Tag Archives: fresh herbs

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

A Caprese Salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled summer meats: chicken, steaks, pork, even hamburgers. Made with summer fresh tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, and a reduced balsamic glaze, it just screams summer and healthy eating.

Caprese Salad 1

I like to make a “chopped” version of the salad with various cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella pearls. I drizzle this with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve the balsamic reduction on the side so that the tomatoes and cheese don’t soak up too much vinegar before serving.

I love these little “mozzarella pearls”. They are perfectly bite-sized:

Image result for mozzarella pearls   Pearls

If you are short on time, you can serve this with straight balsamic vinegar, but it is so worth the little time it takes to reduce the vinegar to a stronger syrupy consistency. I usually reduce an entire bottle of vinegar and then store the left-overs  in the refrigerator. You can also infuse some delicious flavors into your reduction while you are at it, things like fresh herbs and garlic. Some people add additional honey or sweetener to the reduction, but I find balsamic vinegar to be plenty sweet without additional sweetener.

If you don’t want to do the chopped version of this salad, you can also make it in the more traditional format with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella:

Caprese Salad 3

Tomorrow we officially begin our summer break (after a final half-day of school). This salad will be a frequent side dish on our table.

Caprese Salad 2


Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup mozzarella pearls
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced in thin strips (chiffonade)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
about ¼ cup Balsamic Reduction

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve Balsamic Reduction on the side to be drizzled over salad just before eating.

Balsamic Reduction

1 (16 oz) bottle balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs honey, optional (I DO NOT add honey)
2 whole cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vinegar reduces by about half and thickens to a thin syrup. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Remove garlic, bay leaf, and herbs (strain if necessary). Cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 cup glaze



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Filed under Appetizers, Salads, Side Dishes


Ratatouille 1

The transition from summer to fall is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.

Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!

Ratatouille 2

This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).

Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.

This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.

I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.



Ratatouille 2

½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*

Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.

*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs.


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Filed under Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Soups/Stews/Curries

Sliced Baked Potatoes with Herbs and Cheese


Just a quick post today for a great potato side dish. These have everything I love in a potato dish: butter, crispy edges, fresh herbs, gooey cheese, did I mention butter and cheese?

The recipe at the end has quantities for 4 large potatoes, but this is a recipe I usually don’t measure for. You can use any kind of potato, peeled or unpeeled. I usually use unpeeled, but these red potatoes  had skins that had seen better days, so off they came.


Start by cutting the potatoes into slices, but not all the way through. You want the bottom edge of the potato to remain intact. An easy way to do this is to place wooden spoons on either side of the potato as a cutting guide.


Cut until you hit the handle

Place your sliced potatoes in a baking dish. Melt butter and pour over the potatoes, using your fingers or a fork to get butter in between potato slices. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt (again trying to get some between the slices).


I love using fresh herbs with this, but in the winter I will often use dried Italian seasoning. Push a little between the slices. I used fresh oregano and thyme between the slices this time, and then sprinkled fresh chives over it all. The potato slices will open up more as they cook.

Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Once or twice during cooking, spoon melted butter from the bottom of the pan over potatoes. Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.


Ooey-gooey-cheesy-crusty-herbed-potato goodness!


Sliced Baked Potatoes with Herbs and Cheese


4 large baking potatoes
¼ cup melted butter (plan on 1 Tbs per potato)
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2-3 Tbs chopped fresh herbs (or 2-3 tsp dried):
try basil, thyme, oregano, chives, or Italian seasoning
¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan (other cheeses would be good as well)

Wash and dry potatoes; peel if desired. Cut into thin slices, but not all the way through the potato (use the handle of a wooden spoon placed alongside the potato to prevent cutting all the way through). Place potatoes in a baking dish. Sprinkle with butter, salt, and herbs, getting some between each slice.

Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. Once or twice during cooking, spoon melted butter from the bottom of the pan over potatoes. Top with cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes.



Filed under Side Dishes

Pizza with Roasted Zucchini Pomodoro Topping

Copy of DSC01851Last week the weather turned cold, and it was time to bring in all of the remaining vegetables and herbs. Some of these things will be dried or frozen, but I took the opportunity to use some of the last of our oregano and thyme to make this pizza topping.

Copy of DSC01809

This recipe came my way from a good friend Amelia, who had given it to my daughter, Middle K. M-K was working on a project where she had to plan and prepare all of the meals for our family for two weeks. I was surprised that she chose such a healthy pizza option as one of her dinners, but I am so glad that she did. We have made it several times in the last month since her project finished. We modified the recipe quite a lot, roasting the vegetables instead of sautéing them and changing up the spices.

Grow Your OwnI have followed the Grow Your Own event for some time now, and I am excited (as a new blogger) to now submit my own garden harvest recipe. I love seeing how other people use the fresh produce from their gardens. For all of the Grow Your Own recipes this month,visit host Andrea Meyers.

Slice fresh zucchini and tomatoes and place them on an olive oil brushed roasting pan.


Brush the veges again with additional olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast at 450°F for 10 minutes.


DSC01815Meanwhile chop your herbs of choice- we used oregano and thyme (basil would also be good)  and stir in some chopped garlic. Top zucchini and tomato slices with herb/garlic mixture. Roast again for another 10 minutes.


While the zucchini and tomatoes are roasting again, prepare your pizza crust. Instead of a regular pizza crust, we used sliced French bread and some whole wheat tortillas. I loved how the tortillas turned out. The flavor of the toppings really dominated the dish! It did require a fork for eating, however!

We also used a Basil Pesto for sauce instead of a tomato based sauce. It was fabulous-highly recommended.

DSC01823 DSC01826

Add a layer of cheese to your pesto-topped crust and then arrange roasted tomatoes and zucchini over the cheese. I would have liked for these to have had even more of the toppings, but we didn’t have quite enough for all of our pizzas. Next time I will roast lots more zucchini and tomatoes.


Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with crushed red peppers, if desired.



Pizza with Roasted Zucchini Pomodoro Topping

Copy of DSC01851

1 lb fresh plum tomatoes, cut in half (or any variety, thickly sliced)
2 zucchini, cut into slices
2 Tbs olive oil
salt & fresh ground pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh thyme or basil

Pizza Crust
Pizza Sauce/Pesto Sauce
Cheese (try mozzarella, shredded or fresh, goat cheese, Parmesan)
Crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a broiler pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.

Arrange tomato and zucchini slices on the pan. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.

Combine garlic, oregano, and thyme (or basil). Sprinkle over partially cooked vegetables and return pan to oven. Cook an additional 10 minutes.

Spread crust with pizza sauce, pesto sauce, or use no sauce. Add a layer of cheese and then the roasted tomatoes and zucchini. Bake until cheese melts. Serve with crushed red pepper flakes.



Filed under Main Dishes

Basil Pesto


Last month I got a half-bushel of basil from a local farmer’s market. It was fresh picked about an hour before I got there. It smelled divine in the car on the ride home! So what do you do with a half bushel of basil? Make pesto, of course. I love to grow basil at home, but I don’t have a large enough crop to make large quantities of pesto. So I watch this farmer’s market at the end of summer when they cut their large crop of basil and sell it cheap!

Actually, I only made full-blown pesto with about half of the basil. The other half I put into the food processor with olive oil (in the proportion of 1 cup packed basil to ¼ cup olive oil). This basil/olive oil mixture I spooned into ice cube trays and froze. Once frozen, I put the basil ice cubes into a Ziploc bag, then back into the freezer. I use them to season all kinds of dishes throughout the next 3 seasons, until I have basil growing again in my garden. The proportion above is also the same proportion of basil to olive oil in the pesto, so if you just want to freeze the basil/olive oil, then you can add the remaining ingredients later to make fresh pesto.


But I love being able to pull pesto out of the freezer and not worry about whether I have pine nuts ready to be toasted. To make fresh basil pesto, combine 4 cups of packed basil leaves (don’t use the thick, stiff stems; smaller stems may be used),  4 cloves of garlic and ¾ cup toasted pine nuts in a food processor. Blend well.  Add 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan, processing just until blended. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream while food processor is running.

Pour pesto into jars, freezer containers or small Ziploc bags. If you are using jars or plastic freezer containers (like below), drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top of each container. This will help keep the basil from darkening or becoming freezer-burnt. This container is obviously not full, it is one that I currently have open in my fridge. Pesto makes a great addition to so many things: pasta, pizza, sandwiches, fresh tomato salads, bruschetta.


When thawing pesto from the freezer, DO NOT MICROWAVE! It will melt the Parmesan and leave you with a gloopy mess (trust me on this one). Still tastes good, but looks pretty funky. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or on the countertop for several hours.


Basil Pesto


¾ cup pine nuts
4 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toast pine nuts until lightly browned, checking and stirring every 4-5 minutes. Cool.

Using a food processor, blend basil, garlic, and pine nuts. Add Parmesan, processing just until blended. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream while food processor is running.

Makes about 2 cups


  • Substitute toasted walnuts for the pine nuts.
  • Low on basil? Substitute fresh spinach for 1-2 cups of the basil
  • To Freeze: Pour pesto into jars, freezer containers or small Ziploc bags, leaving about ¼” headspace. If using jars or plastic containers, drizzle small amount of additional olive oil over the top of the pesto. Freeze.
  • Alternate Preparation: Blend basil and olive oil in proportions above. Spoon into ice cube trays or small Ziploc baggies. Freeze. Use to prepare fresh pesto later, or to add to recipes calling for fresh basil.



Filed under Canning/Freezing, Condiments/Sauces

Grilled Asparagus with Garlic & Lemon Thyme


This is the side dish that accompanied the Grilled Peruvian Chicken Thighs.

Asparagus is great on the grill, just be careful not to overcook it, or to let it fall through the grill slats.

This is a simple recipe for grilling vegetables. In a large Ziploc bag, combine olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon thyme (other good herbs to use: fresh rosemary, oregano, basil, Thai basil, cilantro, sage) and salt & pepper. I leave the garlic cloves whole, but then  smash them somewhat while they are in the bag with the olive oil. Add washed and trimmed asparagus. To know where to trim your asparagus: hold a stalk in your hand and start to bend it near the bottom. The asparagus end will snap off at the perfect spot. No more tough ends!

Let asparagus sit in the marinade at room temperature for 30-60 minutes for best flavor. (It can also be cooked right away if you are short on time; the garlic just will not be as infused into the oil).

Remove asparagus from oil and place on a hot grill, turned to low (for gas grills). I like to grill the garlic as well, but I do often lose some through the grates. You could use a grill screen to avoid this.  Grill 5-7 minutes, depending on the temperature of your grill. Watch them carefully, turning often.

Grilled Asparagus1 Grilled Asparagus2

This is also great with fresh zucchini. The zucchini in our garden overproduced this year, while our tomatoes were sadly underperforming. But now, the only things left in the garden are the green tomatoes that never ripened. I need to pick those today before I lose them to frost! Maybe some Green Tomato Salsa.


Grilled Asparagus with Garlic & Lemon Thyme


1 bunch asparagus
2-3 Tbs olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, whole or crushed
2 Tbs fresh lemon thyme (or other fresh herb)
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine asparagus with oil, herb and seasonings in a Ziploc bag. Marinate 30-60 minutes at room temperature for best flavor. Cook 5-7 minutes on a hot grill (turned to low, for gas grills), turning often.


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Filed under Side Dishes