggy and dry, I cut it all back.

Other windows around the apartment have lemon grass and lemon-scented geranium as well as flowers. You can do a lot with a small space if you’re determined. In fact, here is a great site about container gardening. Living green things gladden the eye and the heart – there’s no reason to give them up.

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