Having Marina home has been a perfect finish to summer—although summer is not yet over and Marina is not yet back in Belgium.
As promised, there has been no shortage of BLTs (in payment of her editing help), and watermelon and corn on the cob, for that matter. But Marina did tinker with our old favorite, and now BBT is our sandwich of the summer of 2014.
For a few years now I’ve grown Salad Leaf Basil, an heirloom variety from Renee’s Garden. It’s milder than Genovese Basil, but I mix both to make pesto, add to sliced tomato salads, etc. Marina hasn’t been back in the States for a few summers, so this was her introduction to Salad Leaf Basil—and I had a bumper crop, both at home and in the Master Gardener high tunnel.
In the high tunnel, protected from wind and weather extremes, Salad Leaf Basil was a showstopper. The large, blistered leaves easily billow out to 6 inches long and a good 5 inches across! When washed and wrapped in a paper towel and stashed in a Ziploc in the crisper, they stay fresh for several days without getting the dreaded black spots so common on most basil leaves when refrigerated. So, Marina substituted Salad Leaf Basil for ordinary lettuce and—Shazam!—our old classic improved a notch above perfection. (The photo shows the size of one leaf—next to Settimio’s huge Cuor di Bue tomato slice.)
The culinary creativity didn’t stop there. Marina brought a recipe for Chocolate Mousse Pie she discovered while living in London (lovefoodeat.com), and added a twist from our herb garden.
Chocolate Mint Mousse Pie
For the crust:
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
4 Tbsp. sugar
5-6 Tbsp. cold water
For the mousse:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup beet puree
Fresh mint, chopped, to taste
To make the pie crust, place coconut oil in the refrigerator until it is solid. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar, and slowly use your fingers to combine with the coconut oil. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add enough cold water to make a ball of dough. Keep it in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Roll dough into ¼ inch thickness and place it in a pie plate. Patch it together if it breaks or tears, it will be just fine. Bake the crust at 350° F for 8-10 minutes. Let it cool completely.
Peel and boil beets until soft and blend it into a smooth puree. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler until smooth. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Now add the beet puree and mix well.
Pour this chocolate-beet mixture into the prepared pie crust and smooth the surface with a flat spoon. If you have mint in the garden (Marina chopped a small handful of chocolate mint) sprinkle it on top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the mousse filling completely sets. The beets give a garnet glow to the chocolate and are a great way to expand your vegetable repertoire. Laurie Lynch
Mellow Yellow: Ever since Richard found Sandy 3 on Craigslist we’ve known he is the perfect dog for my mother. But recently we discovered Sandy can not be beat for Nonna’s grandchildren either. Her youngest, Nick, and his girlfriend Sarah were visiting the other day. They decided to play the card game Castles, but needed a playing surface…
Written on Slate: “You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” –Nate Berkus