Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

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Parmesan Herb Crostini

With all of our garden greens, we’ve been eating a lot of salads around here.  There are so many ways to make a salad that my hubby and I really don’t get tired of them.  Some of my kids, however, quickly tire of any salad which does not have lots of bacon–which is almost every salad we make around here!  I thought that serving these crunchy little crostini on leftover French bread with our next salad might be a good way to hold off their total salad burn-out.

1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1 t. fresh oregano
2 t. fresh basil
1/2 t. fresh thyme

Combine cheese and herbs; set aside.

Brush slices of French bread with oil on both sides.  Bake slices at 350 for 5 minutes.

Turn slices over and spread herb mixture on soft side of bread.  Return to oven and bake another 7-10 minutes.

Yum!

Tomato-Basil Salad

1heirloomtomatoesDuring the summer months when I have basil and tomatoes at their best, this is happy food for me.  I can eat this for any meal of the day and be satisfied.  As a “skeleton recipe”, there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to measurements and ingredients, so relax and enjoy!
perfectly ripe tomatoes, diced
fresh basil, cut in ribbons
a clove or two of fresh garlic, minced
a handful or so of cubed mozzarella, fresh or cured
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle of olive oil
a splash of vinegar (apple cider, balsamic or whatever you have is fine)

Mix and serve at room temperature for best flavor.  Then, enjoy the leftover later over toasted crusty bread.  Mmmmm!

Homemade Herbal Tea

One of my favorite things to drink in the summer is iced herbal tea.  I’ve acquired all kinds of herbs for this purpose–lemon balm, bergamot, rosa rugosa, a variety of mints and even oregano and rosemary when the occasion arises.  I’ve tried repeatedly to grow lavender, but it does not do well here.  It’s on my list of things to read up on to see if I can create a more successful lavender environment.

My kids just included bouquets of lemon balm in our customers’ produce shares this week, and I wanted to instruct them on how to make one of our favorite summer drinks.  It’s super easy.  FYI, lemon balm has calming properties, similar to chamomile.  You can also spritz the “tea” on your skin to use as a natural insect repellent.

Bring a pot of two quarts of water to boiling.

Wash a handful of whatever type of herbs you want to use, pulling out dead leaves and the occasional wayward blade of grass.

Give the herbs a hearty twist with your hands, wringing them like you would wring out a dish rag.

Put the herbs in the hot water, turn off the heat and cover the pot.  Allow to steep for 5-15 minutes (depending how strong you like your tea).

Sweeten, if desired, then pour over ice and chill.