Classic Basil Pesto

Classic Basil Pesto With an abundance of ripe heirloom tomatoes and Italian basil this month, the two flavors are naturals to be enjoyed together. Doesn't this pesto look like green gold? I started my basil from planted rows of basil seed tape. This was a new method, which looking back worked out well. It took a while for the seedlings to rev up, but with our recent heat, all the basil took off.

I had an abundance of vine-ripened Sun Gold and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes from the garden. The vibrant color alone is so beautiful.  These tomatoes are  ripe, sweet and ready to eat. I halved the cherry tomatoes, and added a little coarse sea salt and pepper. I then set the tomatoes aside, until the pasta was cooked.

I made the Classic Basil Pesto recipe out of the new The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook: Fresh, Healthy Cooking from the GardenSunset mentions that they originally published this recipe in 1959, and back them suggested serving it over sliced fresh mozzarella slices. When I made this recipe, I doubled it. I would not suggest doubling the garlic amount, when doubling the recipe.

I have really enjoyed this new edible cookbook, and would highly recommend it. It is a great natural step for the gardener, and how to best use one's harvest. I like the recipes, the format, and the photos. There are many more tempting pesto recipes to try, too. Parsley-Mint Pistachio Pesto, Swiss Chard Pesto Pasta, Arugula Pesto Farfalle anyone?

Please share  your favorite pesto recipe from the garden.

 

Design With Edibles

Crown of Strawberries I'm sure you have heard of a strawberry patch and a strawberry pot, but have you heard of a "crown of strawberries."  I have had this pair of cherub planters potted with bacopa and a few other trailing plants, but they really took on another look and life when I potted ornamental strawberry edibles in them. Imagine these planters placed on a table for a Sunday brunch.

There is something about using edibles in design, that transcends many styles such as cottage, country, eclectic, European, primitive, and even modern. It just works well. There is a bit of an element of surprise, that also pleases.

Decorative styling with edibles, is borrowing from the European potager kitchen garden concept, using flowers and vegetables intermingled, delivering function and beauty. Flowers and edibles are sensational together for floral designs, tabletop topiary, in the  garden, unusual containers, and where ever your imagination leads you.

Use live plants or  harvested fruit and vegetables to embrace this concept. Think of apples, asparagus, artichokes, green bananas, broccoli, cabbage, cranberries, gourds, lemons, kale, kumquats, oranges, pomegranates, strawberries, squash, and more.

First, your design starts with your container or location. What is it calling for. What form would look best. Is there a color combination that would be nice. Is there a plant combination that would surprise. Is there a function involved. What kind of creative ideas come to mind.

In the example of my two sweet cherub planters, I chose an ornamental strawberry plant, beautiful by itself. Deep green glossy leaves, bright pink flowers, emerging rouge-red ripening strawberries dangling like a crown, all add to its design drama and zeal. It has beauty. It is appealing.  It is growing edible fruit.

Please share if you design with edibles now. Please share some of your fun design combinations.

Warmed Spicy Wassail Recipe

Conceal Your Crock Pot In A Basket At your next holiday gathering, entertain with a warmed punch bowl of Spicy Wassail, recipe from The Sage Cottage Cookbook, 2nd: Celebrations, Recipes, and Herb Gardening Tips for Every Month of the Year. Author Dorry Baird Norris suggests finding an inexpensive basket with a flat bottom that fits your Crock Pot snug, cut an exacting hole on one side for the cord, plug into a nearby electrical outlet,  presto you have the perfect serving vessel to keep your tasty holiday wassail warm.

Don't forget to embellish around your basket edge, as my dear and clever friends did in the photo above. Fresh winter greens, pine needles, and pinecones further entice guests to sample. My friends also suggest this "Crock Pot warming and styling technique" for soups, warm appetizers, and mulled wines. Author Dorry Baird Norris recommends a nice variation on her recipe for a more Christmasy drink, simply replace the recipe's cider with cranberry juice.

Spicy Wassail Bowl Makes 25 6-ounce servings by Author Dorry Baird Norris

1 gallon apple cider 1/3 cup dark brown sugar 1 12-ounce can undiluted frozen orange juice concentrate 1 12-ounce can undiluted frozen lemonade concentrate 1 tablespoon whole cloves 1 tablespoon allspice berries 4 cinnamon sticks (Never substitute ground cinnamon for cinnamon sticks in drinks because it does not blend in.) 1 teaspoon ground mace 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine cider, brown sugar, orange juice, and lemonade in a large pan. Tie cloves, allspice, cinnamon, mace and nutmeg in cheesecloth or muslin and add to cider. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove spice bag and serve hot.

Surrounding yourself with friends and family over the holidays is very special, especially when you share with them a cup of warmed Spicy Wassail. Please pass on the good cheer!

Please comment on what you like to serve to guests around the holidays. What are some of your holiday traditions you would like to share.

Borage Is Bold

Blue Borage Next To Santa Barbara Daisy There is nothing boring about Borage, Borago officinalis. It is the epitome of why herbs are so great, and how you can enjoy them in your garden as well as their many versatile uses.

"Borage is Bold", and has been associated with courage literally, since medieval times by its ability, to make people happy, dispel their melancholy, and comfort the heart.

Borage is an annual garden herb often seen in cottage gardens. It is a culinary herb traditionally, which also has the good fortune of attracting bees with its beautiful vibrant "periwinkle blue" flowers. There is also a white-flowered borage, which is not as common. Borage prefers full sun, little water, and tolerates poor soil. It is a tall plant in the garden, reaching at maturity 2-3' high and and 1-2' wide. Its leaves are hairy and somewhat prickly. It easily self sows in your garden, but does not transplant well.

Borage is a great companion plant for strawberry plants, actually enhancing their fruit flavor and yield. Also, tomato growers will be happy to know that borage enhances tomato vine growth and disease resistance when planted near by. Borage plants are an excellent source of calcium and potassium, so be sure and compost your spent plants.

Blue Borage Flower Ice Cubes

Borage flowers are terrific used as a garnish, decorating, and styling. When my borage is blooming I harvest the "periwinkle blue" flowers and make "borage ice cubes". Imagine "borage ice cubes" bobbing in a refreshing homemade lavender-steeped lemonade this summer.

Borage flowers are one of the best edible flowers to use in your home-grown mixed green salad. Sprinkle your spring and summer salads with edible borage flowers, and your salads will "wow".

Candy your borage flowers for decorating and garnish, by crystallizing them for your special occasion cakes, cookies, and tea breads. Harvest and pick off your borage flower heads by gripping the black stamen tips and gently separate the flower from its green back. Rinse and dry edible borage flowers, holding one flower by a petal in your hand, dip a small unused artist paintbrush into a slightly beaten egg white at room temperature, and cover your entire borage flower. Dust your borage flower entirely with a superfine sugar. Let each flower dry completely on a waxed paper surface till free of moisture. This could be a number of days depending on your humidity. Store your dried, crystallized borage flowers in an airtight container. You probably will want to use them right away, but you could potentially keep them as long as a year. Garnish your desired sweet.

Besides borage flowers, young borage leaves have a slight cucumber flavor, and can be used in many types of recipes, too, such as chopped in fresh salads, added to cheeses, with pastas, and as a substitute for spinach.

My enamor with borage is for its beauty and benefit in the garden, and its fabulous attribute as a styling and decorating garnish. Its many additional uses include cosmetic, medicinal, and further culinary uses such as drinks, sauces, jelly, syrups, and more. Be bold with borage, and add some to your life.

Cake Styling Basics

Add Flair to Your Cakes Cakes are a symbol of celebration. We make cakes for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, a New Year's day, and many more joyous events in our lives. It is fun to add a little personal style to your cake to make it that much more special.

In your shopping adventures look for cake stands that have a little character. If a cake stand has an edge that lends itself to a beautiful ribbon, you can find wonderful and colorful ribbons to thread around your cake stand. I have seen milk glass* cake stands with lots of panache, and lace edges for decoration. I especially like ribbons that have words on it such as, "Happy Birthday", "Enjoy the Little Things", or Lemon Meringue. Whatever you do, be sure and match your ribbon to the season and occasion of your cake.

For instance, if you are making a Halloween Cake, thread an orange ribbon with black polka dots around your cake. If you are having a Fourth of July celebration, why not dress up your cake stand with a ribbon with red, white, and blue stars and stripes. In the above photo, for the holidays this year, I used a festive red and green "Happy Holidays" ribbon.

Cake stands come in many different materials, forms, shapes, and sizes. Use your imagination. All you need is a level surface to hold your size cake, and stability for cutting slices. Use a doily, or anything decorative, and food safe to make a nice setting for placing your cake on.

Don't forget a wonderful garnish for your cake. Take your cue from the recipe you are following. Garnish either on top of your cake, sometimes along the sides, or along the bottom edge of your cake. While a garnish is important, remember "less is more", works best for a cake. You want your finished cake to be visually appealing as well as attractive to eat.

If it is winter or holiday time, confectioners sugar, white icing, and coconut flakes look like snow. Always try and use an icing or some sort of garnish on your cake. It will create a "finished appearance". Chopped nuts, candy, edible flowers, snipped herb tips, and even fruit are nice to use as garnish. You can even decorate with colored icings to create different textures, patterns, and custom looks.

Your friends and family will certainly appreciate your added flair to your home baked cakes. Who knows, you might even peak curiosity from the four-legged members in your family, too.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2009!

-Glossary- *Milk glass: Semi-translucent glass whitened by the addition of various ingredients. Popular in glassware in previous decades.

Butter Leaves

Butter Leaves Add a little flair to your special holiday meals with maple leaf-shaped butter. I found a wonderful "maple leaf" cookie cutter set by Fox Run Craftsmen. The smallest size in the set is a perfect size for a butter pat, 1.25". www.foxruncraftsmen.com.

Take a stick of butter which has been cooled in the refrigerator. Remove paper. Cut 3 or 4 butter pats at a time on a cutting board. Take your cookie cutter and place it in a bowl of warm water, dap excess water on a paper towel or kitchen towel, dab same cookie cutter in a plate of shallow table sugar, and then press your cookie cutter face down into an individual pat of butter. The warmth of your cookie cutter will make an easy outline of a leaf in your butter pat. Remove excess butter around cookie cutter, and remove your finished leaf-shaped butter pat from the cookie cutter. Repeat process till you finish stick(s) of butter. Arrange finished butter leaves on a table-ready dish for serving. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Interesting butter shapes are not limited to leaves. Look for any charming cookie cutter shape that is within the size of a butter pat. One can flavor butter with honey, herbs, or spices beforehand. If you did not want to dip your cookie cutter in sugar, you could use salt.