Tag Archives: basil

Recipe: End of Summer Harvest Polenta

My garden is almost ready to bed down for the winter.  The zucchini, pumpkin and melon vines have shrivelled to nothing, the rocket has bolted, and this evening I went out to pull up my basil plants, pick the last of my tomatoes, and harvest a final handful of tiny capsicums, and five corn cobs ranging in size from medium-small to positively miniature.

Last harvest of the summer

Last harvest of the summer

If I have time in between my intensive Easter singing schedule (new personal best this year, with five services over four days, not counting Palm Sunday services and the Saint Matthew’s Passion I’m singing in on April 5-6), it will soon be time to weed and dig and compost and maybe put in some winter vegetables that will give nutrients back to the ground.

But in the meantime, it’s time to celebrate the dying summer with this beautiful feast from my garden! 


This polenta has it all – it’s soft and creamy, with a little crunch from the fresh corn and plenty of smokey heat from the chipotle pepper (it’s smokey outside, too, which is probably why chipotle pepper seemed so irresistible to me).  To accompany it, I’ve slow-roasted my tomato harvest, turned my basil and parsley into a creamy purée with cannelini beans, olive oil and lemon juice, and sautéed up a lot of capsicums and onions to add some crunch.


Also, a quick announcement before I give you the recipe itself – as you may have gathered, I will be singing the Saint Matthew Passion with the Melbourne Bach Choir at the start of April.  It’s going to be a rather gorgeous – and enormous! – performance, with three large choirs (I’m in Choir 2, which spends a lot of time interjecting with questions and interrupting arias with gratuitous chorales and choruses), an orchestra, and six soloists.  If you like serious Baroque Oratorio, I recommend it (and you can buy tickets here). 

Anyway, the unfortunate side-effect of all this glorious music is that I will be out at rehearsals every night next week until quite late… which means I am unlikely to be cooking *or* blogging much over the next ten days or so.  I shall try to pop in to say hello, but if I don’t, you know why…

Your Shopping List

For the tomatoes
600 g tomatoes, preferably randomly sized and coloured and from your garden!
olive oil
salt, pepper

For the polenta

1 cup polenta
4 cups water
salt, pepper
1 chipotle chilli in adobo
150 g fresh corn kernels
25 g butter
1/3 cup cheese
For the puree
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
400g tinned cannelini beans, drained
50 g pistachios
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper
For the rest
olive oil
2 onions
6 long sweet peppers, multicoloured


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Recipe: Stuffed zucchini on roasted tomatoes

I was originally going to post this to my Tomatoes challenge, but then grant season got the better of me and nothing happened at all.  And now I have a Tofu challenge in play, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with that.  But right now, I’m working on the backlog of recipes that I created and scribbled down onto random pieces of paper in February (in fact, what I scribble down is a list of ingredients and quantities, trusting myself to remember the method, which is a bit of a gamble if the piece of paper then gets knocked off the desk by a cat, and batted under a couch, and then only found many weeks later), since this blog has been very nearly a recipre-free zone of late.

Anyway.  Zucchini flower season is almost over for us in Australia, but for once, I can give the Europeans and Americans a thrill by posting something that is about to come into season for a change!  I am constitutionally incapable of not buying zucchini flowers when I see them, which means that I then have to instantly re-jig any menu plans I’ve made, as zucchini flowers must be used the day you buy them, or at the very most, the day after.  In all probability, there are better ways to cook them – in fact, I am constantly being exhorted by farmers to try deep-frying them, stuffed or un-stuffed, in tempura batter, but since deep-frying is the one un-healthy culinary habit that I do not have, I am reluctant to learn it, even if tempura zucchini flowers does sound amazing.  God, that sentence was dreadful.  Sorry. 

Anyway, since I eschew the deep-fryer, my preferred option for zucchini flowers has always been to stuff them with a herby spinach and ricotta mix, and then bake them either in a simple tomato sauce or on a bed of roasting tomatoes. So far, nobody has complained at the lack of deep-frying, so here, for your delectation, is the recipe I normally use.  I apologise for the poor photographs – the light in my kitchen isn’t very good for photography.  I promise you, these zucchini flowers taste amazing, however they may look in these photos.


Your Shopping List

12 zucchini flowers, preferable with the little zucchini still attached
1 kg assorted beautiful tomatoes
salt, pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
olive oil
2 tsp vinegar
oregano, to taste
150 g frozen spinach, defrosted (or a bunch of fresh)
300 g ricotta
50 g parmesan
a handful each of mint and basil leaves, chopped finely
nutmeg, pepper
1 egg

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Recipe: Gnocchi with Broccoli pesto and Tomatoes two ways

Ooh, tomatoes two ways.  So MasterChef, don’t you think?  But one of the points of this recipe really is that one gets to treat the tomatoes essentially as two separate ingredients with separate tastes – the slow-roasted tomatoes (and yes, I know I’m obsessed with these at present) are sweet and deep in flavour, and raw tomatoes are fresh and light and a bit more acidic.  Yum.  As a bonus, you get to use up some of the zucchini which are hopefully taking over your garden in tandem with the tomatoes.  Mine aren’t actually taking over yet, but I live in hope.  And I do seem to be nicely off for zucchinis at present.

And then you top the whole glorious thing off with a big glob (or quenelle, if you are feeling fancy) of broccoli pesto, which has the quadruple advantage of looking good, tasting excellent, adding a bit of protein to your life, and, best of all, not needing to be stirred through the pasta!  (Seriously, has anyone ever achieved a home-made pesto which was actually sufficiently non-solid in texture that it didn’t destroy the pasta or else just sit there in petulant little clumps, mocking you for attempting to stir it through?)

It’s good stuff.

This recipe turns out to serve three people, with rather a lot of pesto left over.  Such a shame – you’ll have to have the reset of it on your beetroot gnocchi tomorrow night…


Your shopping list

450 g cherry tomatoes, preferably from your garden and in assorted colours
5 big roma tomatoes
olive oil, salt, pepper
1 head of broccoli
50 g pine nuts
25 g pistachios
115 g basil puree from a tube
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50 g parmesan
500 g gnocchi
4 zucchini, any kind

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Recipe: Raw Zucchini Spaghetti with Sicilian Nut-Meat Balls

Oh, God, it’s hot.  It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot.  I hate this weather.  I had this enticing introduction all planned to tell you about how I came up with this recipe and why I think it is just too unutterably clever for words and why you should make it right now but my brain has melted in the heat, and basically all I want to do right now is sit in front of the air-conditioner and eat ice-cream.  I just went to the supermarket to get groceries for tomorrow, and I nearly curled up in a corner and built a little house there, because it was so blessedly, wonderfully *cool* and even if it isn’t full of books, at least it’s cold enough that I can breathe.

Anyway.  This is a slightly fiddly, but entirely worth it, raw pasta dish.  It doesn’t involve turning on the stove, and it’s actually even nicer if all the components are kept in the fridge until you are just about to combine them.  The tomato sauce is fresh and light and sweet and the nut-meat balls are rich and full of flavour with sudden bites of caper or currants to keep them interesting.  Also, it looks really cool.

And that’s all I’ve got.  Sorry, I really am melting right now.


Your shopping list

6 tomatoes
a handful of basil, or a squeeze of basil from a tube
1 fresh date
salt, pepper
125 g sun dried tomatoes
80 g pistachios
40 g almonds
80 g walnuts
80 g cashews
15 g dried mushrooms or 100 g fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup water (optional)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
15 g capers
30 g currants
30 g pine nuts
3-4 small zucchini or two ginormous ones

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Recipe: Raw Zucchini Pasta with Mushroom and Nut Pesto

Have you ever created a recipe and had it go really well and then sat down at the table and realised how you could have made it ten times more awesome?  Well, you’re going to have to wait until next week for the super awesome version, because I’m not eating zucchini pasta every day, but the really good recipe which is suddenly not quite as exciting as it was follows.

And, actually, it’s still pretty exciting.  For one thing, it uses a vegetable spiraliser, which is hands-down the coolest kitchen implement known to humankind. For another, it takes about five minutes to assemble.  For a third thing, it tastes awesome.  And for the fourth thing, did I mention that it uses a vegetable spiraliser?  Because that is so much fun that it needs to be mentioned at least twice…

This is a good raw recipe for days when it is too hot to cook and you don’t want to spend hours thinking about dinner.  Put the nuts on to soak when you get home, and when you can face a few minutes of chopping and spiralising, start dinner.  It will be ready ten minutes later.


Your shopping list

80g sun dried tomatoes
80 g almonds
80 g pistachios
60 g shitaake mushrooms (prepared weight – you probably need about 80 g to start with)
1/2 red capsicum
1/2 tsp chilli
1 clove garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tbsp basil puree
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
6 zucchini

Now what will you do with it?

Soak the sun dried tomatoes and nuts in cold water for at least half an hour.  This is the longest part of the recipe!soaked

While the tomatoes and nuts are soaking, peel and de-stem the mushrooms, roughly chop the capsicum and one zucchini (? zucchino?), and peel the garlic.

Spiralise the remaining five zucchini.  Revel in doing so.  How cute do those long zucchini spirals look?  Very cute indeed, that’s how cute.

Now put the nuts and sun dried tomatoes in your food processor, and pile and pour all the other ingredients over the top.  Process until you get a reasonably soft paste.


Put the zucchini spirals in a large salad bowl, and add the paste / sauce.  Use your hands to combine them  – nothing else will really work, I’m afraid.


Serve!  This makes enough for 3-4 hungry people.


This meal is, as you will have noticed, vegan, gluten-free and low GI.  It is not low in fructose & friends, due to the presence of mushroom.  It is also not even a little bit nut-free.

I’m not really sure what to suggest by way of variations.  I mean, you are all smart enough to realise that one nut can be swapped for another according to taste, and herbs likewise.  If you weren’t worried about being 100% raw, you could add cooled roasted or marinated eggplant or capsicums to the sauce, which would be lovely.  You could also thin out the sauce with more water or lemon juice or oil, but go a bit easy on this, because you don’t want to dilute the flavour.


I am submitting this recipe to my own “I am Vegetarian, Hear Me Raw” challenge for January – I invite you to join me in raw vegetarian bliss this summer!  I’m also submitting it to Raw Foods Thursdays, hosted by Gluten Free Cat, so if you’re excited about raw food, I encourage you to take a peek at what she has happening on her page!



One Year Ago: Recipe: Tuna Salad

Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Zucchini Pesto Surprise muffins

The thing with making a lot of antipasto dips and spreads is that then you have to work out what to do with leftover dips and spreads.  And yes, one could always have them on bread, but that stops being fun after a few days.  One of my favourite uses for antipasto dips is as pasta sauces, though they are also good on pizza bases instead of tomato paste.  But today I’m making food to take to the cricket, which means portable food, so it’s time for these dips to find their way into some muffiny goodness.


The flavour of these muffins will depend a bit on what sort of pesto and dips you are using, but if you play your cards right, they might almost be healthy.  Certainly, the zucchini is a good start in this direction and if, like me, you are using homemade dips in your muffins, you might be working in all sorts of handy vitamins from roasted capsicums, sunflower seeds, broccoli, hazelnuts and herbs.  But having said that, these muffins will work with just about any sort of non-yoghurt-based vegetable or herb dip you have to hand.  So, I wouldn’t try them with hummus or tzatziki, but babaganoush would work, as would olive dip, sun dried tomato dip, or any kind of roast pepper dip or paté. Just make sure you really like the flavour of it, because it will be the main muffiny flavour.

A cream cheese dip would probably work, too, though be prepared for a very cheesy flavour to your muffin.  (Also, you just lost any claim to healthiness in this muffin.  Sorry.)  The dip is replacing some of the liquid, some of the egg, and some of the oil from a standard muffin recipe, so be mindful of this when making your dip selections.

As for the surprise – it’s more pesto!  Or rather, different pesto, in a dollop at the centre of the muffin.  This, in fact, is where your cheesy dip would really work, with a herby pesto in the muffin itself.  Or you could use a cherry tomato for a lovely fresh centre.

Your Shopping and Leftovers List

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour (wholemeal is good if you have it, might as well add an air of healthiness to these muffins)
1/2 tsp herbs such as paprika, oregano, thyme, chilli, fennel – depending on your dip flavours
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
2 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 cup roasted capsicum and sunflower seed spread, or another pesto or vegetable/herb/nut  spread of your choice
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup low fat milk
about 1/2 cup broccoli pesto, or other dip of your choice, or about 16 cherry tomatoes, whole

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Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Broccoli Pesto Vichysoisse

It’s hot and stuffy and the house is full of leftovers, and in addition to being exhausted and not especially hungry, I’m actually in a fair bit of pain, which is not very Christmassy at all.  Since you don’t get to take pain medication without food (and, ideally, alcohol), some sort of food preparation is required.

This recipe is, basically, a leftovers dish.  It’s stock from the slow-cooked chicken, leftover roast potatoes and leftover broccoli dip.  The quantities are nonexistent because it was just what I had in the fridge, but you should think of this as more of a template for making creative use of leftovers.   I’ll be posting a few recipes like this in the next few days, because I can’t possibly be the only one who overcatered.

Also, it’s lovely and cold and easy to eat, even in this hot weather.  And it’s a very fetching shade of green, too.


Your Leftovers List
Leftover potatoes from Christmas dinner – roasted, baked, gratin or even scalloped – the cream will be a nice touch!
Leftover broccoli pesto, or leftover pesto or any pesto or other dip composed primarily of herbs, vegetables and nuts
Leftover steamed broccoli, if there was  no broccoli in your pesto
Stock or water.  If you have a chicken or turkey carcase, it would be very much in the spirit of this recipe to make stock out of it, which is what I did, so I’m supplying the recipe below.  It’s easy.

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Recipe: Funghi Alla Pizza! (With bonus Cheat’s Pesto)

I am so very amused by this recipe title, but really, what else could I call it?  If I called it ‘Mushroom Pizza’, that would sound as though I was talking about pizza with mushrooms on it.  Whereas this, my friends, is mushrooms with pizza on it, which I think you will agree is far more exciting!

It started like this:


That’s more than 300g of mushroom in one fine, fungal package there.  I think we can all agree that this is a mushroom that has made an effort.  A mushroom that knows what it wants.  A mushroom that deserves respect.

It is certainly not a mushroom that should be chopped or sliced and braised in a stew or sauté with other vegetables.  That, I am sure, would be wasteful.  No, this sort of mushroom deserves to be served whole, in all its fungal fabulousness.

Thus the advent of the mushroom as pizza base.  I’ve made mushrooms stuffed with pesto before, so that seemed like the place to start with my pizza, but I also couldn’t resist making one in the configuration of the pita bread pizzas I used to make under the grill as a child.

They didn’t look quite as pretty as I’d hoped once they were done, but they tasted *amazing*.  Oddly, I’m not the biggest mushroom fan (just a fan of the biggest mushrooms), but these had just the right amount of mushroominess – they were meaty and satisfying and not even a little bit slimy.  (Where does the sliminess come from, I wonder?  I had slimy mushrooms when I ate out recently, but I’ve never produced them myself – there is clearly a technique to it.  One I wish to avoid.) 

These pizzas – pizzettas?  funghizzettas? – still fall into the ‘light meal’ category, but they would certainly work for lunch, or for dinner with a reasonably substantial dessert.  Which reminds me that I do have a recipe for risotto with strawberries and champagne somewhere…

Your Shopping List

2 enormous mushrooms, or 4-6 portobello mushrooms of more moderate size.  You want about 650 g mushrooms overall.
olive oil spray
salt, pepper
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
250 g bocconcini, or a small ball of mozzarella
tomato paste
1 roasted pepper
For the Cheat’s Pesto
50 g pinenuts
1 tube of Gourmet Garden fresh basil in a tube
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
salt, pepper


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Recipe: Pasta with Ricotta, Herbs and Spring Vegetables

This is the revised version of a recipe I noted down here a while back, because I never really put in any quantities, just typed in the ingredients as I remembered them, because it was late and I was tired!

But the recipe really is too delicious not to be written up properly, and with Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes starting a new Pasta Please monthly challenge with a cheese theme for January, it seemed the perfect time to re-visit this recipe and do a proper version of it.  So here is the new, improved version with actual quantities and also variations!

The quantities I’ve noted below will definitely work, but feel free to experiment or change things – the essence of this dish is pasta, ricotta, and some herbs and vegetables so that you can pretend it isn’t all about the cheese.  You really can’t go wrong with this sort of meal.

Vague shopping list

1 punnet (250 g, approx) shelled broadbeans

1 small bunch of parsley

1 handful each of basil and mint

350 g ricotta

100 g parmesan, grated
25 g salted butter
black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of butter, olive oil, or, ideally, a combination of the two, for sautéing vegetables.
3 spring onions (the long skinny kind)
1 baby fennel bulb
2 small bunches asparagus
3 yellow pattypan squash
350 g rigatone pasta

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Recipe: Vegan Pizza Primavera with Salsa Verde

There seems to be a bit of a theme on this blog recently, doesn’t there?  But what can I say?  It’s Spring! And that is, after all, what Primavera means…

I tend to be much more vegetarian-oriented in the months from about October to April each year.  It’s to do with what’s in season, I think – it’s really not difficult to come up with lovely vegetarian meals based around tomatoes, eggplants, mushrooms, asparagus, beans, corn, zucchini, and all the other lovely things we get around here at this time of year. And the warmer weather encourages shorter cooking times and lighter appetites and fresher tastes. So we will be vegetarian four or five days a week, and sometimes more at this time of year.  Winter is harder – it’s difficult for me, at least, to get truly inspired by meals centering around root vegetables and leafy greens.  I have some, of course, but they are fewer and farther between.  I don’t really like stodgy food, either, and seasonal vegetarian food for winter often is stodgy…

Anyway, this pizza is so brilliant that it really doesn’t matter whether you are a vegetarian, a vegan or an omnivore.  It’s gorgeous whichever way you slice it (and speaking of slices, I recommend scissors for cutting up pizza – good enough for my Nonna, and now good enough for me, too).  It is, I must admit, particularly welcome on a night like tonight, being set out in company with a pumpkin, feta and rocket pizza (for which I must also provide the recipe one day), a conventional sort of pizza with eggplant, salami, roasted peppers, semi-dried tomatoes and mozzarella, and Nigella Lawson’s Meatzza, which is a Margherita pizza with a meatloaf base.  This pizza provides much needed lightness and freshness to the meal, and the salsa verde keeps it zingy.

But it’s pretty fabulous all on its own, too, and we have eaten it as a meal on several prior occasions, without feeling any lack of meat.  Give it a try!

Your Shopping List


1 tbsp dry yeast
1 cup water that is just barely warm to the touch
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups fine semolina or 2 cups high protein flour, or half and half

Salsa Verde

1 cup basil leaf
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup mint
1/4 cup coriander
2 Garlic Cloves crushed
50 g salted Capers well rinseded
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
45ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
a good pinch of salt
freshly ground Black pepper

Vegetable topping

2 bunches asparagus
1 baby fennel bulb
1 small zucchini
300 g cherry tomatoes
6 small mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
oregano, black pepper

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