Eating from the garden

28th June, 2011 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Basil, shrimp and pasta

Many chefs are also very talented gardeners – which makes sense. If a person wants to have total control over as many of their ingredients as possible, growing their own is the logical conclusion. Kitchen gardens have a long and proud tradition and we are lucky enough to live in an area with a long growing season. Many of the top chefs in this country are scouting locations with ground space for a garden.

I am not a chef with a green thumb. However, basil is one of the few plants I can actually grow successfully.¬† Which is good, because I love it. Basil is also currently available in large amounts for very low prices at most of the area’s farmers markets.

Basil has a distinctive spicy, slightly peppery flavor that pairs well with strong flavors like lemon, garlic and wine. It’s native to the Mediterranean and as a result turns up throughout history. The ancient Greeks¬† believed to be an aphrodisiac and the scent of it on a woman was supposed to keep her man faithful to her. The flowers are sometimes given as a love token in Italy.

When it comes to cooking, stick to the fresh stuff. Dried basil is available, but there’s really no comparison to the leafy greens – especially this time of year. The recipe below calls for classic Italian basil, but sweet basil and purple Thai basil are also available and would work equally well.

This dish is designed to be cooked over a grill. If a grill isn’t available, the whole thing can be done under a broiler in the oven. Either way, boiling the water for the pasta is the longest part, making this a great weeknight diner. It’s also tasty hot or cold and it can be made in advance and assembled right before eating.

Most gardens are swimming in zucchini right now, but before throwing any old thing on the fire choose carefully. The larger zucchinis tend to be seedy and a little tough. Hollow these out and fill them with stuffing, then bake. The smaller zucchinis can be sliced in half, brushed with oil and grilled lightly.

The dressing will work equally well with asparagus or chicken instead of shrimp. No matter what you do, eat outside and try not to get burned.

Pasta with Shrimp and Basil Vinaigrette

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2-ounce packages fresh basil leaves, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined

1 pound gnocchi pasta or orecchiette pasta

4 zucchini, halved lengthwise
Olive oil

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Combine 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard small bowl. Gradually mix in 1/3 cup olive oil. Mix in chopped fresh basil. Place shrimp in medium bowl. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, brush zucchini on both sides with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill until charred, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Add shrimp to grill and cook until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to large bowl. Cut zucchini crosswise into 1-inch pieces and add to shrimp.

Drain pasta well. Add to bowl with shrimp and zucchini. Add basil vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve pasta warm or at room temperature.

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Posted on: June 28, 2011

Filed under: Dinner

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