My husband Scott, has the greenest thumb ever. Don’t believe me? Check it out.
We rooted a few tiny basil plants in early May. They sure didn’t stay that way long. This is how they look now, despite me helping myself to these delicious green leaves everyday.
If there’s a bug or pest problem, Scott knows exactly how to take care of it, without using any chemical pesticides. He’s even figured out a way for the plants to (practically) water themselves. I’m sure that’s what makes them grow so prolifically. He wrote about that technique here: A Recipe for Endless Fresh Herbs Without Endless Watering.
He’s quite amazing when it comes to this stuff ………… just one of the reasons (there’s a million more) why I really, really like this guy!
If you’re a frequent visitor here at The Café, you know that cooking with fresh herbs is one of my signatures. I think they add amazing flavor to almost everything, and make beautiful garnishes as well. We grow rosemary, chives, mint, parsley and oregano for much of the year here in North Carolina, right on our back deck. Each summer we add new basil plants. LOTS of basil plants! In addition to a few pots of classic sweet basil, Scott also plants lemon, Thai, purple and spicy Globe varieties.
Yesterday I took one look at his jungle of fresh basil, and decided it was time give them all a “haircut” and make one of my favorite recipes ever; Sweet Basil Vinaigrette. I actually shared this recipe back in the early days of the Café, but it’s gotten buried in the archives, (650 recipes and growing!) and the only image in the post was one I snapped with my iPhone. It’s almost too embarrassing to share ………. but we’re friends right? Don’t laugh. Promise? Sweet Basil Vinaigrette ………. you promised!
I use this dressing with lots of different salads. It’s fabulous in a simple salad , tossed with fresh greens and topped with a handful of Garlicky Croutons. It goes well in salads with fresh corn, zucchini, eggplant, peaches, summer squash, blackberries, raspberries, nectarines ………. almost any summer fruit and/or veggies …… but my all-time favorite pairing is tomatoes. And if you have some homegrown, still-warm-from-the-sun tomatoes, you might just think you’ve died and gone to heaven!
I love to stack sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella then drizzle the piles with this beautiful, emerald green, vibrantly fresh dressing. And if I’m feeling a bit indulgent, I’ll scatter the top with some buttery toasted pine nuts.
Yesterday, I did something a little different. I took a tomato, core-end down and sliced it about 1/4-inch thick, but stopped slicing about 1/2-inch from the bottom. I cut fresh mozzarella in partial circles to fit in the little wedges and stuffed them into each opening. With a drizzle of Sweet Basil Vinaigrette and a sprinkle of pine nuts, it made a delicious and beautiful presentation. We happily gobbled up it up right after the photo shoot!
If you don’t grow your own basil, FIND SOME! Friends and neighbors would probably be thrilled to give some of their bumper basil harvest a happy home. The more you cut the crazy stuff, the more vigorously it grows. It’s also readily available and quite inexpensive at farmer’s markets and vegetable stands this time of the year. Just find some and whip up a batch of this “summer-in-a-jar”. When you take the first delicious taste, you’ll start thinking that summer didn’t really arrive ………. till now!
P.S. We recently discovered another delicious way to serve this dressing. It was sort of by accident, but we were sitting on the deck after lunch one day. There were a few pieces of bread left in the basket and this dressing in a small bowl. We started dipping the bread in the dressing – it was wonderful. I thought about what a fun appetizer it would make served with a good baguette. Guests could just pull off chunk of bread and dip, dip, dip. Oh dear, Scott may have to plant even more basil next year ……….
- 2 cups about 1/4 pound tightly packed fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¾ cup canola oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Combine vinegar, basil, garlic, mustard, sugar and honey in a food processor or blender. Puree mixture until smooth and bright green.
- With motor running, slowly add the salad oil to form an emulsion*.
- Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If not serving immediately, store in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator.
* An easy (and mess-free) way to do this is to place a piece of plastic wrap over the top (uncovered) of the blender container. Push the plastic wrap down a bit (so it droops), then cover with the blender lid. Remove center insert from the blender cover (usually clear plastic) and poke a few holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Slowly add the oil, adding more as it drizzles down into the basil mixture.