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Market Watch: Basil
 



 

Basil has definitely arrived at the party.  Bunch upon fragrant bunch are cramming tables at the markets.  Not surprisingly we mostly think green and the same familiar scent and flavor when basil comes to mind.  But there are loads of heirloom varieties that are becoming much easier to track down.  (and grow yourself!)

Try a new one on your next trip to the market.  What's old will be a little newer again.

 

Genovese Basil:  The traditional Italian large-leafed sweet basil that we all know and love.  Ideal for all things pesto, but best when the leaves are small.  If the leaves are huge, blanch them quickly to remove some of the (too) strong flavor, making them more suitable for a delicately balanced pesto sauce.

Holy Basil:  Becoming more and more popular on menus with chefs, it is called holy basil primarily because it is used as an offering in South Asia in Hindu temples.  Generally eaten raw, it has a bright, sweet smell, that is strikingly like Juicy Fruit gum.

Thai Basil:  This is those big fragrant sprigs strewn across your Thai green curry noodles, or tucked inside a Vietnamese summer roll.  A deep magenta stem with small green leaves, it is much spicier than Italian basil.  Heavy anise and clove flavors compliment Southeast Asian cuisines perfectly.

Dark Purple Opal Basil:  There are several purple basil varieties out there, and I always love to have at least one plant in my garden.  Very similar in flavor to traditional Italian basil, it is a gorgeous way to add unexpected color to a dish.  Thinly slice with green basil for instant edible confetti.

Lemon Basil:  Smaller leaves with a deep citrus smell and taste.  A great compliment to seafood dishes, cocktails, and summer salads.


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Turnip Soup


This remarkably simple, and remarkably comforting recipe has always been a part of our holiday meals.  When she first started making it, my grandmother used to enjoy quizzing unsuspecting guests as to what the star ingredient was in the soup.  It is so mellow, and balanced, and not cluttered with leek or potato, that it is actually hard to discern that it is simply the lowly turnip.

As a kid we would slurp down bowl after bowl of this creamy winter favorite.  It was always present at cold weather dinner parties thrown by my parents, as surprisingly, it was a safe bet to please a large crowd.  Again, not attributes, if I think about it now, I would consider assigning to this particular vegetable.

But try this one!  It is wonderful, and makes me joyfully lug home heavy bags of turnips (white or purple) as soon as they arrive at the farm stands.  It is a warm and soulful start to most of our Thanksgiving meals together.


TURNIP SOUP
by Catie Schwalb

Serves 6

5 TBS Butter
5 TBS Flour
6 cups Chicken Stock, or Vegetable Stock or water
1 medium or 3-4 small Turnips, white or purple, peeled and cubed, yielding about 3 cups
1/4 tsp White Pepper
Salt, to taste
1 cup Milk or Cream

Melt butter in heavy bottomed soup pot. Sprinkle flour over melted butter and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in stock until all incorporated. Add cubed turnip, bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce to a simmer until turnip is tender.

Puree soup either in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to low heat, add milk or cream, and then season with salt and white pepper.

Soup can be made up to 3 days in advance and reheated before serving.
Shown below garnished with crispy shoestring carrots and turnip chips.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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