Sometimes, when I am in need of an energy boost, and I don’t want to overdo it on the caffeine, I turn to red foods. According the “The Complete Book of Color” by Suzy Chiazzari, red foods give us energy and strength. Lucky for me, there are lots of ripe, juicy, red tomatoes around my house right now. My husband’s parents are growing some delicious tomatoes this year, and they are generously letting us share in their bounty. When a tomato is really fresh and tasty, it does not need a lot of preparation. Tomatoes and basil are a traditionally great combination, and we happen to have a lot of basil growing in our garden. So to prepare an energizing snack, I went out in the warm, soft rain and picked a bunch of basil. Then I chopped two medium-sized ripe tomatoes and a handful of the basil, and put them in a bowl. I added two teaspoons of olive oil and one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to the bowl. (I am a huge fan of balsamic vinegar, and look for any chance I can get to use it.) I put in a tiny pinch of sugar and a generous pinch of salt to the bowl, stirred it all together, and had a delicious, revitalizing tomato salad. To make it more filling, I put the tomato-basil mixture on crackers. If you are looking for a way to use your tomatoes and need an energy boost, this is a great way to do it!
A reward of weeding around basil plants is that you get to smell the fresh, spicy scent of the basil leaves while you are weeding. At least that is what I was thinking as I was weeding and shooing away mosquitoes yesterday. And one of the best rewards of growing basil is making and eating pesto. Not only does basil smell wonderful, but it tastes great, especially when mixed with garlic, nuts, and Parmesan cheese. The pesto recipe I posted below calls for both basil and parsley, bright green herbs with lots of health benefits. According to www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266425.php, basil is full of antioxidants, minerals such as magnesium, and vitamins, mainly vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Basil also is known to reduce inflammation and to have antibacterial properties. Parsley is very beneficial to eat as well. The website www.nutrition-and-you.com/parsley.html states that parsley is high in minerals like potassium and calcium, and like basil, it has high concentrations of vitamins A, C, and especially K.
Pesto is a great way to get those vitamins and minerals, and it offers variety. You can mix pesto with pasta for a meal, or you can spread it on crackers for a delicious snack. The nuts in the pesto add to its nutritional quality too–they add protein and the “good” (unsaturated) fats. I usually use almonds, but pine nuts are a traditional nut to use, and I have also used walnuts too. Now that basil is in full swing here, we will be using our blender to mix up batches of pesto! Pesto freezes well, but to me it tastes best the day it is made. If you know ahead of time that you are going to freeze it, a fellow food blogger gave me this tip to reduce bitterness when freezing: Leave out the cheese when you are processing the rest of the ingredients, and freeze the pesto without the cheese. Then when you defrost/thaw the pesto, add the cheese.
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup firmly packed parsley sprigs (either flat or curly parsley) with stems removed
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup almonds, walnuts, or pine nuts
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a blender container or food processor bowl, combine the basil leaves, parsley, Parmesan cheese, nuts, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and blend or process with several on/off turns, until a paste forms. When the machine is off, scrape the sides and stir the ingredients before starting again. Then gradually add the olive oil and keep processing and scraping the sides in between processing, until you reach a smooth consistency. (It doesn’t have to be completely smooth, but enough so that it is like a sauce or dip).
This amount of pesto can be tossed with 12 ounces of cooked pasta to feed about 4 people, or you can divide it up and use some for a dip or spread. Store in the refrigerate for 3 to 5 days, or freeze in airtight containers. Enjoy!