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Posts tagged ‘basil’

2 for 1: Strawberry Basil Jam and Strawberry Arugula Salad

As I mentioned on Monday, last week I loaded up on strawberries which were on sale. This week I came up with some strawberry-based dishes: Strawberry Basil Jam and Strawberry Arugula Salad!

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Slivered Almonds and Balsamic Vinaigrette

The first thing I made was the salad, a delicious and refreshing Spring salad which was great for lunch. I started by cutting up some fresh arugula which came on the stem, then quartering some strawberries to go in. I love the way greens and fruits go together, and strawberry with arugula is no exception. It almost makes a salad taste decadent or dessert-y (or it could just be because I love fruit so much).

While fresh arugula only lasts about 5 days, it still holds up better than the bagged varieties!

I also threw in some slivered almonds for a protein and healthy fat punch, then topped it off with balsamic vinaigrette. This simply involves me putting 2 parts balsamic vinegar, one part olive oil in a bottle and shaking it to emulsify before pouring it on a salad. After tossing everything together, I topped the salad with a blend of black and pink cracked pepper for a little extra zip.

But I still had lots of fresh strawberries left, as well as a craving for some fresh jam. Enter Strawberry Basil Jam!

Strawberry Basil Jam

Homemade jams, I’ve discovered, are a food item that seems way more complicated to make than it actually is. Fortunately I found a recipe a few years ago which had you make jam in under ten minutes by using corn starch as a thickener instead of pectin. Brilliant! I’ve been making jam this way ever since, and I don’t taste a difference.

Similar to my love of fruit in salads, I love basil with fruit. Basil and strawberries make an excellent combo in smoothies, popsicles, and sorbet; so I thought, why not add some fresh basil to a homemade jam? So Marvin lost a few more hairs and I got an amazing Spring/Summer jam made from scratch in ten minutes.

I started by pulsing the strawberries and basil leaves in a blender until well-chopped. You can mash the strawberries if you want, but since you have to chop the basil anyway, I just prefer to chop them all together in a way that gets them really pulsed down for proper jam texture. Once pulsed, I put the mixture in a small saucepan and added agave nectar, heating it on medium to get it bubbling.

Not the prettiest photo but it shows the bubbly goodness of the jam mixture

Once the mixture started bubbling I added some arrowroot powder (a good sub for corn starch) and a bit of water, then lowered the heat to low and simmered for about six minutes. It got nice and thick really quickly; I simmered for this long to let the flavors cook and meld. Now it’s sitting in the fridge chilling away!

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Slivered Almonds and Balsamic Vinaigrette (Serves 1)

2-3 cups fresh arugula, chopped or torn

1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered

2-3 TB slivered almonds

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Cracked black and/or pink pepper, to taste

Toss the arugula, strawberries, and almonds together in a bowl. In an empty bottle or jar with tight-fitting lid, shake the vinegar and olive oil until emulsified. Pour over the salad and toss. Add pepper and serve.

Strawberry Basil Jam (makes about 1/2 a cup of jam)

1 cup fresh strawberries

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1 TB agave nectar

2 tsp arrowroot powder

1 TB water

Pulse the strawberries and basil in a blender or food processor until well-chopped and almost smooth, like a sauce. Transfer to a small saucepan and stir in the agave nectar. Heat on medium until bubbling.

Dissolve the arrowroot powder in the water, then add the mixture to the jam and stir it in. The jam will look white-pink but the color will deepen as you cook it, so don’t worry. Turn the heat down to low and cook for about 6 minutes. Transfer to a jar and allow to cool a bit before putting in the fridge to cool completely.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula with Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce

Mm, pasta.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula w/ Tomato Basil Sauce

I love a good pasta meal for lunch or dinner, but especially lunch, since the carbs give me a great mid-day boost. I also love loading the pasta dish with veggies, so I can bulk it up without meats or mocks. Plus, the veggies give the dish such a nice color!

But the make-or-break, of course, is the sauce. I love me some fresh sauce, but a lot of recipes can be complicated or require a ton of simmering time. Enter Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce! This sauce is fast, easy to make, and largely fresh. What’s not to love?

Mm, sauce.

I started by using a whole tomato, some fresh basil, and a smidge of onion – as in, I chopped off about 1 1/4-inch slice. I would’ve used whole garlic cloves as well, but I’d used the rest of my garlic to make Golden Pizza Hummus, so I made due with garlic powder. I pulsed these ingredients in a blender, then transferred them to a sauce pan, where I added tomato paste (adds more flavor and makes for a deeper red), olive oil, and salt/pepper. I simmered the sauce while I made the pasta, and all were done in record time!

As for the pasta, I boiled some whole wheat penne for about six minutes, which made it al dente, just the way I like it. I also added broccoli and fresh arugula which was still on the stem. I chopped the arugula until I got to nothing but stems, then discarded the remaining stems; but you can add them if you want. I like to add the veggies to the boiling pasta about one minute before the pasta’s scheduled to be done, so that the veggies can cook a bit without getting too mushy. Then you just drain the pasta and veggies, return to the pot, then toss with your freshly-made sauce. Presto! A fresh pasta dish made with fresh sauce, all within 30 minutes.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula with Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce (serves 1)


1 small-medium tomato, quartered

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

A slice or two of one yellow onion, quartered

1-2 cloves of garlic OR 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder

2 TB tomato paste

1 TB olive oil (optional but recommended)

Salt and pepper, to taste.

Place the fresh tomato, basil, onion, and garlic in a blender and pulse until pretty smooth, but not completely pureed (unless you don’t like chunky sauce). I highly recommend pulsing instead of straight-up blending, as this allows for greater control of the texture.

Transfer to a small sauce pan and add tomato paste. This will deepen the red color, so don’t worry when you initially pour out the blended ingredients and they look pink and bland. 🙂 Stir and heat over medium heat. Simmer for a few minutes over medium, making sure the sauce is good and bubbly, and the red color has a chance to really deepen. Add the olive oil and seasonings, then reduce the heat to low, simmering for at least five minutes more.

While the sauce cooks, make your pasta.


2/3 cup dry whole wheat penne

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 cup chopped fresh arugula

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then add the penne. Cook for six minutes, adding the broccoli and arugula after five minutes. Drain completely, then return to the pot. Toss with tomato basil sauce, then serve.

Golden Pizza Hummus (aka, Marvin Gets a Haircut)

Who wants hummus?!

Golden Pizza Hummus

Lately I’ve been expanding my list of “Things I’ll Never Buy Pre-Made Again.” Seitan is on that list, and so is hummus. Really, it’s so much cheaper to make hummus at home, especially if a) you use dried chickpeas, and b) you find a recipe without tahini (though using canned beans and/or tahini barely raises the cost). The main upside is that homemade hummus recipes make SO MUCH! It costs maybe $2 to make a batch of about a cup or two at home, while a $3 container of hummus at the store is maybe half a cup. Rip-off! I’ll take mine homemade, please.

My personal preference is to use dried chickpeas, because it’s even cheaper this way, and it does make the flavor a bit better. Canned beans will do in a time crunch; however, I find that preparing the chickpeas from scratch isn’t too time-consuming, especially since they’re largely unattended and you can make them while doing other things. Multi-tasking!

I personally find dried garbanzos adorable. Look how cute and tiny they are!

If making dry beans, you must soak them! Fortunately this is the easiest step – measure out a cup of dry chickpeas, put in a bowl, cover with water, cover the bowl, and stick in the fridge for at least eight hours. You can do this overnight, or while you’re at work so you can make them at night. The latter is my preference since I can simmer the beans while I surf the web, then store them in the fridge for later use.

The Incredible Growing Garbanzos - just add water!

Onward to cooking! I use Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon as a reference for cooking beans. They recommend adding three cups of water per one cup of beans, and recommend 90 minutes of simmering time for garbanzos in particular. I usually add seven cups of water when cooking one cup of dry beans (better too much than too little), and only need to simmer them for 60 minutes. Per Moscowitz and Romero, you can also add a teaspoon of sea salt to the beans 20 minutes before they’re done. To cook, bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, opening the lid partially to allow steam to escape.

Before cooking the beans, I recommend saving the soaking liquid after you drain them. Some of the garbanzo goodness is now in the liquid and you can use it in recipes, particularly ones that ask for chickpea liquid reserved from canned beans. I keep my soaking liquid in a glass tea bottle in the fridge.

Now, let’s make some hummus! I used the hummus recipe found in Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s Appetite for Reduction, a must-have for anyone looking to cook more with whole foods! It’s probably the cheapest homemade recipe since it calls for minimal olive oil and no tahini, two of the priciest ingredients in hummus. The recipe calls for one 15-oz can of chickpeas and three TB of reserved chickpea liquid – I used two cups of cooked chickpeas, plus 3 TB of reserved soaking liquid as subs.

But what makes it Golden Pizza Hummus? Basil and Yellow Sun-Dried Tomatoes!


I first discovered hummus with basil and sun-dried tomatoes at Whole Foods, when I bought the variety on a whim and subsequently became addicted. It really does taste like pizza! And fortunately for me, Appetite for Reduction has a variation which calls for these additions, having you add 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 1 cup fresh basil leaves. Marvin got a hair cut for the basil, and I used the yellow sun-dried tomatoes from Eataly, which gave the hummus a nice golden tint (hence the title Golden Pizza Hummus).

The recipe is very simple in that it’s just chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpea liquid, salt, and paprika. I also added a dash of cayenne and some cumin to up the flavor a bit. The basil is added at the end and pulsed in finely. The result? Hummus that’s easy, pretty, and tasty!

Just a quick note if you’re new to making hummus – it’s never going to taste very good straight out of the food processor. It needs to chill and have a chance to let the flavors meld before it really sings. So don’t be disappointed if you try some right away and it’s not quite up-to-par!

Adventures in Hydroponic Plants: Meet Marvin

Oh, it just got real.

One of my dreams is to one day have my own garden. Some of my fondest memories involve going into our backyard garden at our old town house in Leesburg and plucking cherry tomatoes for my snacking enjoyment. I also loved my grandmother’s decidedly bigger garden in Roanoke, though I don’t have the fondest memories of snapping green beans all afternoon. However, garden = ambition … but living in an apartment makes this difficult.

Enter a hydroponic basil plant!

Welcome home!

I always see these little guys at Whole Foods but never had the cajones to buy them. What cajones, you may say? They’re hydroponic plants – easy breazy! Well, let me tell you a story about a girl named Sonora, whole loved plants but couldn’t grow them to save her life. In my brief horticultural history I’ve managed to kill three Lucky Bamboo plants and a vine plant that supposedly can’t die. Well, that plant never met me!

However, I decided to give this basil plant a try. For one, it doesn’t require potting, which takes out a key burden of an apartment garden. For another, it was $3, and grown in Shenandoah, VA (so it’s home grown AND local – too legit to quit, baby). But most of all, I love me some basil, and never use bunches quickly enough to justify buying them. I make a nice thing of pesto and then end up with a wilted mess in my fridge. If I could benefit from anything, it’d be growing my own herbs and seasonings.

Oh yeah, it's also organic. HARD CORE!

So, I now have my own little basil plant hanging out by the window sill! I will be documenting my progress on this blog. Hopefully it will be a success, and I can share some of the things I make with my brand new basil plant!

Oh, and as a custom, I tend to name my plants to help me take better care of them. That way, they’re almost like pets. So everyone, meet Marvin, the basil plant! Let’s hope this goes better than the vine that was supposed to never die.

A super-fancy vase made out of an old guacamole container. RECYCLING!