Tag Archives: basil

How to reuse olive brine, oil from sundried tomatoes and more (and transform it into fabulous fare)

The next time you eat the last olive out of the jar and go to wash the brine down the sink, stop! You are about to pour flavor down the drain.

My kitchen motto is “think before I toss.” I can’t stand wasting food so I am constantly looking for ways to reuse ingredients and save items people normally throw away- like brine or the oil in sundried tomatoes. Those ingredients are incredibly flavorful.

Olive brine is great in marinades (just use it instead of vinegar in your recipe); mix a tablespoon into mayonnaise when making potato salad; mix brine, olive oil and Italian seasoning and use it to marinate vegetables; add a dash to a dirty martini or Bloody Mary; or make my Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes.

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I don’t eat potatoes very often because once you add all the flavorings like butter or cream, they are so fattening. This is a fat free recipe that uses olive brine, rosemary and chives to flavor the potatoes. I came up with it this week and considering it is fat free, I think it’s great.

As for the oil in a jar of sundried tomatoes- that’s my favorite leftover ingredient. You can mix it with balsamic vinegar for an instant salad dressing; use it to dress orzo or other pasta; use it as the oil when you make goat cheese omelets;  use it instead of olive oil when you make croutons or crostini; or make my Warm Bruschetta. This is my favorite recipe and it’s ready in less than 5 minutes. I simply slice grape or cherry tomatoes, warm some of the oil in a pan, toss the tomatoes in with basil and cook for 1 minute. Salt to taste and serve.

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You can also save the oil from artichokes and use that in marinades or salad dressings.

Pickle brine is another item you can reuse. It’s good in marinades, but I often refill the jar with other items like cucumbers or carrots and reuse the brine. I have a recipe below for Spicy Dill Carrots which is simply carrots, onions and jalapenos in dill pickle brine.

Brine from hot peppers is good in marinades, barbecue sauces, or add a touch to deviled eggs (but use sparingly).

Beer is another item I can’t stand to waste. A couple of days ago, I tried a new beer and I hated it. There was no way I could drink it, so I put it in the fridge to use in the future. The next day I made Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken.  You can also make beer bread, beer cheese dip, or use leftover beer to boil brats (add onions to the beer and finish the brats on the grill).

There are so many items we throw away every day that we can reuse. I hope this inspires you to think before you toss. Enjoy.

Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes

1 pound microwave in a bag red potatoes

¼ cup olive brine

¼ cup chopped chives

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes according to package directions. While the potatoes cook, chop the chives and rosemary.

When the potatoes are ready, empty the bag into a serving bowl and smash them down.

Pour the brine over potatoes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then top with chives and rosemary. Toss and serve.

You can also substitute basil in this recipe if you don’t like rosemary.

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Warm Bruschetta

2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, assorted colors

1 ½ tablespoons oil left from the sundried tomato jar

10 basil leaves

Salt to taste

Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

This dish is delicious over couscous or with French bread, but I also like it alone as a side dish.

 

Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken

6 chicken thighs, legs, or breasts

1 tablespoon barbecue rub

1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1 teaspoon jerk seasoning

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Half an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 almost full bottle of beer

1 bottle of KC style barbecue sauce

White rice for serving

Lay chicken in a 13 by 11 inch pan. Sprinkle with all the seasoning. Slice the onion and garlic and sprinkle both over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Pour beer in the side of the pan being careful not to wash off the seasonings. Pour half the bottle of barbecue sauce over the chicken and then stir about a fourth of the bottle into the beer. You will use about ¾ a bottle.

Bake for 1 hour (check it after 50 minutes because cooking times vary depending on the size of the piece of meat and what you cook. Breasts cook faster than thighs).

Serve over rice and spoon the sauce over rice before serving.

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Spicy Dill Carrots

2 cups leftover juice from dill pickles

1 ¼ cups carrot slices (I buy the precut carrot chips)

2 jalapenos (or to taste), sliced in half

Half a red onion, thinly sliced.

When the jar of dill pickles is gone, simply fill it with carrots, jalapeno and onion. Refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Consume within 10 days.

If you add the jalapeno seeds, it will be significantly spicier.

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Watermelon Caprese Salad

It’s going to be a sweltering week. If slaving over a hot stove doesn’t appeal to you, then whip up  this cool and delicious  Watermelon Caprese Salad.

Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad made of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and it represents the colors of the Italian flag. I decided to replace the tomato with watermelon and I actually prefer it over the traditional version.

Caprese is often drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar but I had pesto so I scraped the oil off the top of the pesto and dressed the salad with that and it was spectacular. The salty pesto was a great balance to the sweetness of the fruit.

It’s a gorgeous, delicious, healthy, refreshing salad that takes 5 minutes to assemble.

 

Watermelon Caprese Salad

Serves 1

3 (2 1/2-inch) slices of watermelon

2 (2-inch) slices of fresh mozzarella cheese

3 large basil leaves

1 teaspoon pesto (or to taste)

Slice watermelon and mozzarella. Drizzle half of the pesto on the mozzarella. Place one slice of melon on a plate, top with cheese, a basil leaf and repeat. Drizzle the remaining ½ teaspoon of pesto (using mostly the oil on top) around the plate. Serve.

Optional: you can also drizzle this with good quality balsamic vinegar.

Summer Chicken Club

This Summer Club has a long list of ingredients but I assure you it’s EASY.

First, I used lemon pepper rotisserie chicken and all you have to do is slice it off the breast. I also purchased precooked bacon which worked great in this recipe.

An important ingredient is the tomato so I highly recommend buying local tomatoes because they are more flavorful. Also, you need wonderful bread – a bun, focaccia, even flatbread will work.

The pesto aioli is important as well. To make it, I simply stir together store-bought pesto sauce (or homemade if you have it) with mayonnaise. It’s delicious.  The one caveat is the strength of the basil aioli depends on the pesto you use so taste and adjust as needed. I used Rana, which is found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I love the flavor of that brand.

So between some wonderful fresh bread I sandwich lemon pepper rotisserie chicken, fresh basil, thick sliced tomato, bacon, tender Butter lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, Swiss cheese and cucumber slices (which is optional). It’s a light sandwich packed with fresh summer flavor. I think you will enjoy it.

Summer Club

Serves 2

2 rolls (focaccia or other large crusty roll)

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon prepared pesto sauce

2 deli style slices of Swiss cheese

1 lemon pepper rotisserie chicken breast

4 slices of precooked cooked bacon

2-4 thick slices of fresh tomato, salted lightly

4 fresh basil leaves

2 very thin slices of red onion

4 thin slices of English cucumber (optional)

4 slices of Bibb or Butter lettuce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

First, stir together mayonnaise and pesto and set aside.

Slice the breast off the chicken and then slice it into several thinner pieces to fit on your bread.

Cut thick slices of tomato and lightly salt it. Thinly slice onion and cucumber if you are using it.

Either cook your bacon or if you bought precooked bacon, heat it according to the package instructions.

Next, cut the bread open and spread the aioli over the bread. Then top it with Swiss cheese. Put the bread in the oven for 2-3 minutes, just to warm it.

When it comes out of the oven, immediately add fresh basil, lettuce, tomato, bacon, red onion, rotisserie chicken and English cucumber. Serve immediately.

Note: If you ever want to try a different variation to this sandwich, it’s good with thinly sliced and well drained artichoke hearts or roasted red bell peppers (omit the cucumber in this case).

Rotisserie Chicken and Bacon Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta

Friday nights call for pizza.

After a long week, a quick, satisfying pizza with a glass of wine is the perfect end to the week. And this pizza is fantastic. I use Naan, which is my favorite pizza dough, and then top it with tomato sauce, chicken, sundried tomatoes, cheese, bacon, and feta.

After it bakes, I sprinkle basil on top.

It’s quick, convenient and delicious. What more could you ask for as you end the work week? I hope you enjoy it.

Chicken, Bacon 2

Chicken, Bacon Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 4 as appetizer; 2 as main course

The sundried tomatoes and fresh basil really lift the flavor of this pizza; and of course, the bacon adds a lot, too. This pizza is easy, great for a quick dinner or a party.

1 ready-made Naan crust or pizza dough (Stonefire is my favorite brand)

Pizza sauce, desired amount

1 cup chopped, skinless rotisserie chicken

1/3 cup real bacon pieces (store bought is what I used)

1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes

1 1/3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or desired amount)

1/4 cup feta cheese

Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread pizza sauce over dough. Top with chicken, bacon, sundried tomatoes and cheeses.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove and garnish with slices of fresh basil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Preserving and using your herbs – and a great pesto recipe

The end of summer means the end of an herb garden is near.

Depending on the weather, you may have several weeks to harvest fresh herbs, but I like to start cutting my plants back now and preserving as many as possible for winter.

If you have a sunny spot in the house, you can bring in oregano, rosemary, and lavender which will usually survive for several months inside. I’ve had mixed luck with basil but it’s worth a try.

Some herbs like rosemary and thyme are easy to dry, while others like cilantro and basil, do not dry well. This week, I have a lot of suggestions on which herbs to dry, freeze or use now (and a great pesto recipe to use up that basil).

First, let’s talk about basil, which is the most commonly grown herb. There’s nothing like fresh basil, but that flavor is hard to capture.  The best way to preserve basil is to make pesto and freeze it.

I recommend buying mini plastic storage containers to freeze basil in smaller portions (about ½ to 1 cup at a time). My husband is a teacher and one of his co-workers, Janice Queen, makes amazing pesto. I asked her to share her recipe. Something I really like about this recipe is it calls for almonds, as well as pine nuts (pine nuts are very expensive, so this is a more economical recipe).  The recipe also calls for a good dose of parsley, which is nice if you’re growing that, too.

Pesto is versatile: use it as a salad dressing, toss it with pasta and fresh tomatoes, or pour it over a block of cream cheese for a quick dip (serve with crackers and French bread).

Herb butters are another wonderful way to use up herbs, particularly rosemary and basil.  All you have to do is soften 1 stick of unsalted butter, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped basil or 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary. Then spread it on a slice of French bread.  It’s marvelous and an easy and inexpensive addition to a party. You can also add 1 tablespoon finely minced sundried tomatoes to the butter.

If I am serving it at a party, I serve it at room temperature, but if you want herb butter for your family, mold the butter back into a log, place it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several days (rosemary butter will last longer than basil).

If you have leftover herb butter, use it in pasta, on vegetables, or spread a pat on a steak.

Another idea to use either fresh or dried herbs is to sprinkle herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary or a combination are my favorites) on a mix of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for a quick bread dip. You can use that recipe to marinate vegetables that you’re going to grill, too. Be sure to add salt to both dishes though.

Ok, now we’ve used fresh herbs, let’s talk about drying herbs.

Before you dry any herb, you want to rinse it gently and pat it dry with a paper towel. Only dry herbs that are in perfect condition, and discard any that are wilted or changing colors.

Certain herbs, like thyme and rosemary, dry beautifully. To dry these herbs all you have to do is cut off the stems, lay them on a piece of parchment paper on a pan and let it rest for about 7 days. After that, pull the leaves off and place in a spice jar away from sunlight or heat.

dried rosemary

I dry my rosemary and buy pretty glass jars and give it away at Christmas. Also, you can use dried rosemary to make an herb butter which is excellent on rolls or whipped into mashed potatoes and makes a good hostess gift.

Mint and oregano have a slightly higher moisture content and are better dried after you pick the leaves off the plant. Don’t let the leaves touch each other as this may increase the chance of the herbs molding before they have a chance to dry. Place the leaves on a paper towel on a baking sheet and cover with another paper towel.  Place them in an oven for 24-48 hours (turn on the light in the oven, not the heat). Leaves are ready when they crumble in your hand.

My favorite thing to do with cilantro is let it go to seed and then collect those seeds which are coriander seeds (and those are expensive in the store). Coriander seeds have great flavor. Another option though is to chop cilantro, place nearly 1 tablespoon in an ice cube tray and fill it with water. Freeze. This retains some of the original cilantro flavor, but will still not be the same.

Hopefully this will help you enjoy the last weeks of your herb garden and stretch that flavor into winter.

Easy Pesto

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or a combination (I usually use almonds)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups fresh basil, no stems

3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine the oil, garlic, almonds and Parmesan cheese. Then, feed in the herbs and blend until combined.   It is so easy and freezes very well.

Recipe was originally adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.

Basil Hummus

I love just about every type of hummus. When I was 9, I never thought I’d eat it again. My family lived in Sudan for about 8 months and the first two months we lived in a hotel. The hotel had the most limited menu so we eat hummus twice a day. I hated it by the end of that stay. I swore off hummus. It was so strong, too, incredibly heavy on the tahini.

Well, I started eating it again in college and now I can’t get enough. Right now, I literally have homemade basil hummus, olive tapenade hummus, black bean hummus and a regular hummus in the fridge. I am not kidding. My husband eats it like crazy.

Anyway, I came up with this hummus earlier this summer.

This homemade hummus is always popular when I take it to a party. I don’t add fresh garlic to this hummus because I want the basil to shine. If you really love garlic, add one chopped, small clove.

I serve it with warmed garlic Naan, instead of pita bread to add a kick of garlic (but pita works fine, too). It takes minutes to whip this up in the food processor and it keeps for several days, so you can make it ahead of time (which is great when entertaining).

It’s even better the next day. Look how quick and easy this recipe is.

Basil Hummus

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons tahini

¾ teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)

1 ½ teaspoons basil paste (in a tube in the produce section)

½ teaspoon garlic salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Serve with warm pita or garlic Naan, and sliced vegetables.

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

Let me start by saying, don’t let this unattractive photo fool you, this dish is delicious. I’d have a better photo if I wasn’t allergic to cashews and getting just this close on my iPhone triggered a big reaction!

I’ve been playing around with this concept of a Hawaiian chicken salad for quite some time and I have not been happy with the results … until now.

I initially made this with macadamia nuts, but they didn’t offer enough crunch. So I decided on cashews, the one problem is I am allergic to cashews. It’s the only food I am allergic to.

No worries, I thought, I will be sure not to touch the nut and I’ll be fine. Wrong. As I stirred this salad (I was taking it to a ladies gathering that night), I started to run bright red! I got hives down my neck and throat and started to consider a trip to urgent care. Luckily, it only last about 30 minutes.

But now I know not only am I allergic to cashews, I am highly allergic, so this will be the last recipe I likely post with the nut. And that is why these pictures are so pitiful. I shot it quickly on my iPhone instead of taking time with my big camera.

I just needed to get away from this nut.

So, try it out. The ladies loved it! I tasted it before I added the nut and liked it, but I knew the cashew would add a lot of depth to this dish.

The combination of basil, pineapple, chicken and cashews explodes with flavor. It’s fantastic! I really wish I could have done some food styling.

I hope you like it.

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken

½ cup chopped red onion

1 cup minced fresh pineapple

1/3 cup chopped celery

12-15 basil leaves

¾ cup cashews

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove all the skin from the rotisserie chicken and  discard. Then pull the meat off the bones and chop the entire chicken into pieces. Place it in a large container with a lid.

Chop onion, pineapple, celery and thinly slice basil leaves. Add to the bowl. Top with cashews.

Stir together mayonnaise and red wine vinegar. Add to the dish and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. For best results, cover and refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

You can eat this salad as a sandwich or wrap, with cracker or tortilla chips (I served tortilla chips and it was popular) or on a bed of lettuce as a real salad.