FARM FRESH NOW Installment #7: Basil 101 & Basil Caprese Salad

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Summer is in full swing, and these Farm Fresh Now installments hopefully are inspiring you to use all that great fresh produce that's in season right now.

The one thing I have in abundance in my yard is basil. We have Purple, Thai, Fine, Genovese and Sweet. I would urge you to play with basil in everything. Throw it in a cocktail. Add it to some cookies (I have a great post on grapefruit white chocolate basil cookies from last month!) or throw it in a fruit salad. Basil is the most diverse herb. Enjoy it's magic deliciousness!


Basil Rules 
Ahhh, basil! Even the word carries a whiff of its invigorating scent.

But it's the aromatic leaves themselves that contain dozens of volatile essential oils. Their relative concentration is the difference between "regular" Genovese basil, Thai basil, Lemon basil, Holy Basil, Cinnamon Basil, African Basil and all the other basils you'll find your local farmer growing.

There are a few rules to remember when buying and using basil.

Rule #1: Use only the freshest basil. The fresher it is, the better it is. The fragrance of basil is never as seductive as when it is first plucked from a live plant and eaten raw, as quickly as possible after plucking. This is why you should think about having a pot of basil of your own - on the kitchen window sill or in your back yard. The next best thing is to get basil from a local farmer at a Farmer's Market or through a CSA.

Rule #2: Don't cook basil - don't even heat it up if you can help it. When adding basil to a pasta sauce or a pizza, do so only at the last minute, while tossing with the pasta or after the pizza has emerged from the oven. Basil pesto too, should always be used raw, never warmed up or cooked.

Rule #3: Stay away from knives. The cut edges of basil will blacken and the overall flavor will be diminished. Instead, simply use whole leaves or tear large leaves into small pieces with your hands before scattering them over a tomato salad, mashing them into a basil butter for corn on the cob, sprinkling on green bean salads, or roasted eggplant, zucchini, or peppers. For more summer fun, experiment with the many scented and colored basils that farmers are now bringing to market, including lemon, anise, Thai, cinnamon, and purple basils.


Rule #4: Use basil only in the summer. This relates back to Rule #1, bringing us full circle. Basil is the ultimate summer herb. Its rich perfume evokes warm sunny days and mouthwatering combinations with other summer vegetables--tomatoes, zucchini, peppers. Sure, you can get it year-round in the grocery store, but like tomatoes, basil tends to be insipid when grown in a greenhouse or flown in from California. Some things in life are definitely worth the wait. Basil is one of them.

Basil Caprese Salad

Ingredients
Several sprigs of basil (use a variety of types!)
4-6 tomatoes (use a variety of colors)
1 pound of fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic glaze
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into ¼ in. slices
  2. Tear leaves off of the basil sprigs
  3. Alternate tomato, mozzarella, and basil leaves
  4. Top with olive oil, more basil leaves (and flowers if you have them), balsamic glaze, and sprinkle with salt
Seasonal Cook's Notes:
Makes about 4 individual salads

RECIPE: Low-Carb Cinnamon Chip Muffins

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Low-Carb Cinnamon Chip Muffins 

Ingredients:

2 cups Bob's Red Mill Low-Carb Baking Mix
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cinnamon chips, roughly chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a large muffin mold pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set pan aside.


In a medium bowl, mix baking powder salt and cinnamon into the baking mix. Set aside.




In a large bowl, whisk water, sour cream, canola oil, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet, using a whisk until just combined. With a fork or spatula, and cinnamon chips and mix until evenly distributed.



Fill the eight large muffin molds two thirds full with the batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until light, fluffy and golden. Let's sit for five minutes, before transferring muffins to a cooling rack to cool down before serving warm.

RECIPE: Tarragon Chocolate Bundt with Double Drizzle

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Tarragon Chocolate Bundt Cake with Double Drizzle 
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients:
nonstick cooking spray 
1 tablespoon cocoa powder 
some breadcrumbs 

cake batter: 
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped roughly 
pinch of salt 
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder 
1 cup of boiling water 
1/4 cup tarragon leaves, roughly torn up
1 cup sour cream at room temperature 
one and three-quarter cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
3/4 cup of butter, softened 
1 cup regular granulated sugar 
1 cup light brown sugar 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
five eggs at room temperature 

drizzles:
#1
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

#2
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk 
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips 
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla 

Directions:
Spray bunt cake pan liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder in the pan, and shake until the pan is coated with cocoa powder. Next, sprinkle breadcrumbs into the pan, and shake the pan again so the inside of the pan is coated with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a good trick to make sure that you're pan is releasing the cake. I have had trouble with bundt cakes coming out of my lame pan before- this is an easy trick, and it does not affect the flavor or texture of the cake. Set the pan aside. 

Preheat oven to 350°, and make sure you have a rack in the middle of the lower part of the oven. In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients, which would be your flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk them slightly, and set aside. 

In another bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, pinch of salt and espresso powder. Make sure the bowl is heatproof. In a small sauce pan, heat the cup of water with the quarter cup of chopped tarragon leaves. Bring water to a boil, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the tarragon steep in the hot water for at least 15 minutes. For stronger tarragon flavor, let sit for 30 minutes. When ready, pull out the tarragon leaves and squeeze any liquid from the leaves into the hot water. Discard the leaves, and if the water has cooled too much gently heat until it's hot again. Pour hot tarragon infused water into your chocolate mixture. Stir until the chopped chocolate has melted and everything is creamy and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled whisk in sour cream into the chocolate mixture. Set aside.

Now we get things really rock'n. 
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with both sugars and vanilla until light and creamy. Reduce the speed and add eggs one at a time, until each is well combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as you add each egg. The batter will become really fluffy. Now reduce the speed to really low, and add 1/3 of your flour mixture. Beat slowly until just combined and add half of the melted chocolate mixture. Beat until just combined. Continue interchanging dry flour ingredients and wet chocolate ingredients, ending on the flour. Stop sometimes as you go, to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Be careful not to over work the batter. 

Pour that decadent batter gently and evenly into your waiting bundt pan. No licking of things until that baby is in the oven. Once it is safely in there, battle over bowl licking with your kid (I did).

Let it bake for about 50-60 min. A toothpick test should have crumbs on it, not wet batter. Once done, let sit on wire rack for 10-15 minutes, and then turn over and invert cake to a cooling rack to cool completely. You may need to run a dull butter knife around the sides to make sure it will come out. Make sure the cake is thoroughly cooled (about 3 hours) before drizzling.

Make the drizzles:

In a small saucepan, gently heat the condensed milk for the tarragon drizzle over medium heat. Add the vanilla and chopped tarragon, and mix. Let cool slightly until it thickens back up to a nice drizzle consistency. Drizzle the top of the cake using a teaspoon and a back and forth motion of your wrist.

In the same pan (a little tarragon in the second drizzle is not a big deal, but if you are a neater baker, get a clean sauce pan) heat the second batch of condensed milk. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla, and stir until all melted and smooth. Let cool again until the glaze thicken up to the right consistency for drizzling. Drizzle over the cake and your first drizzle work, but let some of the lighter colored drizzle peek through in places. The affect of the dark to the light white with green flecks is pretty and dramatic...and well, yummy.






NEW MOMMY CORNER: Important Baby Furniture Needed for your Newborn

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Hello Readers.
Social media and the "interwebs" is an amazing way to meet people and grow your community. Through it I have met amazing and talented people I would not have ever met had it not been through this blog One of the people I have had the pleasure of getting to know is a wonderful new mom, Hillary! Hillary, meet the cyber-world. Hillary is on her new journey of motherhood! She is a mommy-to-be that enjoys learning about starting a new family, safety for her baby, and anything that's cute for her newborn! She is going to share tips, thoughts and advice about her new journey with the world. We are still working out the details, and may add a special section to the blog once we get going, but join me in giving her a warm welcome as she shares some advice on shopping for baby furniture. 

I think it apropos to be launching this addition to the blog on the heels of the Royal Baby's birth, don't chya' think!?
I meant to do that. Uh huh.

Important baby furniture needed for your newborn

By Hillary Farr

When you have a baby, you will quickly realize you need a lot of stuff. Some items are more for fun, but there are many items that are absolute “must haves.” Here is a quick list of the most important items needed for your newborn.

First, you need a car seat. You will not be allowed to leave the hospital with your newborn without a properly installed car seat. Today the car seat options are never-ending and can be quite confusing. A great place to start is the car seat guidance section of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. You will find plenty of useful information on how to select a proper car seat for your needs, recall information, and even locations where you can bring your car seat for an inspection and guidance on its installation.


Another important item for your newborn is a crib. Just like car seats, there are specific guidelines to ensure the safe use of cribs. While many families have cribs that have been passed down through the generations, resist the urge to use them. Even though there is a sentimental value to those types of cribs, reality is they are not as safe as today’s cribs. Original screws are more than likely missing and the size of the slats are not going to be safe. It is best to buy new when it comes to this important baby furniture item. Bambi Baby has a variety of baby crib sets that will meet everyone’s style and budget.
Just as you should purchase a new crib instead of using a hand-me-down, the same holds true for a high chair. Resist the temptation of using the same high chair you used as a child and purchase something new. Make sure the high chair you choose does not easily tip over, is size and age appropriate, and never leave your baby unsupervised while sitting in a high chair. For more high chair safety and selection guidelines, review the information on the American Academy of Pediatrics website.



While it may not seem like a furniture item, the truth is a diaper pail is quite essential! The one diaper pail that has become the de facto standard is the Diaper Genie by Playtex. The technology behind the Diaper Genie is actually patented to keep odors and germs in the pail. Once you start changing diapers, you will agree that a diaper pail is a very important part of any nursery!

FARM FRESH NOW! Special Installment- Local and seasonal food calendar/infographic

Pin It Holy Moly. Is this an awesome infographic from one of my content partners, The Land Connection and Farm Fresh Now! It's the food infographic to end all food infographics. I would print this out and put it on your fridge, and keep track of what to look for in your farmer's market! This is really helpful.

Great job guys! This is pretty stink'n cool. Enjoy!

For the original link, visit http://www.thelandconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/local_food_seasonal_calendar-health-benefits1.jpg 
Feel free to share it with others!


RECIPE: Fried Sage Leaf, Brown Butter and Chicken Pasta

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My daughter LOOOVES roasted chicken, and we have a great little place down the street that you can get a roasted chicken and two sides with pita bread for under 20 bucks. It's an easy dinner solution when we have a busy night. The problem is, we always have left over chicken for a couple days. I guess that isn't a problem if you know what to do with all that chicken. This was a great solution. I adapted this easy recipe from epicurious. I was able to harvest some sage from the abundant plant I have in the yard, and the rest of the ingredients I had on hand. So this was not only easy and delicious, but thrifty! Brown butter is wonderful, but careful when you make it. Once that butter gets browning, things go very fast. Be diligent with stirring and managing your heat so you don't burn things. The whole dish is super quick. The results are wonderful. The sage leaves are like little bits of candy in your pasta.


Fried Sage Leaf, Brown Butter and Chicken Pasta

Ingredients 

8.8 oz. dried egg pasta like pappardelle, fettucini, etc.
8 tablespoons of butter
20 fresh sage leaves, stems removed
1 cup of cooked chicken, roughly chopped (equals to about meat off of about half a breast )
2 tablespoons of beef broth and 3 tablespoons of chicken broth
5 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
healthy dash of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions 


Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about four minutes. Before draining reserve a half a cup of cooking liquid, then drain pasta and set aside.


In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sage leaves, and cook until edges curl and butter becomes a dark amber color, stirring frequently and turning leaves occasionally. This may take up to 6 minutes, but mine only took about 3. With tongs, pull out fried sage leaves, shaking off access butter and drain them on a paper towel.

Meanwhile, add broths to the brown butter as well as the chopped chicken. Give things a good stir and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss in pasta, and if things look a little dry at at this point add some reserved pasta cooking water, a tablespoon at a time. That should loosen things up a little. I ended up using about 4 tablespoons of pasta cooking water. Add Parmesan cheese and fried sage leaves. Toss until everything is combined and heated through. Serve warm with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top. Have the red pepper flakes handy for those that like things a little spicier.

RECIPE: Brown Butter Corn and Gnocchi Pasta Salad

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So here is a pasta salad to end all pasta salads. Brown butter? GNOCCHI!? HONEY GOAT CHEESE? Sweet corn?

Is it dessert?

No. I said it was a salad, didn't I?
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.



Brown Butter Corn and Gnocchi Pasta Salad

Ingredients

1 pound frozen gnocchi ( I hate shelf stable gnocchi)
5 tablespoons of butter, divided (2 for the gnocchi, 3 for brown butter)
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced 
1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
half a lemon, juiced 
3 ears of corn, boiled 
2 ounces of honey goat cheese 
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley 
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped basil 
salt and pepper to taste 

Directions 

Cook gnocchi according to package directions, drain and poor into a large salad bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of butter, then set aside. Cut all the kernels off the 3 ears of corn, and set aside. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Cook butter until foamy, then foam subsides and butter becomes a light amber color. Swirl the pan around to get this color, and keep a close eye on things. Once that light amber color develops, things can turn dark brown to burned very quickly. 

To the brown butter add sliced zucchini, squash, corn, and garlic. Saute 2 to 3 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Take off heat. Add vegetables to the gnocchi in the salad bowl. Toss with juice of half a lemon, chopped parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, let cool slightly. Once cooled for 10 minutes, divide the goat cheese into "hunks" and add it to the salad. Lightly toss carefully. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

adapted from a Kitchn featured recipe (http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-sweet-corn-squash-gnocchi-recipes-from-the-kitchn-173851)

RECIPE: Summer Farro and Grilled Vegetable Salad

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Summer is the time for pasta salads. And if you want to expand your pasta salad repertoire, including whole grains is a healthy and fun way to do so. Farro is one of my favorites. The issue with farro is how long it takes to cook. Farro, as in many ingredients for this salad, can be made ahead of time and then just assembled an hour or so before eating. So you can put some farro on the stove Sunday, then just store it to use later in the week. Or buy what I use now, Trader Joe's 10 minute farro. It's the bomb.

Did I tell you I loved Trader Joe's? Well. I do.
And I love this salad. My husband and I couldn't stop eating it. So good. SO going to be on our dinner rotation all summer long. And my 10 year old liked it, so no worry with the kiddies!

Summer Farro and Grilled Vegetable Salad

Ingredients:
3 cups farro cooked in 4-5 cups boiling chicken broth until tender, then drained*
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 large tomato, seeds and pulp removed and chopped
1 cup canned cannellini beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 large yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, optional

vegetable marinade:
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
two cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon chopped chives
1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:


Place sliced vegetables in an 8 x 8 square pan or shallow dish. In a small bowl whisk together marinade ingredients, adding olive oil last and whisking until emulsified. Add marinade to zucchini and squash and marinade for an hour, jostling and turning the vegetables as they sit in the marinade.




Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly golden brown. Let cool in a small bowl.

In a small sauce pan, heat some hot water until boiling. Add cannellini beans, and blanche in boiling water for about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, shock beans with cold water and let cool. Set cannellini beans aside.


 Meanwhile, make the salad dressing. In a small bowl add the granulated garlic, lemon juice, a dash of salt and pepper. Whisk with the 1/2 cup of olive oil until emulsified. Then in a large salad bowl, mix the cold farro, red onion, chopped tomato, cooled cannellini beans, pine nuts, chopped parsley and basil and toss with a fork. Then add lemon garlic dressing to the mixture. Mix with a fork, and let sit for about 20 minutes while you grill your vegetables. Grill the vegetables over a medium flame on the grill for about five minutes on each side, or just until you have grill marks and the vegetables are tender. Take them off the grill, and chop the vegetables roughly. Don't use all of it. I just used four slices of zucchini and four of the squash. Use your judgment for balance. Add the chopped vegetables to the farro mixture and toss. Adjust seasoning and serve at room temperature. Add some crumbled goat cheese for some extra flair, but it is not necessary.

* Cooking farro can take a while, unless you can get some precooked farro, such as "Trader Joe's 10 minute farro". It really only took about 10 minutes. Follow package directions for your farro, and remember, you can cook it a few days before and just store it in the fridge to use later in this dish. I cook mine in chicken broth for extra flavor. It's worth it. Even throwing a couple of bouillon cubes in your water gives things a flavor boost.

INFOGRAPHIC LOVE: Common Grilling Mistakes

Pin It YAY! I'm restarting my infographic installments.
A: Because I have an obsessive love for them
B: Because I get sent wonderful ones to share with you all constantly
C: I learn stuff all the time from them, and in a graphically pleasing way.

So, here is one for today. I used to post them every Tuesday. But honestly, it was so stressful to remember every. single. Tuesday. I mean. It's just me and my cat working on this blog, ya know. It's my third job. And sometimes I need to sleep. So you'll get maybe an infographic here once or twice a month, as they get sent to me and I think you would find them helpful/enjoyable or as I stumble across them on my own. No stress. Just infographic goodness as it comes.

This great infographic is about common grilling mistakes, sent to me courtesy of
JES Restaurant Equipment (http://www.jesrestaurantequipment.com/jesrestaurantequipmentblog/grilling-tips/.)

My husband does one of these mistakes below. But I shouldn't say anything, should I?
Ok. I'll tell you.
He flattens burgers. He takes that big old manly grilling spatula and SQUISH it goes on those poor burgers.
And I don't even like burgers, really.
I know, weird.

Enjoy the tips!

Easy tips for grilling like a pro! (Infographic)! (Infographic)

Source by JES Restaurant Equipment

FARM FRESH NOW! #6 : 4 Fresh Ideas for a Summer Meal

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It's this week's "Farm Fresh Now!" Installment, and what a treat it is! There are four recipes for the price of one. But here's the rub. I was late posting this. I should have posted this before the 4th, because these ideas would have been great for your BBQs, and definitely what the chefs and folks at The Land Connection intended (I know, I'm sorry.) But truthfully these seasonal recipes would be wonderful for any BBQ this summer. So the way I rationalize my "OOPS! I am posting this late!" is that these are perfect all summer long. So there. Now go make some mint soda. It's probably taking over your yard anyway...as it is mine. I hope you had a great 4th!






Seeking out food from your local farmers is a patriotic thing to do.  Fresh fruits and vegetables connect us in a literal and visceral way to our land, and buying them is good for our local farmers and local economy. And they taste great, and are good for you, too.

So this year, declare your independence from high-fat, high-sugar crackers, chips, dips, cookies, and other processed foods. Swap them out for low-calorie, high-nutrition fruits and vegetables from local farms, and this will be your best Fourth ever!

From cool drinks to grilled vegetable side dishes to grilled peaches for desert, here are four ways to add fresh local foods to your celebration.
 
Cool Mint SodaMint is an all-time favorite for keeping cool in the summer, but chamomile, or lemon verbena, or any herb that strikes your fancy will also work in this recipe.  Double it if you're expecting a crowd.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Mint sprigs for garnishing
Sparkling water

Instructions
1. Make simple syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Turn the heat off and stir in the chopped mint leaves. Let sit for a couple of minutes. When the mixture is cool, strain the mint leaves out.
3. Add two to four tablespoons (to taste) of the mint syrup to a glass of sparkling water. Add a mint sprig as a garnish.

Grilled Stuffed Peppers
Use red, yellow, or green bell peppers, or Italian or Hungarian sweet peppers.

Ingredients
3 sweet peppers, halved
8 oz mozzarella cheese (sliced)
1 large tomato, chopped
6 sprigs basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive Oil

Instructions
1. Cut each pepper in half and remove seeds.  Fill each pepper with the chopped tomato, and drizzle olive oil over the top of the tomatoes.
2. Add a slice of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, and then add a dash of salt and pepper and a sprig of basil.
3. Place the filled pepper halves on a hot grill, but not directly over the flame.  Cover and grill for about 30 minutes, or until the pepper is soft.

Parsley Pesto Potatoes, Grilled
Herb pesto is quick and easy to make in a food processor. Make a double batch, and use the extra on crackers or sandwiches.

Ingredients
1 cup fresh parsley, removed from the stems
1 cup pecans (you can substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
¼ cup hard cheese such as romano, grated
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
1 to 2 pounds small new potatoes (or large potatoes cut into chunks)

 Instructions
1. To make the parsley pesto, put all the ingredients, except the potatoes, into a food processor and blend until well mixed.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the potatoes with the pesto.
3. Place the potatoes on a piece of foil on a hot grill, away from the direct flame. Cover the grill and cook until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.  When you can easily pierce them with a fork, they're done.

Grilled Peaches with Tart Cherries
While the grill is still hot, make this quick, easy, and delicious dessert.  If you have a big group, slice up some local watermelons, muskmelons, and honeydew melons on the dessert table alongside these peaches.

Ingredients
3 peaches
1 cup tart cherries, pitted
½ cup honey
Olive oil

Instructions
1. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Coat the peaches in olive oil.  If you have a citrus-infused olive oil, that is particularly nice!
2. Fill each peach half with some cherries, and drizzle with honey.
3. Place the peaches on the medium-hot grill for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft.

Seasonal Cook's Notes: Let food freedom ring! What are you cooking up with local foods for the Fourth? Send us your photos and links to the recipes you used, and we'll share them with our 1,000+ Facebook followers.  If you'd like to include your name, location, and a caption for your photo, we'll share that as well.  Send to Amanda@thelandconnection.org.


The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers' market or CSA nearest you, or visit www.localharvest.org

Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Article b

RECIPE: Potato, Green Bean and Pesto Pasta

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I love pesto.
In fact, I'm a little obsessed.
Which is funny considering that my off-the-boat-Italian parents not only don't like pesto, never made pesto for us growing up, and come from the south of Italy where pesto isn't even a "thing". So I am not sure where my obsession comes from, but it's here to stay. And with that obsession comes countless basil plants. They're like Tribbles in my yard (nod to you Trekkies out there.) You got your Genovese, Sweet, Lemon, Thai, Fine...you name it, we're growing it.
So I have tried many pestos with my abundance of basil plants. But my eyes perked up when I saw the Cooks Illustrated article that talked about the original pesto from Liguria, Italy. The original recipe uses potatoes (GASP! A DOUBLE CARB? EWW.)
But after reading the article, the chef/author explains that the potatoes add a creaminess to the pesto that is to die for. SO I played with this recipe, and it was so good I had to share. For the original go here: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes

I punched up the garlic a little from the original, added lemon juice to the pesto versus at the assembly part. I thought the lemon juice would help keep the basil fresh and from darkening up while it sat. I used less pasta water, and of course-more cheese.

We ate this al fresco on the deck and it was simply perfect. My 10 year old belonged to the clean plate club that night.


Potato, Green Bean and Pesto Pasta

Ingredients:
1/2 cup pine nuts, plus extra small handful for good measure (I like pine nuts)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
1lb. red potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces green beans trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. good quality, whole wheat semolina large shells
2 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
extra grated Parmesan for garnish

Directions:





First toast the pine nuts in a large skillet with the garlic on medium heat. Garlic will begin to blister and brown in small areas while the pine nuts get toasty. Keep stirring the ingredients in the pan so everything browns evenly and you don't burn your pine nuts. Transfer pine nuts and garlic to a bowl and let cool. Once garlic is able to be handled, chop it up roughly. Meanwhile in a food processor add basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, cooled pine nuts and garlic. Top with 1/2 tsp. salt and process until a paste forms. Next, add the olive oil while pulsing so that the paste becomes the consistency of a creamy sauce. Set pesto aside until ready to use.


Now, take that skillet you browned your garlic and pine nuts in and add about an inch of water with 1 tablespoon of salt and heat to a boil. Add the green beans to the water, and cover to cook the green beans for about 5 to 7 minutes. When green beans are tender, drain in a colander and shock with cold water. Set aside.

In a large stockpot boil about 3 quarts of water. Once water is boiling add 1 tablespoon of salt and add cut potatoes. Cook potatoes until fork tender but still hold their shape, between 10-12 minutes. Once done, use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to where you're keeping your green beans. DO NOT discard the water, you'll need that cooking water for finishing the pesto sauce, as well as cooking the pasta. To that end, heat the potato water back up to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook according to package directions until the pasta is al dente (usually around 9 minutes.) But before draining the pasta, take a heatproof measuring cup and a soup ladle, and measure 1 1/4 cups hot pasta water. Set the hot water aside, and drain your pasta at this point. Return drained pasta back to the stockpot for full assembly.

To the pasta add the butter, potatoes, green beans and all the pesto sauce. Give everything a good stir, then add half of your 1 1/4 cups reserved cooking water with some fresh ground pepper. Stir the pasta water in with the dish, and see if you need a little more water. What you want is a nice, creamy consistency but not watery. So only add half the water at first and see where you are at. I find that if you add too much water, the whole thing gets watery. I added about a cup in mine and had a quarter cup leftover. Depending on the starchiness of your potatoes and how thick your pesto turned out, you may need more or less. Use your judgment. Adjust the salt, and serve warm with a healthy garnish of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

RECIPE: Grapefruit, White Chocolate Chip and Basil Cookies

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You know when you're over-zealous at the grocery store sometimes, then weeks later regret it? Like when I see a giant bag of Ruby Red grapefruits from Texas (Texas, only Texas. Trust me on this one.) I grab that bag who's sheer girth could kill someone, and gleefully haul it all the way home. But 5 days later, there are 1 or 2 sad little dusty grapefruits left at the bottom of the fruit bowl. And you would tackle someone for an Egg White Delight from McDonald's rather than eat another grapefruit for breakfast?

Yeah. That.

Well, the lonely grapefruits were sadly looking at me, and I decided to do some baking with them. I had an overabundance of basil that needed trimming as well, and I knew basil went well with citrus as well as white chocolate. SO voila-here's my yummy experiment. It was a big success. We all keep eating them this week, and are visiting the tennis court tonight to work the calories off-even our daughter.

They are pretty dangerous, and the grapefruit I used I'm sure isn't sad any longer. I know I'm not. Mmmm-M.

Grapefruit, White Chocolate Chip and Basil Cookies 

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
6 tsp. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tsp. grated grapefruit zest
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil
1 drop red food coloring (optional)

Directions: 




Preheat oven to 375°. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Then add egg, vanilla, zest, one drop of red food coloring, basil and juice. Whip until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt with a fork. Put mixer on the low setting, and gradually add the flour to the wet batter. Mix until well combined, but be careful to not over mix. Add white chocolate chips by hand with a spatula until well distributed.


Drop batter by the tablespoonfuls about 2 " apart on a parchment/foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping sheets midway through baking time for even browning. Cookies should be lightly golden on the top and set. Once done, let cookies sit on baking trays for about five minutes to settle, then use a metal spatula to carefully transfer cookies onto a cooling rack. Store in airtight container for up to a week.

But to give you fair warning, they won't last that long.
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