Monday, June 27, 2011

Basil Love

I maintain that I am not--nor have I ever been-- a fan of mayonnaise. Its gloopy, gelatinous consistency always makes me shudder when I watch beloved friends and family members enthusiastically spreading their sandwiches with the stuff. I just sit there thinking cautiously, "Are you sure you want to do that?" Needless to say, I'm a mustard girl all the way. There is, however, one particular loophole in my one-woman campaign against mayonnaise and that, my friends, is the mighty aioli.

Aioli is in a completely different realm, a different stratosphere if you will, to the humble old mayo. Good aioli is a somewhat thinner consistency, infinitely silkier, deliciously dippable and much more flavorful than its distant relative. It's balanced, but packs a punch and can lend its charms an incredibly wide range of dishes. I can imagine that this aioli would be completely awesome in a BLT, on a summery tomato salad, or a potato salad while I'm at it. It would be heavenly alongside some nice grilled fish, calamari, steamed artichoke or asparagus...I could go on. Really, this recipe is a vehicle for basil--lovely, fragrant, delicate, summery basil. A clove of garlic and a good squeeze of lemon compliment the basil nicely and round out the flavor, but really, the basil is the star here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

DIY Bruschetta

So, a funny thing happened to me today. I decided that rather than continue to sift idly through and admire the many blogs that I regularly read, I really ought to stop neglecting this one. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking—quite the contrary. It’s just that I haven’t been telling that many people about it.

This one today is really nothing special in terms of a recipe. In fact, it isn’t really a recipe at all; more of a suggestion of how to eat. I was inspired by a) a freeform recipe for various bruschette from Chad Robertson’s amazing Tartine Bread (but who isn’t inspired by that?), b) a week in Italy that completely reignited my love of bread and c) my growing (somewhat worrying) love for eating food off of a wooden board.

The best combination of these ingredients turned out to be the goat’s cheese and balsamic roasted carrots with fresh basil. But I probably shouldn’t mention that since part of the fun we had in eating this meal was in testing out various combinations of roasted vegetables, fresh herbs and spreads. Yes, we had some fresh tomatoes with basil and olive oil, but I won't bother with that. Just gather all the components together and have at it.

Mixed Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta

1 loaf of day old bread (sourdough in my case), sliced thickly

1 bulb fennel, cut into ½ inch slices

2 carrots, sliced into ½ inch coins

2 small zucchini, sliced into ½ inch strips

1 small bunch asparagus

1 handful each of fresh basil, parsley and coriander

1 ball fresh mozzarella

½ a round of goat’s cheese

Olive oil for roasting

1 clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F/170 degrees C. Place all the vegetables on a baking sheet and dress generously with olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 35-45 minutes until everything is going brown at the edges (you may want to flip things halfway through the cooking time). When the veggies are done remove them to a serving platter and, turn the oven down to 300F/140C. Put the slices of bread directly onto the oven rack for about 4 minutes. You don’t want to toast the bread, just dry it out a little so that it soaks up all the good stuff. When the bread is just on the verge of toasting, pull it out and immediately rub one side with the raw garlic clove. Place the bread garlicky side down onto the baking sheet you roasted the vegetables on so that it soaks up a little of the leftover olive oil and seasonings.

Serve on a board with the cheeses and herbs and help yourself. No utensils required.