Sunday, June 29, 2008

Day 79: Best chicken and basil recipe

Well, the basil is still growing after more than two months. I've discovered that insalata caprese makes a great midnight snack...

...although it's definitely time I started to expand my horizons.

I spoke to my friend Kim from work about my overabundance of basil, and she proceeded to send me a bunch of cool recipes. There was a great one called Basil Chicken over Angel Hair at AllRecipes.Com. I happened to have exactly all the ingredients for that one--a couple tomatoes, some cooked chicken, garlic, and an onion. The one thing I didn't have was angel hair pasta, but I had some thin spaghetti which I thought should do the trick.

I proceeded to chop some basil from the Aerogarden. I took off a good 1/3 of each plant again, as I'll be going on another trip. The recipe called for 1/4 cup, but I ended up cutting a bit more.

This is what the sauce looked like once everything was put together.

And here's what it looked like with the pasta stirred in.

I have to say, it tasted great. I'll definitely be cooking it again, but next time I'll be sure to use real angel hair pasta.

I'm facing a real dilemma with all this healthy food I'm cooking. It's all so delicious I end up eating more than I should! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 74: What to do with a lot of basil

So, since the Aerogarden was growing out of control, I finally harvested a LOT of basil. I ended up with a bountiful harvest of basil leaves.

I searched the Web not just for basil recipes, but for basil recipes that used a LOT of basil. A few teaspoons of chopped basil wouldn't do.

So I went to Google and searched "What to do with a bunch of basil?" The third link was a blog titled, conveniently enough, "What to do with a bunch of Thai basil", by Sandy at Tao de Kitchen.

The recipe was for Minced Turkey with Thai Basil. And joy of joys, it uses not one teaspoon, not one tablespoon, but a WHOLE CUP of basil!

So at my lunch hour at work yesterday, I went and bought two bell peppers (the rest of the stuff I had in the fridge). Last night I cooked up this masterpiece.

Mind you, I was a wee bit trepidatious, as the smell of fish sauce and oyster sauce wasn't too promising. But as the liquid started to reduce and I saw the beautiful glaze over the ground turkey, I knew I was on to something special. I put it on a place with some steamed rice and here's what it looked like.

The taste was phenomenal. So much so that I ate half of it right there and then. I'm about to heat up a little more for lunch right now.

Oh yeah, so after using one cup of basil, what did I do with the other three cups? You guessed it! Pesto! Pesto! Pesto!

Even though I trimmed a good 1/3 of my Aerogarden, I'll be on the search for more basil recipes before I take another trip next week, as that basil ain't slowing down any time soon! I do have some fresh mozarella, so I'll probably be making a ton more insalata caprese and margarita pizzas :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 73: Looking for more basil recipes :)

Well, as you can see, the basil is once again overgrown. I was away from my house for most of the week, and as I came back I found that the basil was once again hitting against the lights. So I cropped the topmost leaves.

I noticed also that the lower leaves are starting to wilt. According to the instruction book, this is because the taller leaves are blocking the bottom leaves from light reaching them. But being stubborn again, I won't be pruning the plant right away, but will be searching for more recipes that use a lot of basil. I will also be making a boatload more of, what else, caprese salad and pesto as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 67: More and more basil

It's funny, I came back from my three-day weekend, and the basil is back to hitting the lights again. The Add Nutrient and Add Water lights are both on, so I'll be doing both today. To be honest, I lost track of where I was with the "empty and refill" instructions that are special for the basil Aerogarden, but being particularly lazy right now, I figured I'd just plop the tablets and water in and take my chances.

Luckily, I am home for at least two weeks now before I leave for my next trip, so you know what that means. More pesto, more pesto, more pesto! :)

I was also very pleasantly surprised to find a comment on an earlier post from Lorraine at Aerogrow. She mentions that in their experience using Brita water may not be the best for Aerogarden plants.

I'm very impressed that someone from Aerogrow found this blog, and is responding to these blogs. Given the number of blogs out there about this system, it's clear that there are ton of us who love our Aerogardens and are all having spectacular results. Thanks Lorraine! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Day 64: So much basil

Well, the basil was once again growing tall against the grow lights, so I had to prune the plant, cutting off a third from each of the plants. Now, if you've been reading this blog, you know that I am loathe to throw away any basil. But since I had to leave for a weekend trip, I had to chop them and...gasp...throw them out.

I've read suggestions on the Web on how to keep basil--some people dry it, some people freeze it in ice cube trays, some people immerse it in olive oil and put it in the refrigerator. But to be honest, this thing is so prolific that there's really no need to preserve it--by next week it'll be filled with basil again.

In the meantime, when I return from my trip, I'm going to go buy me some fresh mozzarella and tomatoes so I can start making a caprese salad, which is $10.50 from room service in the hotel room I'm in now!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 58: International Basil Aerogarden Doing Well...My old Aerogarden not so well...

Well, I returned from my trip. I got in at night, but my apartment was well-lit thanks to my two Aerogardens. Not only that, my fridge was empty and I was hungry, so I thawed my pesto, cooked a batch of pasta, and enjoyed a very nice dinner that took all of 8 minutes to prepare. And yes, using the freshly grated Parmesian Reggiano really made the difference.

The basil Aerogarden is doing fantastically. Just six days ago, I'd cut at least a third off all the plants, but now they've all grown back and are hitting against the growth light again. And as you can see, the little transplanted red basil plant is still holding its own.

So, I'm going to need to quickly find another recipe that uses a LOT of basil. If you have any suggestions for me, leave a comment of what I should cook, and I'll cook it and take pictures :)

I actually had another Aerogarden on the other side of the room that was growing parsley and cilantro. It was doing fine when I left for my trip, but it wasn't looking too happy when I returned..the leaves were droopy. Strange, because I just added nutrient tablets, and the water level and lights were fine.

As I examined the leaves, I noticed there were tiny web-like things on them, a sure sign that bugs had found their way to them. They probably hitched a ride on one of my houseplants or something.

Now thankfully, my new basil Aerogarden was on the other side of the room, so it was unaffected. Plus, funny thing is, even in the old Aerogarden, while the little buggers were on the parsley and the cilantro, they kept far away from the basil that was growing in the same Aerogarden...I've heard that for certain pests, the smell of basil is actually a repellant.

Anyway, I'm not too upset, because that other Aerogarden had already past its best years--I have harvested bunches and bunches of cilantro, parsley, chives, basil, mint, red basil. It was a good lesson for me, the next time, to keep any plants that might be carrying little critters FAR away from the Aerogarden. The critters love the lights and the plants.

Anyway, to fix it, I threw away the parsley and cilantro. I cleaned the entire Aerogarden unit in warm soapy water so it was good as new. I left the red basil in there, and freshly plopped in a couple seed pods left over from earlier Aerogardens. When they get to a decent size, I'll use them or transplant them into pots.

What I really want to do after that is start a cherry tomato Aerogarden. I figure I'll be able to do that in a month or two. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 52: Pesto Round 2

So, I'm about to leave on a trip, and as you can see in the picture in my last post, the basil was getting a bit crowded, so it was time for a haircut.

The user manual gives a lot of good advice about pruning the plants. My goal was to cut all the plants so they're the same height, and to give them time to grow for the week. This left me with about 3 cups of basil.

I'm still too stubborn to just throw them away, so I made myself another batch of pesto, which I promptly froze and will enjoy when I return. This time I used freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, so I expect the result to be spectacular.

Here's the recipe I used. This one is for P, the one person I know reading this blog:

1 or 2 plump garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and dried
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 to 3 tbsp grated pecorino romano to taste
2 tbsp soft butter (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

The cookbook recommends making it by hand for a true experience that lets you take in the wonderful aromas and lets you see the amazing transformation of the ingredients.

By hand: smash the garlic with 1/2 tsp salt and the pine nuts to break them up, then add the basil leaves a handful at a time (if you're impatient, you can speed things up by tearing the leaves into smaller pieces first.) Grind them, using a circular motion, until you have a fairly fine paste with very small flecks of leaves. Briefly work in the cheese and butter and process just to combine.

Of course, for those who are running too to a trip and haven't packed yet, there is a quicker way:

In a food processor: Use the same ingredients but in the following order. Process the garlic, salt, and pine nuts until fairly finely chopped, then add the basil and olive oil. When smooth, add the cheeses and butter and process just to combine.

This recipe is from the GREAT cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Now I'm not a vegetarian, not even close to one, but I love this cookbook. My sister bought it for me in an attempt to get me to eat healthier, and it worked (although some of the recipes are so delicious I end up eating multiple portions, to my chagrin!) Anyway, highly recommended for anyone who is interested in cooking vegetables so delicious you forget they're good for you. It's available at Amazon.Com.

Well, off to my trip. One other nice thing about the Aerogarden is that it doubles as a light to ward off burglars--it happens that I have the units set to go off around the time I'd sleep and wake up, so it saves me from buying and setting up one of those automatic light timers.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Day 51: Next Feeding

The "check water" and "add nutrients" lights started blinking a few days ago, so it was time to add nutrients again.

Now, you might recall me saying that the Basil version of the Aerogarden needs one to alternate between "Basic", which means adding nutrient pellets, and "Rinse & Refill", which means emptying all the water in the basin and refilling it. I'm not sure exactly why this is, but I think it has to do with not letting too many nutrients accululate in the water.

Of course, I'd missed the last rinse & refill, so it was time to do it. Admittedly, this part of the process is a bit of a hassle, but then again, I've already harvested a ton of basil without lifting a finger, so I can't really complain.

Just like before, I took the grow surface from the bowl. Compare the root growth to what it was a few weeks ago!

I rinsed out the basin. The water had a lot of little white specks, which were the remnants of the nutrient tablets. There were one or two tiny little flies that had snuck their way in too, so out they went too.

I like to use filtered water for my Aerogarden, so I took my big pitcher of Brita water and poured it in. I put it all together again and put it back.

As you can see, the plants are still doing very well, as well as the little potted red basil plant to the right (although you can see what a difference the aeroponics makes versus the soil).

Anyway, I pressed the reset button and the lights went off, I don't expect to see them for two weeks.