Thursday, June 04, 2020

The sweet smell of basil.

I keep checking my garden for signs of life. Okay, I don’t really have a “garden” in the traditional sense of the word, but I do have a backyard, and stuff grows there. Green shoots show up in the spring, and when they do, I am happy.

I thought that by the time the spring would actually arrive it might become summer. But, sure enough, mother nature has awoken, and it looks like spring has finally surfaced. At least this week, anyway. But a sure way to make it feel like spring, at least on the inside, is to bring lots of fresh herbs and spring vegetables into the house, and into my food. In particular, the smell of fresh basil feels like spring to me and actually reminds me of my early days as a new bride. That’s when I started cooking in earnest, with a bona fide subscription to Gourmet Magazine and an intent to cook like a gourmet chef. Each month when I received my magazine I would, in fact, cook from it, not just read the articles or look at the pictures.

I remember in particular one recipe called for basil. I didn’t know what that was or what it looked like. I don’t think I even knew it was an herb. And there was no Google, or even any internet at all, to look it up. So I headed over to Blue Ribbon on Avenue J in Brooklyn, to buy some. I asked the woman by the register for the basil and she, too, had no idea what it was. I felt better knowing that it wasn’t just me, and eventually found someone in the store who brought some to me. As he handed the green leafy bunch to me, he inhaled deeply and said, “Here, this is basil, smell that and you will never mistake it for anything else.” So I inhaled as well, and would never forget the moment I first got a whiff of the fresh, peppery-minty-earthy smell.

Basil bruises easily, so treat it delicately. It is delicious in many dishes, but in particular I think it is best known for its role in the Caprese salad—a layered tomato and mozzarella salad, interspersed with whole basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil. Of course its distinct flavor is recognizable in pesto sauce as well, which can be tossed on pasta, and even drizzled in soup! I thought it would be fun to toss it in a fresh corn salad for a bright-colored, fresh-tasting spring side dish, which can easily be upgraded to a main dish with some grilled salmon, or mozzarella cubes. Enjoy the weather and the good food!

Spring Corn Salad With Pesto

  • Corn kernels cut off from 6 ears of corn (raw)
  • 12 oz. sliced roasted peppers (jarred)
  • 4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, sliced thinly

Mix all ingredients together. Pour 1 cup of pesto over corn and mix gently to combine.

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
  • 3 cloves peeled garlic
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade, combine all ingredients except olive oil. Pulse a few times to chop everything and scrape down the bowl. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto is formed. Makes about 1 cup. This would be delicious over pasta or fish as well!

By Rachel Berger


 Rachel is a recovering real estate attorney, who is no longer planning a trip to Miami next weekend. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @TheKosherDinnerLady. You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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