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Archive for July, 2008

Basil, being a favorite theme for the summer kitchen, gets a lot of attention. So here’s another post starring Basil! Today, in an effort to keep little hands busy while watching the boob tube (can you guess the decade I was born?), I mandated the stripping of all yesterday’s basil leaves. In an effort to be more French in my kitchen, ie. use every stick, butt, hoof and leaf…I tied up the stems to dry. Said bundles of dried herbs will be used to smoke in some additional flavor on the next worthy protein. I will throw on the grill and close the lid at the very end of the cooking process. Maybe… Basil Chicken, Halibut with Tomato Basil Coulis, or Grilled Filet with Basil Butter…yummmmm!

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It is in the garden and flowering abundantly. What to make, what to do? Fresh or dry? Tea is a good thing with all the flowers. Leaves are used in the puree below, which would be interesting to whisk in to the tomato juice made the other day as a thickener…we shall try it. For the sauce maybe leave out the butter, using the tomato juice to assist in the processor…or using the food mill, the carrots will puree fine as they are. And of course, the herbes du provence….I think I am going to cut back completely before the plump little flower buds open. Here’s the puree recipe:

Carrot Marjoram Puree
Serves 8.
2 pounds carrots
2/3 cup long-grain rice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves or 1 1/4 teaspoons crumbled dried marjoram

Peel carrots and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Fill a 7- to 8-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil. Add carrots and rice and cook, stirring until water returns to a boil, until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain mixture well in a large sieve. In a food processor puree half of carrot mixture with half of butter until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Puree remaining carrot mixture and butter in same manner and transfer to bowl. Season puree with salt and pepper and stir in marjoram. (Puree may be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely before being chilled, covered.)

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Here it is on the first day I laid eyes on her…the back 40, my urban farm. January 30, 2008.

Here she is now! From the purple basil corner looking toward the center of corn…July 26th, 2008

It’s kinda hard to tell, but there are paths! Sungolds on the right, hidden is an artichoke plant, the basil is in all corners and quite happy. I am a basil farmer. My greatest success. Thanks be to Julie Tilsner for a Basil Daquiri recipe!

You see what I mean about the basil? This is yet another corner of heaven filled with basilico. Behind the bench is sunflowers which will act as a trellis for the black beans. I hope. I don’t think they are getting enough sun. Hmmm. Looks pretty though. This is the herb garden, lots of yarrow on either side, marjoram hiding on the right, parsley, tarragon, thyme…

Here’s the deal with yarrow…beautiful California Native. Self sows like crazy, lots of amazing colors, full of nitrogen. A veritable vita-green for the compost pile! Flowers look amazing for a long time on the plant…

There’s the marjoram. I was thinking herbes du provence garden…Here the marjoram, yarrow and basil create a verdant landscape with strawberries and verbena along the sides. It’s a great and aromatic place to sit and harvest the summer herbal bounty! I might be stopping by your house with a basket of basil…say the word!

Herbes du Provence

Rosemary, Bay Leaf & Thyme are the base for this herb blend. Bay, Lavender & Fennel are always blended in smaller amounts, 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon.

Mix any combination of the following herbs:

Rosemary
Thyme
Bay Leaf
Basil
Marjoram
Summer Savory
Lavender
Fennel

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This is the first stand of corn I have grown since I was a kid. They are amazing and I hope delicious! How could they not be plump and sweet? They are planted where the spring peas were and I am thinking that all that nitrogen the peas add to the soil is helping a really nice crop of corn. This batch will be harvested and another planted in the same place and picked for Thanksgiving. I have read that the late season corn is susceptible to a worm invasion, but that there is a drop you can put on the silk when it turns brown to control the damage. It’ll be worth it to have homegrown, fresh and sweet corn in November!

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When life gives you lemons, make lemonade: but if it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys! And yesterday, I made some killer tomato juice! Okay, I cannot bear to see the gorgeous summer home tomato go to waste…and I had a batch over-ripening on the stand. Oh, and the basil bumper crop in a basket on the counter. It was time for the mid-summer tomato roasting to begin. Core the tomato, place in heavy baking dish, put a clove of garlic in each tomato. Stuff them in there pretty tight, then stuff basil in every nook and cranny. Generous sprinkle of good salt, freshly ground pepper, and then drizzle with good olive oil. Roast at high heat 400 degrees, for about 20 minutes. I had to leave 10 minutes after I put them in, so I turned off the oven and got them out when I returned an hour or so later…perfect!

Since I lost the top to my broken down cuisinart (what the…how do you lose the…?) I got out the food mill. I heard some foodies talking about how much better sauces were in the mill. Less air gets whipped in and how much better to use your own energy rather than push a button, blah, blah, blah. Well, I was forced to and it was, better. The best parts are extracted, the skins and tough bits are trapped in the mill. This also saves the step of straining. Really terrific, roasted tomato-basil juice. If you would like a thicker sauce, just reduce it or whisk in a vegetable puree, like carrot, celery, spinach…something like that. Yum!

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