basil

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel

I know I’ve been posting a lot of recipes with strawberries lately, but strawberry season is fleeting and I need my fix okay?

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, strawberries are pretty freakin amazing so you should probably have your head checked if you find yourself taking issue with my posting too many* strawberry recipes.

*no such thing

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

I grew up loving strawberries, and all berries for that matter, thanks in part to my grandfather’s garden. Grandpa’s garden is actually larger than the footprint of his house, and the house itself is actually pretty large.

Several years ago an insurance company flew over his house taking aerial photos of homes in the area after a big storm. Luckily there wasn’t any damage to his property, but they mailed him a glossy 8×10 that he framed and hung over his favorite recliner in the living room. Until then I’d never realized just how big the garden was, but seeing it from overhead really put it’s size into perspective.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

In addition to the garden he also has a small orchard filled with apple, pear, plum, & peach trees; a trellis weighed down by grapes stretching the length of his barn; and a separate patch of walnut and chestnut trees shading the lawn behind the barn.

It’s basically my mission in life to eventually have a piece of property as large, beautiful, and bountiful as my grandfather’s little oasis in the Fingerlakes. For now though, I’ll have to be satisfied with trips to the farmer’s market instead.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

Within the garden itself he’s always got rows and rows of tomatoes, squash, peppers, and beans, along with a huge strip of asparagus, but his berries have always taken up the largest portion of his plot. He used to have a big stretch of raspberry bushes, but they attracted japanese beetles so he took them out a few years back. His latest and greatest joy is his blueberries, and every time I visit he’s talking about a new soil amendment he’s trying to get higher yields, or a new trick he’s testing out to keep the deer away.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

As far back as I can remember, his strawberry patch has taken up almost a full quarter of the whole plot. Growing up we used to spend hours picking strawberries with Grandpa and carrying bowls of them into the house to help Grandma clean them. As soon as they were washed she would hull and slice them, macerate them in sugar, and freeze most of them to eat in the colder months to come. Oddly enough Grandma and Grandpa weren’t big fans of eating strawberries in their fresh natural state, though my sisters and I certainly ate plenty.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel | Brooklyn Homemaker

What better way to celebrate the first official week of summer than combining two of Grandpa’s favorite berries with a simple, tender crumb cake baked in a cast iron skillet?

While Grandpa doesn’t grow basil I decided that I’d try using up some basil sugar in the streusel topping just for kicks. I have a bunch of basil sugar left from my birthday cake experiments, so why not? I thought the basil flavor, rather than using the more traditional cinnamon, might make this cake taste even more summery and bright.

I was right.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel | Brooklyn Homemaker

The base of this cake is moist, tender, buttery, and perfect. Thanks to being baked in a skillet, the sides are almost as crunchy as the crumb topping. It’s absolutely bursting with fresh ripe berry flavor brightened up with a touch of lemon. There are so many berries that the cake practically fell apart when I tried slicing it before it was completely cool. The streusel topping adds even more warm weather brightness with unexpected hints of fresh green herbal loveliness from the basil sugar (and plenty of butter).

While I think the basil sugar kind of elevates this cake into a whole new level of summer perfection, I know it might sound kind of crazy to some of you. If you’re not feeling quite as adventurous and I was, and would prefer a more traditional streusel topping, feel free to skip the basil and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon instead.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mixed Berry Skillet Cake with Basil Sugar Streusel

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Topping:
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold is fine
Pinch of salt

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, cleaned and dried
1/2 lb (about 1 1/2 cups) fresh strawberries, cleaned, dried, & quartered
1/2 cup buttermilk
confectioners sugar for dusting, optional

Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet. (or alternately butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan)

Using a food processor (or mortar and pestle), prepare the basil sugar by grinding the basil into a paste fist and then adding the sugar and pulsing until very well mixed. The sugar should absorb the basil pulp and turn vibrant green with a texture similar to that of brown sugar.

Prepare the topping by mixing the flour, sugar, and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender or fork (or even your fingertips) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate while you make the rest of the cake.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with handheld mixer), cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Mix lemon juice into buttermilk. Alternate 3 additions of flour and 2 additions of buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. The batter should be quite stiff. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to gently fold in berries until evenly distributed.

Spread batter into prepared skillet and smooth it flat. Sprinkle with prepared streusel, breaking it up as you go if it’s clumped together. Bake in heated oven for 45 – 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better) before slicing.

Remove the cake from the skillet for storage if there’s any left (there won’t be). Cake should keep, well covered at room temperature, for up to three days (or a bit longer in the fridge).

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spicy peanut carrot and cabbage salad

I’m sure that I’ve said this before, but one of my favorite little kitchen gadgets is a simple julienne peeler.

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

The one I have is a sturdy dishwasher-safe stainless model by Kuhn Rikon that I found at Whisk for about $20, but there are a lot of other options out there on the market. The basic idea is sort of similar to a regular vegetable peeler, but with teeth running along the blade so that in one motion you end up with perfectly julienned strips of whatever you’re using it on.

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve also used vegetable spiralizers that produce similar results, and while spiral slicers offer more options and variation, my julienne peeler is sturdier, smaller, and cheaper than even the smallest handheld spiral slicer.

Although it has tons of uses, my favorite use for this nifty little guy is to peel strips of carrot for salads, slaws, asian dishes, and garnishes.

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now that the weather is warming up I’ve been looking for light summery (I know we’re not quite there yet, but a man can dream) salads and cold dishes to eat on hot days. One of my favorite warm weather meals is a soba noodle salad with lots of veggies and a spicy peanut dressing.

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was thinking about making that very dish, it’s one that I make a variation on at least once or twice every summer, but I thought it might be fun to try it without the noodles this time. Instead of the cold soba noodles I opted for long thin julienned strips of fresh carrot, and thinly shredded savoy cabbage.

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re looking to add a little extra protein to this salad I think that laying some thinly sliced grilled chicken breast or lean steak over the top makes for a gorgeous presentation. To make things even simpler, you could just pull the meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken and toss it all together with the other ingredients. My local grocery store recently started doing air-chilled organic chickens on their rotisserie too, which I think is a really nice option to have. Easy, delicious, and good quality!

If you wanted to keep the salad vegetarian, I think some roasted chickpeas would also be a really nice option!

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Added protein or not, this salad is pretty stellar.

The cabbage and carrot softens ever so slightly but still offers a pleasant crunch in every bite. The peanut dressing is thick and creamy and ever so slightly spicy and tangy from the vinegar and lime juice. The green onions and basil add even more green earthiness and flavor, and the toasted peanuts add great texture and flavor. It’s the perfect meal for the warm weather to come, and keeps well for a day in the refrigerator if you want to pack it for lunch. It would also be the perfect make-ahead meal for a picnic!
If you do decide to make it ahead, just be sure to wait to add the toasted peanuts until serving or they can absorb the oils in the dressing and lose their crunch.

carrot and cabbage salad with spicy peanut dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Carrot and Cabbage Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Dressing:
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (reduced sugar or sugar free is best)
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
1 garlic clove, finely minced or crushed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges of an additional lime for serving

Salad:
4 cups thinly shredded savoy cabbage, loosely packed (about half a head)
3 cups julienned or shredded carrots, loosely packed (about 4-6 large carrots)
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced or torn
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted or pre-roasted

Combine all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and lump free. If using sweetened peanut butter, taste before adding the honey.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. If making ahead, reserve the peanuts and wait to add until just before serving. Pour the dressing over the top of the salad and toss like mad until well combined. It may seem like there isn’t enough dressing but the cabbage will begin to wilt once tossed and the dressing will stretch. Of course, if you like a heavily dressed salad you can increase the dressing recipe. Serve with lime wedges if desired

Salad will keep, refrigerated and well covered, for at least a day.

If desired, top with thinly sliced lean steak or chicken breast, or toss with pulled rotisserie chicken meat or roasted chickpeas.

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs

Can you believe that summer is almost here?

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Warm sunny days put me in the mood for light meals filled with fresh vegetables, bright flavors, & spice and heat.

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

On a recent sunny day, I sent Russell to the store to grab me some chicken thighs for what’s turned out to be my favorite meal of the summer so far, my grilled lemon herb chicken thighs. I know that it’s not officially summer just yet, but soon the mosquitos and humidity will make our little yarden a lot less fun, so we’re taking advantage as much as possible right now. Anyway, he accidentally came back with skinless boneless thighs and had to turn back for something that would hold up a little better on the grill.

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not one to waste anything, especially anything edible, I decided to put those skinless boneless thighs to good use a day or two later. I went through the fridge and cupboards to see what I could come up with, and quickly had a plan hatching. I had a can of coconut milk in the house, along with some carrots, limes, and ginger; so I knew what I had to do.

 thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

These chicken thighs would lend themselves perfectly to a quick and easy Thai curry. I even had half a jar of Thai green curry paste and a bottle of fish sauce in the fridge, and a bright green basil plant growing out back. All I would need to grab from the store was some red bell peppers and a bag of white rice.

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

This dish comes together really quickly once you get everything prepped and ready to go. I think it’s nice to chop all the vegetables into long thin strips so they cook really quickly. Even the chicken thighs get sliced into thin strips for quick cooking. Once you get the chicken and the vegetables cut, the lime zested and juiced, and the ginger grated; this meal comes together in about half an hour. If you put the rice on to cook while the curry thickens, you’ll be ready to go in no time. The only thing I wouldn’t do too far in advance is slice the basil, which starts to brown once it’s cut.

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

This dish is perfect for warm weather. It’s bright, tangy and just a tiny bit sweet from the lime juice, with some nice subtle spice from the curry and ginger. The chicken is perfectly tender and flavorful, the veggies add freshness and bite, and the coconut milk brings the whole thing together giving the curry some rich creaminess while keeping it light and bright. Great now I’m drooling. Good thing there’s some leftovers in the fridge!

thai coconut green curry chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thai Coconut Green Curry Chicken Thighs

  • Servings: about 4 to 6-ish
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1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized strips or chunks
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 tablespoon coconut oil or vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger (from a 1″ by 2″ peeled chunk)
zest and juice of 1 lime
3 large carrots, cut into thin strips
2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 medium onions, cut into thin strips
generous handful basil leaves, washed

In a small bowl combine chicken, fish sauce, and green curry. Stir to coat. Preheat a skillet over medium high heat, add oil and spread chicken thighs in an even layer. Season with salt to taste, and cook for 5 minutes stirring infrequently. Add coconut milk, lime zest and juice, and grated ginger. Stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, add the carrots, peppers and onion, and simmer 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, cut the basil into a chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them up like a cigar, and cut into paper thin strips). Add about 3/4 of the basil and simmer 5 minutes more.

Serve over white rice and top with remaining basil.