This is my 7th basil recipe in a row. Are you starting to feel a close familiarity to many peopleâ€™s favorite herb? I hope I have proven that its versatility is why basil is so popular.
Besides, basil is an herb that brightens everything.
However, basil can be a bit finicky when it comes to storage. Of course it is best when used very quickly after harvesting. For this reason a lot of cooks keep a pot growing on or near the kitchen windowsill.
But it is not always possible to grow enough basil for the heavy work load we demand of it. So I think we should talk about caring for fresh cut basil.
I sometimes treat mine like fresh flowers and nip the stem end as soon as I get them home. They will last fairly well in a glass of water in a cool spot out of direct sun. Try to keep all the leaves from touching the water because this will actually hasten the rot we are trying to avoid. Itâ€™s a rather high maintenance method as the stems need daily nipping and the water needs a lot of changing.
Basil does not like the chill, but if you donâ€™t want the hassle of the vase of flowers method then you are forced to keep it in the refrigerator. In which case take the basil out of the packaging, if there is any, and wrap the basil still on its stems in paper towels. I donâ€™t like plastic bags because too much condensation leads to black and slimy basil.
Basil may be a bit of work compared to most herbs. But people seem to love it and put up with these minor problems.
Probably because basil has got a bold flavor and it can deftly define a lot of recipes. One sure way to balance basilâ€™s boldness it to pair it with other bold flavors. I figured I would take that premise and make a super simple mid-week meal, with big flavor.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Tomatoes, Basil and Feta, are exactly that and not much more. I mean, I am not even going to cut the tomatoes. Instead I will use small grape tomatoes. They may be cooked whole, keeping most of their sweet juiciness to themselves. But once you cut into them they let loose the juice that will transform this simple recipe into something special.
Peppers are a great vehicle for stuffing. They are thick skinned and sturdy. They are the perfect size and shape making them ingenious little edible bowls. Ideal for so many different stuffings.
This stuffed pepper recipe is a very spare, easy to prepare, vegetarian version. I am using tiny grape tomatoes, a crumbling of feta cheese and enough basil to carry a lot of the heavy lifting in the taste department. The ingredients all get baked together until they are soft and luscious. The big flavors make this dish seem a bit decadent, but it is actually quite healthy, and has fewer than 100 calories per person.
- 2 bell peppers halved lengthwise through stem, seeds and ribs removed
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes left whole, the smaller the better
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 10 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place bell pepper halves, cut sides up, in a baking dish. If they do not sit straight and level, use a bit of aluminum foil to support them. Itâ€™s best if they cook level to keep the tomatoes and cheese inside the pepper.
Toss the tomatoes, feta, basil, and olive oil with the salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Fill each pepper with tomato and feta mixture, dividing it evenly among all the peppers. Give the tops another good grind of pepper.
Bake the stuffed peppers, covered loosely with aluminum foil, until they begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake them until tomatoes begin to burst and cheese turns light brown, about 15 minutes more.
Remove stuffed peppers from oven, and serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD