Friday, July 12, 2013

Try This At Home: Lemon-Basil Bruschetta

There's this one stand at our farmer's market that sells enormous bunches of fresh herbs for next to nothing, and I get sucked in almost every time. This week I bought lemon basil and had to figure out what to do with it before it went bad. You can use any basil for this recipe, but the lemon basil is a fun twist and smells incredible.

What You'll Need:
15 minutes

  • 1 small loaf of french bread
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful of basil leaves
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
  • Salt
  • Cracked black pepper

1. Quarter the tomatoes, chop the basil, and mix together in a medium sized bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. Mix together and let sit, absorbing flavor, while you prepare the bread. If you want, you can peel the garlic cloves at this point and stir them in (uncut) to add a little flavor until you're ready to use them later.

2. Heat olive oil (approximately a 1/4 cup) on medium-high heat in a large skillet, rolling it around to coat the whole bottom of the pan. Slice your bread while the oil heats. Flick a few drops of water into the pan and if the oil sizzles, it's hot enough. Place the bread slices in the pan and cook until lightly browned on one or both sides, about 3 minutes. Remove to a large plate.

3. Peel your garlic (or remove from tomatoes) and spear two cloves side by side on the prongs of a fork so that flat-ish edges are facing out. Don't let the fork prongs go all the way through the garlic. Rub the oiled sides of the bread (or pick just one side if you cooked both sides) with garlic. The more pressure you apply, the more garlic flavor you'll get. I skip the fork and use my fingers for maximum force and control, but it makes your fingers stinky. You may need your third clove of garlic if you rub with your fingers because the cloves will wear down to little nubs.

4. Finally, spoon the tomatoes and basil onto the bread, and enjoy.

Easy, cheap, and delicious. And it will impress the pants off of guests or food snobs at a party. Trust me, I know those waters.

While I have you, I'll throw in a few tips on how to keep basil fresh. Conventional wisdom is to treat basil like cut flowers - keep it in a cup filled with water that you change regularly, but stick it in the fridge and cover it with a plastic bag. In my experience, it still only lasts about 4 days that way. Another thing you can try is submerging sprigs in water in a glass tupperware with a lid, and removing as needed. I only tried that once and left it for several weeks (which was too long), but that should give you at least 4 days as well. Be careful that it doesn't freeze in the back or top shelf of your fridge, because that will turn it yucky. Since lemon basil leaves are smaller and sturdier than regular basil, I'm attempting to dry a bunch hanging upside down in my kitchen and see if I can use it later in that form. We'll see how it goes! My fool-proof basil keeping tip, though, is just to buy it potted from Trader Joe's for $2.50 or whatever it is (less than $3). Even when I've used up most of the big leaves, I continue to water the plant every few days and use the smaller leaves that grow back - small leaves are actually the ones that hold the most flavor!

Special thanks to my sister Annelise who I always call to make sure that I'm not forgetting anything in the tomato-basil mixture. It's just so darn simple! 

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