Recipe: Summer Pasta

I love cooking with fragrant basil, it is one of my favorite smells. I will use pretty much any excuse to add it to a dish, and I'm rarely disappointed. Along with tomatoes this veggie can elevate anything in such a simple way. For this light summer meal we get rid of the notion of a thick pasta sauce and instead the juice from the tomatoes themselves mixed with butter or oil create the perfect, light coating for the noodles. In-season tomatoes are extra juicy, so this is a perfect use for all that extra tomato water. Great for lunch or a not-too-heavy dinner after a hot summer day.

Ingredients (serves 2-4):
- 300 g pasta
- 2-3 bunches basil (80 g)
- 6 medium tomatoes (600 g)
- 4 tbsp butter or olive oil
- salt

1) Chop tomatoes coarsely and place in colander or strainer over a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and mix. Leave to drain and don't discard the liquid.

2) Boil water for pasta. Salt lightly or as you typically prefer for cooking pasta.

3) Pull basil off stems and rinse lightly while getting pasta ready. A cute helper with butterfly tattoos makes the interminable task of de-stemming basil go faster.

4) Drain pasta BEFORE tender, when it's still quite al dente. You can use the guide on the box or bag of pasta to direct you and drain when 2/3 of the time is done.

5) Add drained tomato water and heat on low with the pot lid on, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a splash of water (ie, if still too al dente when the liquid has all been absorbed).

6) When pasta is tender and most or all of the tomato water has been absorbed, add butter or olive oil and stir.

7) Mix tomatoes and basil with pasta and serve immediately. Salt if needed.

Recipe: Eggplant Rice

This recipe is a bit like a deconstructed baba ganoush, remade as a rice dish. Feel free to load it up with more veggies or some meat, or just have it simply as it is, on the side of a main course. We made it to take to a harvest BBQ to celebrate the end of summer, and a late season veggie like eggplant feels just right on a day that turns cool as soon as the sun goes down. Our hosts were the lovely folks of Knuckle Down Farm, fellow Toronto ex-pats turned farmers. Thanks guys!

- 2-3 small eggplant
- 1/2 cup of rice
Tahini Sauce:
- 5 tbsp tahini
- 3 tbsp plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2-4 cloves of garlic

1) Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut eggplant into 1 inch chunks. Place eggplant in colander, salt lightly and leave to drain until the oven is ready.

2) Spread drained eggplant chunks out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3) While eggplant is roasting puree tahini sauce ingredients. Cook rice on the stovetop or in a rice cooker.

4) Thinly slice basil into chiffonade strips.

5) Combine eggplant, tahini sauce, basil and cooked rice in a bowl and mix well. Serve hot or cold.

Recipe: Roasted Sweet Pepper Salad

Roasting peppers under the broiler brings out a sweet earthiness that pairs wonderfully with summery basil. So that the raw onions wouldn't overtake the more delicate flavours of this salad, I soaked them in balsamic vinegar first, softening their bite and muting their pungency. Onions can be soaked in ice water to achieve a similar effect, but I find that vinegar (or anything acidic) mellows them the best. An acidic soak also seems to lessen the heartburn and other unpleasant reactions that some people have to raw onions. Give it a try!

- 3 - 4 sweet peppers
- 1/2 - 1 onion
- 1 bunch of basil
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- salt


1) Cut peppers in half and place skin side up in a shallow baking dish or on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and put under the broiler.

2) Remove peppers when skins are thoroughly blackened, about 5-15 minutes, depending on how hot your broiler is.

3) Put peppers in a glass bowl and cover with a lid for about 20 minutes. The steam from the peppers will loosen the skins and make them easier to peel.

3) Meanwhile, slice onions thinly and place in a small bowl with balsamic vinegar to soak. You will need just enough vinegar to wet all the onions, about 2-4 tbsp.

5) When the peppers are cool enough to touch, peel the skins with a paring knife. Don't worry about getting every scrap of skin off so long as the blackened parts are removed.

6) Slice peeled peppers and combine with onion and basil. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar from the bowl the onions soaked in. Salt to taste and serve.

Recipe: Onion Marmalade

Sweet onions take a bit longer to caramelize because of their higher water content, but the results are sweet enough to make into a jam. Slow cooked in a balsamic reduction along with some basil and garlic you get a lovely combination of sweet and savory flavours that can be used to dress up a multitude of dishes. Try it in a sandwich or with a soft cheese, mixed into a salad dressing or on the side with a roasted meat. It looks so pretty in the jar you may consider giving it as a gift.

- 3-4 onions, sliced thinly
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch basil, cut into thin strips
- 1 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar

1) Heat olive oil on medium and fry sliced onions until soft and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.

2) Add sugar, minced garlic and balsamic vinegar and turn heat down to low. Simmer until reduced to a thick, jam-like consistency, about 60 minutes.

3) Add butter and basil and simmer for 5 minutes.

4) Spoon into a jar and refrigerate. Will last for several weeks. Gift accordingly.

Recipe: Ratatouille

Late summer veggies combine to make an amazing stew on a evening when you might notice that the sun is setting earlier. Rather than cook all the ingredients together in a single pot, this alternative version of ratatouille oven roasts each veggie separately before putting them all together for the final simmer. This method speeds up the recipe a bit and produces a prettier result as all the ingredients hold their shape and colour better when cooked separately first.


- 1 large or 2 small eggplants
- 2 summer squash (zucchinis or patty pans, or 1 of each)
- 2 medium onions
- 2-3 peppers
- 3 large tomatoes
- 1 bunch basil
- olive oil
- salt


1) Chop eggplant into 1 inch chunks. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to drain while you prep the other veggies. Preheat oven to 450 F.

2) Chop onions and fry in olive oil on high, adding a splash of water when the onions start to stick to the pan. The standard method for caramelizing onions is slow work, so we often use this short cut method to save time.

3) Chop summer squash into 1 inch chunks. Place in a roasting pan, salt light and drizzle with oil. By now the eggplant should be drained so you can drizzle than with oil in a separate roasting pan (so that you don't crowd any of the veggies) and put in the oven.

4) Slice peppers in half and place skin side up on a cookie sheet. Coat with olive oil and put in the oven. The squashes, eggplants and peppers should all take about 15-20 minutes to roast.

5) While the other veggies are roasting, coarsely chop tomatoes and mix with caramelized (or at least cooked down) onions in a pot with a sprinkle of salt. Heat on high until boiling and tomatoes start softening, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring to break up the tomatoes.

6) Remove roasting pans from the oven when veggies are thoroughly browned. Slice peppers into strips. Mix all into pot with onions and tomatoes.

7) Add basil to pot and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add more salt as needed.

8) Serve with a starch of your choice, like rice or pasta. For this meal, Eric made cornbread triangles to dip into the rich, tomato-based sauce.

Recipe: Tomato and Basil Two Ways

When fresh, in-season tomatoes and basil are around, I feel a bit like I'm cheating in the kitchen. Combining them in a dish is so simple and quick, yet the results taste like something that took way more effort and skill to prepare. Truly these veggies belong together, and this week I've got two ways to prepare these partners in crime that bring out some of the best they have to offer. I left out specific quantities for these recipes because for the most part when it comes to tomatoes and basil I just max out what's available of both – it's nearly impossible to go wrong with such an exquisite combination.

- tomatoes
- basil
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- salt
- garlic, minced
- oregano, fresh or dry

Fried Tomatoes with Herb Dressing

1) Finely chop basil and oregano (if using fresh).

2) Heat olive oil and balsamic vinegar on medium-low until warm but not boiling, about 5 minutes. The quantity of oil and vinegar depends on the amount of herbs you use, but you should have enough liquid to soak all the herbs. Oil to vinegar ratio should be 3:1.

3) Add herbs and minced garlic and cook for 5 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, slice tomatoes in half and place cut side down on a pan or griddle on medium-high heat.

5) Fry until lightly browned on cut side and then flip to brown other side. Tomatoes should be nearly falling apart when finished.

6) Transfer tomatoes to serving bowl and spoon herbs on top along with some of the liquid. Serve immediately.


Tomato Basil Salad

1) Chop tomatoes and place in a strainer. Salt lightly and let tomatoes drain for at least 10 minutes. This step is very important as these varieties of tomato are MUCH juicer than what you typically find at the grocery store and you don't want a pool of water at the bottom of your salad bowl.

2) Layer basil in salad bowl and place drained tomatoes on top. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve.

3) If you want to go for a full Caprese salad, add thin slices of the freshest bocconcini you can find.