Basil in Wonderland (with tomatoes)

Posted by Chie

We had the honor of visiting Ralph and Jan’s magical garden today. It’s filled with love; with the fragrance of roses and lilac, peace and serenity.

Jan and Ralph: weavers of garden magic.

A peek into a fairy house.

Near the backyard basil patch.

Adding enchantment to the trellis.

Found treasure: a Hobbit’s hat.

One of the highlights is their gorgeous circular patch of basil for pesto.

Ralph told us his inspiration is his grandson who asks for pesto pasta often. He plants dozens of basil plants every year and has already made about 70 jars so far this summer.

We left amazed at the magical things that can be done within the bounds of a city lot and how much food can be grown if you focus on just one crop.

Our heartfelt thanks to Ralph and Jan for giving us a tour of their paradise and the refreshing tea and conversation!

With that, here are some summery delights that come to mind when I think of basil and tomato.

Caprese: Basil, heirloom tomatoes – the green zebras are my favorite standby – buffalo mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, Celtic sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar.

Bruschetta: ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice; traditionally served on toasted baguette slices brushed with olive oil.

Gazpacho: ripe tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper.

Sundried tomatoes and basil pesto.

Heirloom cherry tomatoes, especially Sungolds. They’re jewels in the garden.

Grilled cheese sandwiches with basil.

Cannellini Bean Stew

In the colder months, I love to make stews.
This is one, with its thick, tomato-based broth. It’s fun to eat it with biscuits or oat groats.

2 cups cannellini beans, soaked overnight or for 8 hours
10 fresh Roma tomatoes or 1-32 oz can tomatoes, diced (Muir Glen uses non-BPA lined cans)
2 onions, small dice
2 medium carrots, small dice
5 ribs of celery, minced
1 bulb garlic
½ lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
broth (chicken, vegetable, or mushroom), to cover ingredients by 2 inches
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red wine
½ bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bunch basil

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Cover with water and bring to a boil in a
medium pot, skimming the foam off as it boils. Bring down to a simmer and cover.
Cook until tender for about 30 minutes. Add 2 tsp. sea salt.

In a large pot with a heavy bottom, add the oil and saute the onion until translucent.
Add the carrots and celery. Add the garlic, fennel, and mushrooms and continue to saute until fragrant.
When all the vegetables are sauteed, add the tomato and olive oil.
Let it cook down until thick and pasty. The tomato will sweeten.

Add red wine and cook off the alcohol. Add the broth and herbs and cook until the flavors blend.


This is a gluten-free biscuit that is delicious served as an accompaniment for stew.

1¼ cups teff flour and amaranth flour, combined
1 cup milk (nut, grain, or animal)
4 free-range organic eggs, separated
5 T organic butter or coconut oil, melted
1 T organic butter or coconut oil
½ tsp sea salt
2 T or more fresh herbs (combination of thyme, sage, rosemary), chopped
1-10 inch cast iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400F. Place skillet in the oven.
Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they form peaks when you take the whisk away.
Set aside.

Combine flours and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the milk and yolks in a small bowl, then add
into the flour to combine. Add butter or coconut oil and fold in.
Gently fold in egg whites. Melt oil in the skillet and pour the batter into the heated skillet.

Serve with more butter or coconut oil and enjoy with the stew.

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