Do Not Try This At Home…Without Inviting Me

Mammoth!

I love basil. I’ve never smoked anything…or ever been interested in smoking anything…except for basil. I haven’t actually smoked basil either…but it’s the only thing that gets me excited enough to consider it. For my birthday one year, a friend gave me a gorgeous bouquet of freshly clipped basil from her garden. I honestly cannot think of another birthday gift that has topped that one. I instantly buried my face in the pungent leaves and breathed so deeply that I got a little giddy. There’s just nothing like that sweet, tangy, green yumminess warmed by the sun, yet still crisp from the plant. Just thinking about it makes me tingly.

So. It is understandable then that when I saw these massive Mammoth Basil leaves at the Farmer’s Market this week I gasped. I couldn’t resist reaching into the bin and stroking the leaves reverently, all the while breathing deeply as though going into a trance. I’m sure my eyes were shiny and dreamy as I asked the stand owner what he wanted for the basil. Truth be told, it really didn’t matter, as that basil was coming home with me.

I instantly set out on a mission to find the rest of the ingredients necessary for my favorite Antipasto dish: Insalata Caprese Crostini. I found a lovely little bag of sun-dried tomato flavored crostini and I picked up two more vine-ripened, organic tomatoes. My joy was slightly diminished when I discovered that no stores in the area had even heard of Mozzarella di Bufala, which is the ideal pairing for this dish. I settled for bite-sized rounds of cow milk mozzarella and proceeded home, still breathing in the heavenly basil.

Once home, I quickly sliced the tomatoes, washed the basil and cut it into crostini sized pieces. I then grabbed a bottle of Balsamic vinegar, a sauce pan and a whisk. I poured a cup of Balsamic vinegar into the saucepan and turned on the stove to medium heat, whisking continuously until the vinegar turned sweet and syrupy. I drizzled organic, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil on the crostini, layered the basil and tomato and topped with the mozzarella. Then I drizzled more olive oil and the Balsamic vinegar reduction on top. This, arranged on a white glazed platter was breathtaking.

I know this is supposed to be an Antipasto dish, but for me, it’s the entire meal. The salty crunch of the bread was soon followed by the tangy crisp textures of the basil and tomato…the sour of the tomato bringing out the sweet of the basil. The creamy mozzarella blended the flavors and deepened them into a lingering taste fully heightened by the earthy, mineral taste of the vinegar. My apologies for not posting actual pictures, as my senses were too enraptured to even allow thoughts other than bliss.

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