We will begin our journey with three common flavors, salt, pepper and basil.
I am adding the herb, basil because that is the flavorful, herbaceous ingredient in my first recipe.
We are going to be making bruschetta, which is one of our favorite, easy, fresh go-to light supper or starter. It can be a meal in itself, or you could add a side of protein like grilled chicken or fish for a heartier meal.
Let’s begin with salt and pepper.
Food always tastes better when seasoned properly . Although salt is not a “spice” by definition, I am going to start with it because it is probably the most important flavoring we use in cooking. This is after all, helpful beginnings.
Salt is so Important!
Salt is a controversial subject, due to underlying health reasons, but it is a necessary ingredient in cooking as well as an essential nutrient that your body needs. Salt is grouped together with other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium. Your body needs these nutrients to make the electrical responses in your nerves work.
And then, All important, pepper!
Pepper is a spice, and comes in different types, according to region. Adding salt and pepper brings out the natural flavors and umami in your dishes.
A pinch of black pepper added to any recipe works as more than just a flavor enhancer. This king of spices is known to offer a number of health benefits while providing an excellent depth of flavor to any dish. The use of black pepper in the diet helps promote weight loss, improve digestion, relieve cold and cough, boost metabolism, and treat skin problems. Who knew?
Our first herb, Basil!
Basil, also known as Saint Joseph’s Wort, is an herb belonging to the mint family. Besides being used in cooking, basil may have some health benefits.
Basil’s benefits include reducing inflammation, and it is said to have anti-aging and antibacterial properties.
Thai basil, or Holy Basil, commonly included in Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine basil is one of the ingredients that makes these countries cuisine’s so unique. This we will also be covering in another page, because it deserves it’s own spot light. I am constantly on the search for easy dishes from these beautiful countries. I love the freshness and bold flavors!
Basil is used in traditional Tamil and Ayurvedic medicine, which is a form of traditional medicine popular on the Indian subcontinent.
There are a number of types of basil, sweet, lime, lemon, chocolate, cinnamon, and more. Each variety differs in taste and smell. Sweet basil (the most commercially available basil used in Italian food) has a strong clove scent because of its high concentration of the chemical agent eugenol. Eugenol is an aromatic oily liquid extracted from certain essential oils especially from basil, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bay leaf.
Alternatively, lime and lemon basil have a strong citrus scent due to their high concentration of limonene which is the major component in the oil of citrus fruit peels. These herbs can compliment fruits as well as vege’s.
My first recipe and in following with my theme, Helpful Beginnings, can be both a first course as well as a light lunch or supper.
My husband and I have been enjoying Bruschetta a few times over the last month in anticipation of warmer weather arriving. Winter is holding on and we needed a taste of summer.
This dish can be enjoyed toasted on the grill, in your oven or in a frying (or grill) pan. The simplicity of this dish makes it one of our favorite comfort foods. It is so yummy!
Tomato Basil Bruschetta
6 slices Ciabatta Bread, sliced 1″ thick
Fresh mozzarella or Buratta Cheese, one tennis ball size of cheese is enough for 6 toasts. Go by your own taste.
Tomatoes, 1 cup chopped, I was able to find heirloom cherry tomatoes which made a very colorful topper.
3-4 leaves fresh basil, chopped or sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled
Salt and Pepper
This is all best made right when you’re going to eat it. You can have this all done in about 15-20 minutes.
Preheat oven or pan of choice. On a sheet pan, drizzle the bread slices on one side with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. If using sheet pan to toast your bread, use parchment for easy clean up.
Chop your tomatoes, you’ll want about 1.5 cup total, but a little more or less is okay. It’s your recipe! Add your chopped basil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, mix. Let sit while you toast your bread.
Toast bread oil side up until golden and crispy. Turn it once if you’re doing it on a grill or pan. Remove from heat and immediately rub each slice with the garlic. Cut off the tip of the garlic to open up the softer inside. You don’t need much as it is very potent, a few swipes
per slice will do it.
Slice your cheese and add a generous piece to the top of each slice of bread. Give your tomatoes a stir and top the cheese with a generous spoonful. Put on serving plate and enjoy! Best eaten right away!
Tip: Alternately, if you want a short cut, buy the pearl size fresh mozzarella balls and mix them with your tomatoes and basil. Just top your toasts with this mixture after you spread your garlic. Still yummy!
I hope you enjoyed my Cooking with Spices and Herbs-Helpful Beginnings.
Please leave me a comment and suggestions for more recipes!