Spring is technically here, but officially I’m not so sure. Yesterday the temperature topped out at 60 but dropped to 35 in the evening. We’re also at that point in the year, at least for me, where inspiration is challenging. I’m so tired of Winter vegetables and the Spring crop is not quite here. That said, I decided to devote the month of April to herbs. There are so many to choose from and come in two forms: fresh and dry. I thought I would start off by cooking with two of the most popular and generally most used: Parsley and Basil.
Parsley is probably the most popular of all herbs, fresh and dry. You find it in every cuisine and used in so many different ways. Typically it’s used as a garnish, but can also be used as the main ingredient, for example in a tabbouleh. Parsley is a good source of Vitamins A, C and Folic Acid along with anti-inflammatory properties. Generally there are two types of parsley: curly leaf and flat. I use flat leaf almost exclusively, as it has a better flavor for cooking.
Basil has been cultivated for nearly 3,000 years. The most widely used basil is sweet basil, also known as Genovese basil. That is what I have pictured above. It’s perfect for pestos and in salads. During the summer you find many different varieties of basil like purple basil (one of my favorites), Thai and lemon to name just a few. Basil is also found in all sorts of cuisine, but keep in mind you want to used it just at the end of your cooking. The longer it cooks, the less potent it becomes. Fresh basil leaves carry a host of great vitamins and nutrients such as: A, K, Potassium and Iron, to name just a few.
More after the jump…
I got to thinking this weekend about what I could do using both of them. Last week was a particularly busy one for me between catering and Easter so I knew on Monday night I would be looking for something relatively easy to make. On Sunday after church I popped into Eli’s on 80th and Third and picked up some fresh pasta. They had a trio which looked really interesting: beet, spinach and plain.
To go with the beautiful pasta I decided I would make really quick sauce, with just a few ingredients from the ‘fridge. I’m going to share a little bell pepper tip with you: I generally don’t use the top and bottom of the pepper when I am catering. I usually need a perfect flat piece, so I cut them off and put in a zip lock bag. They get chopped up and used when I am cooking for us at home. (I literally never throw any food away!)
Sauté the scallion, bell pepper and garlic with a little red chili flake, for about 5 minutes.
Add in the tomatoes and olives and warm them slightly. Then the fresh pasta gets tossed in.
Right at the end you add in the torn basil and whole parsley leaves. Toss with a little parmesan and serve.
This is the perfect meal on a night where you are just too tired to cook up a storm, but don’t want to do take-out. In less than 30 minutes from start to finish you have a fresh pasta dish with parsley and basil, that’s herbaceous and loaded with flavor. Guaranteed to perk you up after a long day.
To see my quick and easy recipe for Fresh Pasta with Parsley and Basil click here for the recipe.