Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recipe that uses a lot of basil: Thai Chicken and Basil Stir Fry

Even after my insalata caprese, I had a TON of basil to use. As you can see, the basil was already growing into the grow lights to the point where they started to burn!

So, I chopped and chopped until I had a beautiful bridal bouquet of basil. 

I went onto and clicked and clicked and clicked until I found a recipe that used a lot of basil. After going through tons of recipes that either called for dry basil or wimpy amounts of basil, I came across this one: Thai Chicken and Basil Stir Fry. 
 The ingredients are: 
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil leaves
Ah yes, 1 1/2 cups of chopped fresh basil leaves should do it.

The instructions were simple. The first step was to mix the liquid. 

In a bowl, mix the coconut milk, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.

I had a hard time finding coconut milk, but ended up buying a juice box of O.N.E. Coconut Water which worked rather nicely.

The next step just involved chopping up a bunch of stuff and throwing it into a wok. Here's the stuff I chopped: 

    Stir in the onion, ginger, and garlic, and cook until lightly browned.

    Mix in chicken strips, and cook about 3 minutes, until browned.

    Mix in mushrooms, green onions, and basil, and cook until heated through.

    Serve over the cooked rice. 

    I gotta say, it turned out nicely. The dish was subtly sweet as Thai food is, with incredible savoriness from the fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, coconut, and of course the basil.

    Do you have a recipe that uses a tonnage of basil? Post it in our barely used Forum! :) 

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    So...what happened between August and today?

    sWell, it's been four months since I last posted. I'm sure you're dying to know--what has become of my indoor gardens? Here's the skinny:

    The Herb Garden 

    The herb garden looked like what you see to the right as of September 19, 2010. Obviously, the basil was outclassing the other herbs already (sage, mint, parsley, cilantro, and two seed pods of thyme).

    Sadly, the cilantro and thyme never grew to more than about an inch before withering and dying. I think this was due to the age of the seed pods--some of them have been sitting around for at least a few years. I've found that older seed kits are hit-or-miss. That's why nowadays, I only buy new seed kits from the Aerogarden storeBuying anywhere else (especially clearance sales) are not a great idea, as you don't know how long they've been sitting around.

    Here's what it looks like today. As you can see, the basil ended up growing so fast and so big (I pruned it at least four times since the last picture) that it ended up choking out the right to the other herbs. That caused the demise of the sage. The parsley is barely hanging on. What is holding its own is the mint. Lesson learned: basil and mint grow like weeds if you let them.

    There are few recipes that use basil and mint, although I have two recipes I found at AllRecipes.Com which I'll be attempting in the next few posts.

    The Tomato Garden

    The tomato garden started out auspiciously. As of September 19, here's what they looked like.

    The tomatoes that grew were the "red heirloom" tomatoes. The yellow tomatoes never grew. Still, from my previous tomato experience, I knew the two plants would yield plenty.

    The key to growing tomato plants correctly is to prune, prune, prune. At times you're going to feel like you're chopping too much. But as long as the root system is strong, the leaves will grow back. If you don't prune, the plant will grow much too tall too fast.

    The last week of November and the first week of December was the week of a bountiful harvest. There seemed to be clusters of tomatoes growing everywhere.


    I harvested a whole bunch. I think in total I must have harvested about 15 of them that week. Since then, the harvest has been less bountiful--maybe 1 or 2 tomatoes a week after that.

    As I've done in the past, I decided to buy myself some fresh mozzarella cheese, harvest some of my Aerogarden basil...

    ...toss it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and enjoy myself a nice Insalata Caprese.

    So, as you can see, I'm enjoying much more success with my Aerogarden tomatoes than I did the last go-around--I think I harvested more in one week this time than I did my last entire planting.

    I chalk this up to a couple things. First, the seed packets I bought were relatively new, unlike the last batch which was on "clearance". Second, I was fastidious about "pollenating" the tomatoes this go-around (every time I would pass the garden I'd grab the plants by the stalks and shake them a bit). Third, I was much better about pruning this time--even if I had to cut a few flowers, I knew that in the long run pruning the plants would keep them strong and under the lights.

    All in all, though, I'd say that Aerogardens are not great for growing vegetables indoors. After four months of work, having under 25 tomatoes is the most success I've had, but still, you can buy a good package of cherry tomatoes from the store for only a few bucks. I'd say where the Aerogarden shines is still in herb gardening. I have so much basil I'm still looking for things to do with it!