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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

We’ve been on a pesto kick this week, thanks in part to one stubborn little plant.

About six weeks ago, I brought a couple of basil bunches to the office, thinking that somebody would take it off my hands. Nope. So there it sat, lingering in a vase of water (which I was changing, mind you, every couple of days), developing roots and growing 10 inches while providing the occasional handful of fresh basil leaves for lunchtime salads.

I finally asked myself, how long can I really keep growing basil in a vase of water?

Turns out I should have transplanted it into soil about four weeks ago, and I’ve been risking root rot this whole time.

Since Dennison’s Farm brings me an absurd amount of basil in my CSA box every couple of weeks, I wasn’t planning to plant my own this year. So I took this brave plant home and whirled it into oblivion last night with the other requisite ingredients. It made a divine accompaniment to wine-and-cheese night at Chez Haggerty.

And you know what? I STILL didn’t manage to use all of the leaves. This little plant might end up transplanted into the ground yet due to its sheer will to live.

I halved a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since I only wanted enough for two people, and it made probably a little under 1/2 cup.

Pesto
(Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated)

  • 1/8 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 ounce (1/8 cup) grated Parmesan cheese (see note at end of recipe)

Toast pine nuts and unpeeled garlic cloves in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the pine nuts are just golden and fragrant and the garlic cloves have darkened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the garlic to cool before peeling and roughly chopping.

Place nuts, garlic, basil, oil and salt in small work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrap down sides of bowl, about 30 seconds.

Note: I’ve been grating and shredding my own cheese lately instead of purchasing grated/shredded cheeses, which contain ingredients like cellulose to prevent clumping. I had read that the added ingredients can keep pre-shredded cheese from melting as well as freshly shredded cheese, and it’s true. The texture and the flavor of freshly shredded cheese is simply superior to that of the pre-shredded varieties. And Parmesan, stored correctly, will keep for WEEKS. Totally worth it.

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Late last week, I realized that I had never posted about my improvements to the recipe for Goat Cheese Pops with Herbs, Pecans and Bacon after I began experimenting with it last fall.

The worst part of this realization? The knowledge that the only record I had of said improvements was a marked-up piece of paper residing in either the kitchen (on a very busy cookbook shelf) or in my home office (a treasure trove of unsorted grad school stuff).

Luckily, the printout was right where I had sort of hoped that I left it, on the left corner of my filing cabinet in a short stack of unrelated papers.

Whew. Because these cheese balls drew rave reviews at a party this weekend.

I totally amped up the goat cheese from what the original recipe called for, resulting in a much bolder flavor. Although I also increased the measurements of the coating ingredients to account for more cheese balls (this recipe makes about 50 percent more than the original), I still find myself running short on coating when I have anywhere from five to 10 cheese balls left uncovered.

There are worse things than having five to 10 uncovered goat cheese balls awaiting you in the fridge, however.

Simply Irresistible Goat Cheese Balls
Makes 30-45

  • 9 slices bacon
  • 8 oz. goat cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (not whipped)
  • 3 tbsp. chopped basil (divided)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Cook bacon until crispy. Place cooked bacon on a plate lined with paper towel and pat to remove excess grease.

Place the goat cheese, cream cheese, 1.5 tbsp. basil and a few twists of cracked black pepper in the food processor. Process until creamy and well-mixed.

Form the cheese mixture into small balls, about the size of the tip of your thumb. (Use food-safe gloves and avoid cleaning cheese out from under your fingernails later.) Place the cheese balls in the freezer for 10-15 minutes; you want them to firm up, but you don’t want to freeze them all the way.

Clean out the food processor (or use your second, smaller food processor). Crumble in the cooled bacon and add the remaining basil and the pecans. Process until the mixture is very fine and crumbly. Roll the cheese balls in the bacon mixture, pressing to lightly embed the coating into each cheese ball. (Again, break out the gloves unless you enjoy bacon shrapnel under your nails.)

Refrigerate until ready to serve. (I’ve always made these the day before serving due to time constraints — they’re fine, if not a little better, the day after.) Serve alongside toothpicks or stick the toothpicks in before placing the cheese balls on a serving platter.

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I love cheese. I love cheese balls. I do not love the awkwardness involved in slicing off a small, bite-sized piece from a large, cold, hard-to-carve cheese ball.

Problems, problems. I know.

Anyway. If there’s anything I love better than plain old cheese, it’s goat cheese, so when I saw this recipe for Goat Cheese Pops with Herbs, Pecans and Bacon on Pinterest, I knew I had found a new culinary mission. Luckily, two events popped up on my social calendar this weekend, giving me an excuse to make a fancy cheese dish.

I did not put my goat cheese balls on lollipop sticks, so I can’t technically call them goat cheese pops. I also neglected to serve them with apple slices, since apple slices start turning brown the second you grab the paring knife and the parties I was supplying snacks for both had a relaxed buffet-type thing going on, meaning everything had to be stable at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Besides, every other apple I buy, any time of the year, turns out mushy and halfway tasteless.

If I make these again, I’ll probably use more goat cheese than cream cheese (the recipe linked above uses a 1:1 ratio of goat cheese to cream cheese — I’ll probably make that a 2:1 or even 3:1). The cream cheese probably helps with the consistency, but I think it also slightly masks the tangy flavor of the goat cheese.

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