Tag Archives: basil

Pesto Pasta Salad

30 Jun

Pasta salad is an excellent way to incorporate various vitamins and minerals into your diet. You can include whatever vegetables you want and then smother it all in your dressing of choice. Having been raised with Italian dressing on my pasta salad, I grew tired of it and wanted to try something new. Enter pesto. The result is a burst of flavor that accents the various vegetables included within and makes for an excellent, refreshing salad you can enjoy on any spring or summer day.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad
Yields approximately 8-10 cups

1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained
1 (12-ounce) box farfalle pasta (or pasta of choice)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper or seasoning of choice
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts marinated in water, drained and chopped
1 (10.5-ounce) container cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1 (8-ounce) bag fresh broccoli, separated into small florets
3/4 cup extra-large black olives, halved

3 ounces fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 rounded teaspoon salt (adding more to taste)

Begin with tofu by pressing out excess liquid. You may either use a tofu press or wrap the tofu in cloth or paper towels and place a heavy item, such as a plate or two, on top and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes.

While tofu is being pressed, prepare pasta according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain, set aside and allow to cool completely.

Prepare pesto by first processing basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add olive oil and salt, and continue processing another 10-15 seconds, or until oil is incorporated. Set aside.

Slice pressed tofu into small cubes. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add tofu in a single layer and fry until golden brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper, or the seasoning of your choice (I use a chicken-style seasoning). Set aside on a paper towel-covered plate in order to remove excess oil. Allow to cool.

Once pasta and tofu have cooled, combine with prepared pesto and remaining ingredients.

Pesto Pasta Salad


Tomato Basil Soup

28 Oct

There are many things that pair well together. Two of my favorites, however, are tomatoes and basil. Perhaps the most common species of basil, sweet basil, is prevalent in Italian cuisine and has a clove and menthol-like aroma with a subtle peppery, yet sweet flavor. It is one of the few herbs that has a much more pronounced flavor when fresh, so using fresh rather than dried is often recommended. Basil is native to India and various regions of Asia with over 160 known cultivars (source).

Not only is fresh basil delicious, it is also chock full of vitamins and nutrients including but not limited to: Calcium, Copper, Dietary Fiber, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Riboflavin, Vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, and Zinc (source). Basil also boasts a variety of health benefits. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, benefits the cardiovascular system, assists with strong bones and helps protect DNA (source).

Check out the many health benefits of tomatoes on my Corn and Tomato Salsa Fresca post here.

The recipe below utilizes both tomatoes and fresh basil, and is excellent on a cool day alongside a grilled “cheese” sandwich. Enjoy!

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup
Yields approximately 8 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 large tomatoes (3-4 inches in diameter), diced
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc wine
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring often and being careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add tomatoes, wine, water, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add basil, replace lid, and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Puree soup with an emulsion blender or place approximately 1-1/2 cups of the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth, approximately 30-45 seconds. Be careful not to place too much of the mixture in the blender or else pressure will build, causing a mess. Pour puréed mixture into a large bowl and repeat until entire mixture has been blended.

Place a large mesh strainer over a separate large bowl and add puréed soup. Stir to remove as much liquid as possible, and discard remaining solids. Season soup with additional salt and pepper to taste.

VARIATION: Tomato Basil Bisque – Add 1 cup non-dairy creamer after straining soup and stir to combine.

Herbs vs. Spices: Did You Know?

29 Jul

Did you know that herbs and spices are actually different?

Herbs and Spices

We often use the words herbs and spices interchangeably. This is likely due to the fact that both are used to add flavor to food. These flavorings, however, are slightly different. In culinary use, herbs are the leaves of plants (source) whereas spices are the bark, fruit, roots or seeds (source). Below is a list of the most common herbs and spices.

Bay leaf
Coriander (leaves)
Curry (leaves)
Dill (weeds)
Fenugreek (leaves)
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Celery seed
Chili powder
Coriander (seeds)
Curry powder
Dill (seeds)
Fenugreek (seeds)
Licorice root

Cheesy Pesto Pizza Bites

8 Jun

Galaxy Nutritional FoodsGalaxy Nutritional Foods is at it again! Having introduced their fabulous cream cheese in 2011, they’re showing no signs of slowing down with their latest debut, their Vegan Shreds, available in Mexican and Mozzarella styles. Perfect for those avoiding gluten and soy, these “cheeses” are not only free from gluten and soy, but also hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, trans fats, preservatives and GMO ingredients.

Upon first trying these new “cheese” shreds, I noticed a slightly buttery, but mostly smokey flavor. If you like smoked cheeses, I would think you will enjoy these, and they are nice in a variety of dishes. Galaxy’s shreds are great on veggie burgers and melt wonderfully (just as advertised) when baked. The cheese even stretches nicely! Furthermore, 1/4 cup of these babies provides 25% of your daily calcium intake! Who says vegans don’t get enough calcium? Pssshhh!

Following is a recipe I created that utilizes Galaxy’s Vegan Shreds:

Cheesy Pesto Pizza Bites

Cheesy Pesto Pizza Bites
Yields approximately 20 pieces

1 french baguette (approximately 2-3 inches in diameter and 20 inches long)
1/2 cup prepared vegan pesto (recipe below)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 – 1-1/4 cups non-dairy shredded mozzarella cheese (I used Galaxy Nutritional Foods’ Vegan Shreds)

Vegan Pesto:
4 ounces fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Process basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add olive oil and salt, and continue processing another 10-15 seconds, or until oil is incorporated.

Next, preheat oven to broil and prepare a baking sheet by either lightly greasing with oil or lining with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, slice baguette into 1-inch slices. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet and spread approximately 1/2 – 1 teaspoon pesto on each slice. Next, top each with approximately 1-2 teaspoons tomato sauce, then sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before consuming.

NOTE: The Vegan Shreds used in this recipe was a free sample provided by Galaxy Nutritional Foods, Inc. The views and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect that of others.

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