That said, I do miss summer's bounty when it comes to cold weather cooking and entertaining. Especially when the holidays roll around. Sure, I can run to the market and pick up some herbs and veggies that have been either shipped or (preferably) locally grown in a greenhouse. And I do. But isn't it so much easier, and much more satisfying, to walk barefoot to the garden and harvest your own? That would be a yes.
Enter the AeroGarden. It's high tech. It's high output. It's an indoor garden. That means that even there's a foot of snow on the ground outside my window, I can still wander barefoot to the garden and harvest my own herbs (or veggies, or even flowers).
ULTRA series; it could not have been easier. Once I'd snapped all of the pieces into place, it was simply a matter of plugging it in, adding water and liquid nutrients (included) to the base, and sliding the seed pods into the holes. The instructions were simple, and there was no mess (since the system is hydroponic). I positioned it in an open corner, and hoped for the best.
Now, as much fun as watching my seven varieties of basil growing from seeds to hearty plants was, I think that watching my kids help and marvel over the growth of the plants was the best part. The MyGarden Control Panel displays the time, how many days it's been planted, and when to add nutrients. But it also shares tips for helping you get the most out of your garden. Every time a new tip came in, the kids were eager to read and relay it to me. As the plants grew taller, we were able to raise the grow lights. The kids also helped me determine when and where to prune the herbs, making sure that the faster growing ones didn't block block the light from the slower growing ones. They told me why this process was essential. Whether indoors or outdoors, a garden is a great learning/teaching tool!
So, long story short, when planning and testing recipes for the holiday season, I walked barefoot to my garden and snipped myself some basil. And it felt amazing. Am I weird? It makes me giddy to grow my own food, no matter how small. Not that I can take much credit; my AeroGarden did all the work. But once I walked barefoot into the kitchen, basil in hand, it was my turn to work.
And me, personally? I could snag a whole tray and sit in a corner with it and a bottle of white wine and be perfectly content for an evening. But I would never do that. Never.
Roasted Red Pepper, Basil, and Almond Pesto Crostini
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: appetizer sauce condiment almonds basil goat cheese roasted red peppers Christmas New Year Italian
Ingredients (2 dozen)
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- scant 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- scant 1/4 cup Castello Hirten cheese, grated (or another hard cheese like Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (16 ounce) baguette
- 8 ounces soft goat cheese
- 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled & halved
- olive oil
- extra fresh basil leaves
Roast the red peppers over an open flame, or under a broiler until blackened and blistered all around. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, allowing them to steam for about 15 minutes. Slide the skin off of the peppers, then pull out the stem and seeds. Cut into quarters.
Place the prepared red peppers into the bowl of a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients (except the salt and pepper) for the pesto; pulse until almost smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if needed. Set aside.
Preheat the broiler. Cut the baguette into 1/4-inch thick slices, on the bias. You should get approximately 24 slices. This is really going to depend on whether your baguette was longer and thinner, or shorter and wider. Either way, just go with it, as it should all even out.
Line up the baguette slices on a foil or parchment lined sheet tray and set under the broiler until they are just kissed with a hint of gold, 1-2 minutes. Turn them over and repeat. Rub both sides of each slice with the cut side of a garlic clove.
Turn oven down to 350° F. Divide and smear the goat cheese evenly over one side of each slice, and set them back onto the lined sheet tray. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Slide into oven for 5 minutes, or until goat cheese is warm, and edges are golden. Top each slice with a spoonful of the pesto (how big a spoonful depends on your slice - use your best judgement).
Top each one off with a little sprinkling of fresh basil that you have sliced into a chiffonade (thin ribbons), or with a tiny sprig, if you like.
These go well with still or sparkling white wine.
For more fresh holiday entertaining ideas, drop by the Kitchen PLAY page to see how other bloggers fared with their AeroGardens, and to browse their holiday recipe ideas featuring basil. You can also connect with AeroGarden on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.