Monday, July 13, 2009

Basil Fun

Weeding the potager garden, specifically the basil patch, is not a chore. First and foremost the bugs don't bother me!! They don't like basil's strong scent.

Last night, after having worked outside for many hot hours...I poured a glass of wine and headed out to the potager garden to weed the basil. The basil garden stimulates all my senses...the aroma is sensual and the color of the different basils are candy to the eyes! I love this garden, it is a mix of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

In an addition to the potager garden,I grow basil in the planter outside the kitchen door, that way I can pinch and cook. It also thrives in the culinary herb garden in front of the Herb House. Often times I will use a combination of basils in the landscape. I have used African Blue Basil by the mailbox, because it has beautiful hues of purple and green and becomes a big busy plant.When I combine it with either Opal Basil or Purple Ruffles Basil , it is stunning. One of my fav's, Spicy Globe Basil makes a wonderful border plant! This is like having your cake and eating it too. Just make sure that basil is planted where it receives full sun. Remember that basil is a native of Asia and Africa, so it loves hot dry summers!

It is important to pinch the tops of basil. This is great because you can start harvesting and using the young basil and create big bushy basil plants. The basil plants should not be allowed to flower,because all the energy of the plant then goes into the blossom. My exception to that rule is in late fall when the first frost is looming, I let the basil flower, then I cut and air dried the seed heads. They are very nice in a basket and I smell the scent of basil all winter long. That is the cool thing about herbs, they keep giving all year long.

I was inspired by the young squash and zucchini popping up in the vegetable section of the potager garden so I found a great recipe to try that incorporated both the squash and fresh basil. I loved it and it was a 2nd day hit at the Office. I found it in the June Southern Living Magazine.


Summer Squash Stacks With Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

1 medium-sized yellow squash, cut diagonally in to 8(1/4 inch thick )slices
2 medium zucchini, cu the same as the squash
2 TBLS olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp salt
1(8.8 oz) package fresh mozzarella cheese
16 basil leaves

Garnish: freshly shaved Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350. Brush squash and zucchini with oil: place in a single layer in a jelly -roll pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

2. Cut mozzarella into 8(14 inch-thick) slices. Cut each slice in half. Place half of zucchini on a serving platter. Layer with half the mozzarella cheese and the basil. Top with yellow squash.

Layer with the remaining zucchini, cheese and basil. Top with roasted red bell pepper sauce. I garnished with small basil leaves or small basil blossoms.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1(7 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers drained
2TBLS chopped fresh basil( I used the small leaves of Spicy Globe Basil)
1TBLS olive oil
1tsp salt
2tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sugar

Process all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

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