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Mint Basil Chip Popsicles

Infusing fresh herbs into cream is what makes these Mint Basil Chip Popsicles unforgettable

So much can change in a year. If I looked back on my life, I always knew where I was going or at least tried to play a good game. From high school to journalism school. From j-school to grad school. And then things completely went off the rails.

What looked like a future in India became a present in the Bay area that painted sweeping strokes of a new future. I stayed tuned into the possibility of rethinking where I was headed until one very decisive moment of the kind of vocational meltdown that can only happen in a public place. In a darkened movie theater, the heroine of the flick made a decision anyone else might think is career suicide. And, in the end, she re-envisioned a life for herself that was good and whole. What sprang unexpectedly into an emotional moment was the idea that somewhere I had lost my way. Could I get it back? I sat there, unexpectedly weeping during this scene of The Devil Wears Prada?!  My boss a few seats down. Hoping against hope that she wouldn’t see me with her laser intuition and grill me.  Instead, Anne Lamott saw me as I approached her hustling a few popcorn kernels into her mouth while in a lobby line for another movie. We didn’t say much. She didn’t need to. A beacon of light only has to shine.

And thus began a tiptoeing back to consider what my future might hold and how I might claim it. Perhaps it seems like a misstep to follow that drumbeat rhythm taking you deeper into your story, but mine led me to poetry school and gratefully, a husband, a house, two cats. Not at all the life I thought my wanderlust leanings would go.

One of the cats heard the siren song of the Mint Basil Chip Popsicles

And yet, we surprise ourselves all the time, don’t we. Finding an appetite for peas as an adult that we abhorred as children. Circling back to the classical music of childhood when contemporary music doesn’t quite cut it. Infusing fresh farmer’s market herbs into cream for something with a bit more oomph but that still hits all the right keys for my Mint Chip ice cream loving heart. Mint Basil Chip Popsicles are this year’s gold star pick on a wooden stick.

It’s popsicle week. Last year I narrowly missed it by a few days with my Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles but followed along swooning over the wide range of flavors. Last year was the deluge of good work writing, shooting, and planning that continues on into this year. It’s not where I expected to be when dreaming of the future as a child, but I can’t envision any other future better than this one. We make our lives or they make us?

The secret to Mint Basil Chip Popsicles is fresh chervil. It lends an herbal note you can't quite put your finger on.

Mint Basil Chip Popsicles

The inspiration for the base of these popsicles came from a visit to Tartine Manufactory and a swirl of their fior di latte herbal soft serve. I prefer my chocolate chipped in chocolate chip ice cream and accomplished the right texture using either the small or large holes on a box grater.

Makes about 8 popsicles

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups fresh mint leaves (about 1 bunch)
1 cup fresh basil leaves (about 2 robust sprigs)
1/2 cup fresh chervil leaves (about 9 slender sprigs)
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated

Bring the cream, milk and sugar to boil. Whisk to prevent scorching. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and cook for  2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Infuse the mint, basil, and chervil in the hot cream for 30 minutes. Strain out the leaves. Stir the chocolate shards into the infused liquid. Pour the liquid into the popsicle molds, filling them ¾ of the way. Leave no chocolate behind–spoon any remaining chocolate shards into the wells. Freeze for an hour. Insert the popsicle sticks. Freeze for 3 more hours.

Grating the chocolate for these Mint Basil Chip Popsicles gives you that classic chipped chocolate texture.

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Recipes

Tomato Basil Baked Oatmeal

Tomato Basil Savory Baked Oatmeal | The Food Poet

Whoever first stirred a pot of hot steel-cut oats did themselves and the world a favor. Hailed for its high fiber and stick-to-your-ribs qualities, oatmeal might be the grandfather heavyweight of breakfasts. Indeed, I worked with a man named Bob who would make a bowl of quick oats for breakfast and lunch, though I can’t speak on behalf of his dinners. He claimed he ate it for heart health and because he couldn’t think of anything that could surpass this economic convenience food.

Like Bob, you might already be a fan of oatmeal. Perhaps you pour milk into your hot oats. Maybe you drizzle in a slow stream of maple syrup. Before you reach for your sliced banana or impulsively unzip the bag of dried cranberries, I’m about to say something a bit unpopular.

In the wake of its massive groundswell of consumption, oatmeal has gotten short shrift. Poor oatmeal has been consigned to a neverending buffet of breakfasts. Something about this whole grain has pigeonholed it too easily into the before 10 a.m. meal bracket. The years of palate conditioning have provoked a response to reach for those familiar aforementioned ingredients to jigger up a bowl of breakfast. Perhaps I’m being irrational- I can’t think of anything better to eat on cold winter mornings, but maybe there was a lesson to be learned from Bob’s mealtime habit years ago. Why relegate this whole grain to winter mornings and let the midday and evening opine?

I’m not advocating for turning out sheet upon sheet of oatmeal raisin cookies, which might just be the crunchy equivalent of that morning bowl of oats in round, portable form. No, I want more for us. Let’s unshackle the pot of oatmeal from the breakfast bar. Let’s wrest it from the middling, and, may we say, boring place it currently holds. Instead, let’s bring oatmeal into a sophisticated side dish that’s easy to prepare, colorful and full of comforting flavors reminiscent of the end of summer.

Enter Tomato Basil Savory Baked Oatmeal, a mistake sponsored by hunger, and one that satisfied on several levels. Last September, when the tomatoes began roundly asserting themselves in farmer’s markets and local stores, several ventured home with me. Our San Francisco summers officially begin in October and so on that chilly sixty-degreed September morning, I craved something hearty and only oatmeal would do. But, I also lusted after a fresh egg cracked into a sizzling pan and served over easy.  Before I knew it, the egg had leapt on top of the oats and basil joined the fray along with its best pal, tomato. All that remained was a deft hand to shave some parmesan atop. What happened next is the stuff of secret societies- some great truth had been passed down and like all with an inclusive bent, it needed to be shared. But, then the vine dried. The breakfast faded into memory.

If you look into your produce bin, perhaps you spy a tomato or two? Out back, maybe shoots of basil bask in the sun? The fridge should never be bereft of a good hunk of parmesan- do you see it lurking in the cheese drawer? In your possession are three of the star players in this Tomato Basil Baked Oatmeal. You are on your way to bypassing staid side dishes. Because you may not have a quart sized jar of oat groats in the cupboard, visit the bulk bin and scoop deeply. The crusty parmesan cheese burnished into the top of this casserole will pay back your efforts. May you take heart in the green ribbons of basil and red hunchbacked tomato slices punching in overtime on color. May your tongue do a tango as it takes in the custardy filling and chewy whole oat groats reminiscent of a corn pudding.

In other words, now is the season to exult and rejoice in the bounty before fall arrives. Then it will be time for popsicles- if you live in San Francisco. And, as for breakfast, perhaps you will pull a dinner ingredient into the before 10 slot. Or, make this for brunch, giving homage to Bob.

Tomato Basil Baked Oatmeal | The Food Poet

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TOMATO BASIL BAKED OATMEAL

YIELD: 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS

3 small tomatoes

1/3 cup basil

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 cups cooked oat groats, cooled

2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375. Dip a paper towel into your cooled melted butter and swipe it over a square pan and cover its surface lightly with the melted butter.

Rinse and core the tomatoes. Cut them in half and then cut each half into 1/4 inch slices. Using a grapefruit or tomato spoon with teeth, pull out the guts of the tomato slices and discard.

Pull off basil leaves from their stems and stack them on top of one another. Once you have around 15, curl the leaves into one another like you might roll dried fruit leather. Curb your left hand fingers over the basil roll-up and with a chef’s knife in your right hand, begin chopping right to left with precise straight cuts to get the basil ribbons from the chiffonade.

Stir the baking powder and cooked oat groats into a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, remaining butter, salt and pepper. Stir in the 1/3 cup of grated parmesan to the egg mixture.

Arrange half of the tomato slices in the bottom of the square pan, scattering half of the basil ribbons over them. Spoon out all of the oat groats. On top of the oat groats, arrange the other half of the tomato slices and basil ribbons. Pour the egg batter over the tomato basil and oats until all of it is covered. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of remaining grated parmesan on top.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the top is browned and the contents of the pan do not jiggle when jostled. Cool for 5-10 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

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Spanish Lentil Mushroom Stew

The meal after the Meal- I have been contemplating Black Friday in a new way this year. None of the scheming and planning for wee morning hour wake-up calls to shop. Oh, no. As home cooks across the country are putting into action this week’s game plan for Thanksgiving, I’ve set my eyes on Friday.

Thanksgiving should require its own lexicon. It starts on Sunday when the candies get made. Tuesday might as well be dedicated to pie day as pie crusts get filled with gooey pecans and syrup or with spiced pumpkin puree. Wednesday becomes the day for making any side dishes that can sit overnight to let the flavors meld. And we all know what Thursday means, or at least our belts know what it means.

This year I wanted to take a different approach to the day after Thanksgiving, usually a repeat of leftover favorites refashioned into day-after delivery or served up in the array most beloved by each participant. This year, while in Texas, I wanted to bring a bit of California to the table or at least, the way we usually eat chez nous. It saddens me to think that while my Dad was alive I didn’t really get a chance or make the effort to cook for him. I know that one Thanksgiving I had a chance to contribute a salad, done my way and he, the antagonist of “rabbit food” ate it and enjoyed it. And cooking is after all one of my love languages I can imagine many of us speak to the people we love.

So, in the spirit of bringing California to Texas, I’ve decided to make the meal vegetarian. It’s not some sort of political statement, as I can put down smoked brisket with the best of them, but it reminds me of the home and style of living and eating we have cultivated in California. This opportunity arrives for me to make a succulent feast of fresh foods bursting with seasonal flavor. After all of the tryptophan and Red Rooster imbibing of Thursday, Friday is a chance to turn a corner in a different direction.

_________________________________

B L A C K   F R I D A Y   M E N U

Appetizer
Sweet Potato Crostini with Celery Parsley Salad, Lemony Yogurt and Pomegranate Seeds

Salad
Massaged Kale Salad with Persimmons, Cranberries, Chevre & Toasted Almonds

Main
Spanish Lentil Mushroom Stew
Grilled Organic Polenta

Dessert
Yogurt Pudding with Spiced Pear Compote

___________________________________

I kept my tastebuds open and exploring the past few months, testing recipes and ideas of foods that would work for this Black Friday Feast  and be family-approved. This Spanish Lentil Mushroom Stew below by Michael Natkin completely bowled me over. The sherry vinegar and paprika give a heartiness to the mushrooms and lentils. Below, the stew is served with sliced Early Girl tomatoes and basil. Since they are not quite in season right now, we will be foregoing them and I might opt to offer some quick-pickled onions or some such notion. Who knows, maybe this is a family tradition in the making?

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew

 

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SPANISH LENTIL MUSHROOM STEW
From “Herbivoracious” by Michael Natkin. Reprinted with permission.

YIELD: 4-6 servings

5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small white onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

kosher salt

2 cups French green lentils, rinsed and picked over

4 cups water

1 pound Crimini mushrooms, quartered lengthwise

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

12 big basil leaves, rolled into a bundle and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)

freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Drain.

2. While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in your largest skillet over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the mushrooms in a single layer and sauté, turning occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. If your skillet isn’t big enough to hold the mushrooms in one layer, work in batches. Season the mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. Put the lentils in a mixing bowl and add the smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of the sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Toss the cherry tomatoes and basil with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

5. To serve, divide the lentils among bowls. Top with the mushrooms, and top the mushrooms with the tomato salad. Give the whole thing a grind of black pepper and another dusting of paprika if you like.

 

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Chopped Carrot Basil Salad

This past weekend my cousin Erika flew up to the city by the Bay for a visit with her son, who we will call the Wedding Cake Bandit. We call him that because a very clever wedding photographer caught a somewhat clever ring-bearer right before he deposited his index finger in our wedding cake on our big day. This remains one of my favorite wedding memories and can only endear me more to this little one so full of mischief and spirit like someone else I know. Ahem.

mother-child

You love someone deeply not just because they are family, but because in some ways they tell your story back to you when you forget it. You don’t think anything could make your love grow for them and then you meet their progeny. Something about the child that they bear and raise makes you ridiculously invested and protective of their innocence and life.

You are not their mother. Yet, you mother. The mother and the child.

mother-child

The mother, the child, Beck and I set out for a grand tour of San Francisco, which is to say, this time, included one visit to see Claude, the albino alligator, an adventure filled with baskets of ollalieberries, and an early morning trek for some Early Girls.

updo

As Erika and I shared stories from childhood, we, in turn, were making memories that her little one will remember and if he doesn’t, then we will be the mirrors in which he can populate the stories for when he grows up. I made sure to sneak in daily visits to the park for us, sometimes including feeding the ducks and trying to avoid the pigeon gaggle descending from on high. We also made sure to work in several visits to the giant slide and once made our way through the dog run to see my favorite Frenchie I call “the boss” chase after his dingy well-loved tennis ball.

celebration

Three birthday celebrations later and the end of the weekend snuck up on us. After a Mexican feast capped off with Gluten Free Carrot Cupcakes, a Puerto Rican themed party with a piñata and smorgasbord of farmer’s market finds, we found ourselves tuckered out from all of our excursions and celebrating. Isn’t that what the summer, even a summer in San Francisco is all about? Granted, borrowed sweaters are peeled off at the midday burning off of fog.

celebration

After splurging on treats and waiting in the abysmally long line for one swell Blue Bottle latte, at the end of all the celebrating and at the beginning of returning to life as usual, a call for summer simplicity is in order. After dirtying every plate, platter and serving bowl in your cupboard, in the end, you might find something that requires one serving bowl sufficient. Here’s where this summer salad comes in. It flirts with your taste buds and is a snap to put together. In the lazy summer evenings where the sunlight pokes through the fog well past 7 p.m., something unfussy, you can pull together is as good as the memories you created all weekend long.

SALAD RECIPES- Chopped Carrot Basil Salad

 

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CHOPPED CARROT BASIL SALAD 

Something about the sweetness of carrots and basil is a revelation. It takes a lot of strength of will to not just slice up the Early Girl tomato and eat it as is, but this combination is so mellow and life-giving. From the creaminess of the avocado, the bright tang of the tomato, a fruity splash of good olive oil and the sweetness emanating from carrots and basil, I think you might find yourself and guests polishing off this colorful salad easily.

YIELD: 4 servings

  • 1 bunch of Carrots
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 Early Girl tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Arbequina or other fruity olive oil
  • dash of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Set a pot of water to boil. In the meantime, wash your carrots. Peel them and roughly chop. Once the water is boiling, set the carrots gently in the water and turn down the heat to a gentle rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Place carrots in a colander and let them drain when cooked through.
  2. Place basil leaves inside one another and roll them to then thinly chop in a chiffonade.
  3. Next, chop your tomato.
  4. Slice your avocado.
  5. Place carrots, basil, tomato chunks and avocado slices in a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a few cracks of black pepper.

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Asparagus Artichoke Basil Rosettes

VEGETARIAN RECIPES- Asparagus Artichoke Basil Rosettes

 

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Asparagus Artichoke Basil Rosettes

YIELD: 7 servings (2 per person based on 14 rosettes)

When it comes to food for celebrations, we want to pull out all the stops. Initially, thinking about making these rosettes had me sweating bullets, but I conquered my fear and these were worth it! The variations and ideas for sauces is pretty limitless. For the filling, I used artichoke bottoms from a can because that’s what I had on-hand, but feel free to try these with steamed artichoke hearts instead.

ASPARAGUS SAUCE
1 pound asparagus

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon olive oil

2 small cloves garlic, crushed

¼ cup whole milk

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

Dash of freshly cracked black pepper

 

LASAGNA
1 package curly edged lasagna noodles

 

ARTICHOKE FILLING
½ cup (5) Cento brand artichoke bottoms

½ cup fresh homemade ricotta

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash of freshly cracked black pepper

 

1. Set water to boil in a large soup pot. While it’s heating up, chop off the ends of asparagus near bottom of green part and before the pale ends (which can be hard to chew and stringy). Place asparagus in steamer basket in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes until asparagus turns bright green.

2. Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil into small sauté pan and add chopped basil leaves. Simmer until toasted. Remove from heat.

3. Drain asparagus and move spears to food processor receptacle. Add in crushed garlic cloves, basil leaves (and oil from pan), egg, salt, pepper and pour in milk. Puree until almost smooth (a little bit of chunkiness lends something rustic to this dish).

4. Wash out soup pot and then fill with 4-6 quarts of water. Set over high heat and cover until boiling. Add in lasagna noodles and turn heat down to medium. Let lasagna noodle sheets cook until al dente about 8-9 minutes based on package instructions. Stir occasionally and gently, taking care not to break noodle sheets.

5. While noodles are cooking, pour your asparagus sauce into a small serving bowl and then clean out the food processor receptacle. Once clean, transfer the artichoke bottoms and fresh homemade ricotta to the food processor receptacle along with cracked black pepper and kosher salt to taste. Puree until smooth.

6. Transfer artichoke ricotta filling to a small serving bowl.

7. Drain the lasagna sheets in a colander, taking care to rinse them with cold water, to help prevent sticking and also to make them easier to handle.

how to make lasagna rosettes

8. Take 1 lasagna sheet and set on a clean countertop. Take a tablespoon from your cutlery drawer and fill with artichoke ricotta (about 1 T filling per lasagna sheet). Set the tip of your spoon down in the middle of the lasagna noodle and drag it in a straight line, taking care to ensure even distribution. Then pinch the two corners together, like you would folding a sheet or blanket and begin to roll inward like a pinwheel.

rolling asparagus artichoke basil rosettes

making lasagna rosettes

You want to make sure they are tight both as you roll them and tight in the casserole dish. (I used a measuring cup to keep the rosettes from moving in the casserole dish and to keep them tight until enough of them were in the dish.)

tips on making lasagna rosettes

tightly packed in casserole dish

9. Keep rolling until you’ve used up your supplies. (In my case, I found a few of the lasagna sheets were mangled or falling apart so I only used the ones that were perfect which resulted in 14 rosettes. With this recipe, you can easily make 18, but that again is contingent on the shape of the noodles).

10. Once the casserole dish is full, carefully pour the asparagus basil sauce over the rosettes evenly so as to ensure even distribution over all rosettes. Refrigerate overnight.

11. On the evening you’re planning to serve the rosettes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven is heated up, cook for 15 minutes.

 

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Sweet Pepper Tilapia

FISH RECIPES- confetti-tilapia

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Sweet Pepper Tilapia

This would be great served with brown rice or another whole grain. It’s light and cool for these hot summer days. I served it with zucchini ribbons, but that’s a recipe for another day.

YIELD: 2 servings

  • 2 tilapia filets
  • 4 sweet peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Meanwhile slice your peppers and onion.

3. Lightly grease pan with olive oil. Place fish in pan. (We used frozen tilapia so no need to defrost).

4. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and then sprinkle the sliced onion, peppers and capers over the fish. Dust with the spices and pinch of kosher salt.

5. Cook for 25 minutes. You can serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the fish. Lemon seems to always be a great complement to fish.

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