Tag Archives: basil

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Basil

<img alt="Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Basil"/>

Grapefruit finds its way into my basket when I’m at the market.  I always have good intentions when I grab one or more of the pinkish-orange orbs of bracingly sweet tart fruit imagining that I’ll eat one a day.  We all know that imaging something doesn’t quite make it happen, so once home, the grapefruit are wedged to the back of the bin in my refrigerator by other seemingly more important orbs of wonderfulness or left to gather dust and sunlight each morning on the top level of my “other ingredients” rack.  Looks beautiful for a while, and then, well, it becomes yet another science experiment.

What is wrong with me?

If I had to line up citrus in the order it’s been a factor in my life, oranges would be first on the list.  This can’t be significant because my mother put them in my lunch box on most days.  She’d score the skin to make it easy to peel and I always thought that was pretty cool.  Sometimes, she’d quarter them, sprinkle them with salt and seal them in a baggie, making them extra juicy by the time lunch rolled around in my school kid day.  Makes me want an orange with salt just thinking about it.  For the sake of contrast, my sister would have lemons first on her citrus list because she ate them like oranges when she was little, right from the rind.  I still haven’t figured out how she could do that.  I’d suck on a lemon, too, but it had to be dipped in the sugar bowl first, and that was risking certain death if my mother found out about it.

Tangerines had to be next on the list because how much effort does it take to eat one?  Zero, thanks to that peeling, and seeds or no seeds, the sections come right apart.  Having lived in a beautiful place with two tangerine trees once upon a time, I am lucky to have memories of eating them sun-warmed right from the tree, and images of my youngest, still in diapers, sitting with my mother on the hill where the trees grew while she taught him to peel them.

Grapefruit was always last on the list, requiring a sprinkle of sugar to ward off the tartness just like that wedge of lemon. When I saw them in the house, I remember thinking my mother was on a diet more than it was fruit destined for me.  Thankfully I figured out how to eat grapefruit without sugar at some point in my life.  I’m thinking it was when I started teaching.  Anything that could be eaten on the run worked and became a habit because there was no time during the day to think about food — ever.

Ruby Reds probably had quite a bit to do with my learning to eat a grapefruit like an orange because they’re so sweet, but I have more time on my hands now, so can actually take the time to enjoy them with a fork and knife on a plate with avocado and a few other salad ingredients instead of having to clean up the juice that inevitably runs down my arm when I eat them from the peel.

If you’re someone who feels salad isn’t appealing at this time of year, don’t deny your body the flavor or nutrition this salad packs.  Get yourself warmed up with a cup of soup first, then dig into the salad.

No excuses.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Basil and Lime

about 1/4 grapefruit and avocado per serving

fresh basil leaves

a bit of thinly sliced red onion

crumbled goat cheese

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

squeeze of half a key lime

sea salt & cracked pepper

This salad works best on a plate for me.  Large pieces down first, then add the basil, onions, and cheese.  Lime juice before the olive oil.  Perfect with Maldon sea salt.  I like to cut it up to mix the flavors and make sure each bite has a bit of everything.

Recipe Notes:

  • Try it with cilantro or arugula instead of basil.  Substitute Feta or Cotija for the goat cheese.  Give hazelnut oil a go instead of olive oil, or maybe a bit of chili oil.  Better yet, add some very nice thinly sliced roasted red jalapenos to get beneficial capsaicin as well.  Don’t have limes?  Lemons or oranges will also taste well squeezed over this salad.  Want more of a crunch?  Add some sliced cucumbers.  Need some protein beyond what the cheese provides?  Add a bit of proscuitto.
  • This salad is amazingly good for your body.  Grapefruit — especially that Ruby Red — is full of that amazing phytonutrient, lycopene (like tomatoes — especially cooked tomatoes) which is known to help fight oxygen free radicals. They’re also packed with Vitamin C.  Read more about the nutritional wonders of grapefruit here.  Avocados do contain a high percentage of fat and we know that fat is fat as far as calories go, but it’s monosaturated fat — just like the fat in the olive oil.  However, the avocado oil is thought to increase the absorption of the lycopene, increasing its benefit.   Read more here.
  • To help with the “salad isn’t winter food” dilemma, make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.  I don’t like cold salad even on hot days so always serve salad at a reasonable room temp.
  • In other news, I just treated myself to a dwarf Meyer lemon tree for my patio.  It’s loaded with blossoms and I have just the spot for it where, when the windows are open, I will be able to smell the intoxicating fragrance.  Can’t wait.  Clearly, I’ll have even more to say about lemons than I have.

“Pasteria” with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil

I love ricotta, but I’ve never had truly fresh ricotta, so I decided to make my own.  It requires very little time, no special equipment, and few ingredients, so I was able to prepare it one evening, then drain it over night for use the next day.  I had no idea what I might make with it once it was finished, but that’s the story of my life right now.  How bad could it be to simply nibble on fresh ricotta sprinkled with sea salt and perhaps a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil?  Of course, sprinkling it over a nice salad could be fabulous as well.  Perfectly simple, right?

Simple seems never to be in my repertoire.

With less than a week until Easter and no real plans for a holiday meal in the works, I decided to look for dessert recipes that included ricotta and almost immediately found quite a few for a traditional Easter Pie, or in some cases, Pasteria.  It’s like a cheesecake, but it’s made with ricotta and grain.  Although the grain is most often wheat, some recipes use rice.  Others are made with a crust and latticed top — but some are completely without either — and leave it to me to make one in the least traditional way possible, lacking crust, wheat, and candied fruit.

This small dessert is perfect for spring, or when berries are at their best.

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Pork Meatball Banh Mi

Meatball Bahn Mi

I think I’m the last person on the planet who has had the Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, added to her food radar. The first time I saw anything about them was in one of my food magazines about a year ago. Anything with bright veggies gets my attention — especially if it’s salad. But a salad in a sandwich? This had to be good. Pickled carrots, cucumber with cilantro…and pork? I’d never heard of this particular kind of sandwich before. It was interesting that it was on a French baguette, too. An easy search led me to Battle of the Bahn Mi and then to White on Rice for some amazing renditions of this sandwich.

My first attempt follows.  After much procrastination, I’ve finally joined the ranks of those who love this sandwich.

Now, I need to find a local place that makes them.

I could eat them every day.

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Basil Cheese Stuffed Skirt Steak

Basil Cheese Stuffed Skirt Steak

I don’t often see skirt steak at my market so when I happen onto a package or two, I snap them up knowing that in the vast jumble of recipes waiting to be sampled that is my brain, I’ll surely find a good use for it.  The unfortunate aspect of this “plan” is that often I confuse skirt steak and flank steak.  What’s the difference?

Actually, they both come from the same area of the animal — either the short plate or flank which is on the underside in the center.  Both benefit from rubs and marinades to break down or tenderize the muscle, but skirt steak, a much more thin cut often needs to be either scored or pounded to further tenderize it.  Skirt steak is often used for fajitas.

When it came right down to it, I just needed a thin cut of meat, so skirt steak it would be.  I’d seen a succulent recipe for “Braised Beef Braciole Stuffed with Basil and Fresh Mozzarella” in a recent issue of Fine Cooking and had to try it — or a version of it since I didn’t have all of the required ingredients.  It didn’t matter because I can’t imagine that it would have been any better had I followed the recipe exactly.  Perfect for a special dinner, the possibilities are endless.

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Pasta with Chunky Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil Oil

<alt img="Pasta with Chunky Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil"/>

Organic heirloom tomatoes have begun to show their lovely colorful faces around here, and when they do, I can’t resist them.  I love tomatoes regardless of their size or shape as long as they haven’t been sitting in a cold storage box somewhere, rendering them flavorless. When the odd looking heirlooms are available, I have to have them. Deciding what to make with them once they’re sitting on my kitchen counter is an afterthought most of the time unless the sun has been shining and warm weather food is on my mind.  Then I know what I’ll make.  In fact I’m somewhat wired to think about a particular recipe whenever I see tomatoes like this.

Because I have this tomato addiction, I’m going to try to grow my own this year.  Of course I’ve grown my own tomatoes before, but as as much as I can mention that the sun shines and shines here most of the year, the position of our house and the height of our neighbor’s trees provide me precious little sunlight to plant vegetables in.  The space I do have is covered with flagstones, so the tomatoes I plant will have to love growing in pots and climbing like vines.

I saw gorgeous fresh San Marzanos at open air markets when we were in Rome last summer and then packages of seeds in several Sorrento shops, but I was too skeptical to buy them and then lose them in customs on our way back home.  I promised myself I’d have some before this next summer had passed so I just bought the seeds here.  Hopefully they won’t mind sharing space with a few heirlooms.  Then I’ll have homemade tomato sauce and lots of pasta with fresh veggies.

This recipe has a no-cook chunky tomato sauce with fresh basil oil if you’re inclined to make your own.  It’s one of my favorite recipes.

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