Saturday, October 10, 2009

Basil and Creativity

Clipped basil re-rooting along with coasters I won in a contest by Enid of Steamy Darcy.

This year, none of the tomatoes were successful. But the basil exploded, witness the photo above, these are the leftovers. So what to do with all the basil? Ah, and there's the link to increasing creativity, because after using it in spaghetti sauce and in tomato cucumber salad and giving it away to friends...what's next?

Here's a few of the recipes I created:

First, preserving it:
Rinse the basil, chop fine and bottle with olive oil. Can use as is for the basil flavor alone or add garlic, onion, pepper, lemon, etc. and make salad dressing. Keep refrigerated when not using.
Hang it upside down and dry it, although this is my least favorite way of preserving it. It loses a lot of flavor, IMO.
My favorite: Rinse the leaves and put whole into a plastic bag and freeze. When the basil is frozen, crunch it up in the bag into little bits and use. A thank you to my s.o. Bruce for this, it works great.

Now for three recipes:
Add basil to any curry to make it "Thai" style.
Basil is great added to any Chinese dish, especially fried rice and chicken dishes.
Add basil to ground chicken or any ground meat when making meatloaf.
Puree basil with garlic and butter or margarine and spread on a halved French bread loaf, bake in oven (low temp or the basil will burn) for a twist on garlic bread.
And my favorite:
Tomato Basil soup:
2 cups of tomatoes (for spicier soup, can use 1 cup green tomatoes)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup of basil (it will taste strong)
Tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritious yeast (optional)
touch of pepper (optional)
Puree tomatoes. Heat olive oil in soup pan and add tomato puree and cook 5-8 minutes then add slowly the 2 cups of milk and simmer for 10 minutes, then add basil, yeast and pepper and simmer another 10 minutes. Soup will be thin, if you like thicker add 2 tablespoons of flour when adding milk and stir well. And my disclaimer: I'm not a professional chef so your results may vary.

Now the creativity piece--I discovered that having such a wealth of one thing, basil, led me to be creative in how I thought about basil. It became much more than "one of the spices that goes into spaghetti." It expanded and took on a more complex role in my cooking in some unexpected ways. And showed me a way to be more creative in my writing. With a character, for example, expand the character so it becomes more complex and then use the character in unexpected ways. Same is true for the plot--try thinking of it as many different ways as possible, play the what if game. What's an unexpected event? Another? Twist and turn the elements of your creativity and then jump out of boxed in expectations to another level.

Anybody got any other recipes for basil? How about a story where a plethora of whatever led to more creative thinking?


Anonymous said...

Pesto! Not very creative, but that's how I use it!

Conda Douglas said...

Pesto! Of course! Yum! Thanks, Beth.

Helen Ginger said...

I have no recipe for basil, although when I visited my sister in Minnesota recently she made fabulous pesto from the basil in her garden.

I love how you connected it all to writing. ;-)

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

I once grew a garden of nothing but basil, so I could make OODLES of pesto. :-) I would suggest Thai cooking, too, but I don't know how to do that.

In fact, I might have pesto for dinner!! Enjoy - I love the smell of fresh basil...

Conda Douglas said...

Well now you have a few recipes for basil, Helen and thanks for your lovely compliment!

Conda Douglas said...

"Thai curry" is easy, Beth, just use curry powder and basil (both to taste).
Of course, I love to cook, so I play a lot with faking different types of cuisine--making up my own quick and easy versions.

Anonymous said...

That sounds too easy, Conda! I love Thai food, but never have tried to make it. Maybe I should take the plunge, huh? Thanks for the suggestion!

Conda Douglas said...

You're welcome, Beth--but remember "results may vary" ;)

Swubird said...


I'm not a great cook, but I plug along. I was wondering, what brand of olive oil do you use? I have begun to experiment and to my surprise, they all taste differently---some definitely better than others. I found a bottle of olive oil on the Internet that sold for $100! I didn't now there were such things.

AS to you writing pint about expanding characters, I have begun to do the same. In fact, I just finished a story wherein I gave one of my main players a lot more depth. Not overly so, but I definitely experimented with some conflicting personality traits.

Great post.

Happy trails.

Conda Douglas said...

Hi Swu!

Ah, olive oil--the reason for the massive difference in taste and price: less expensive=less olive oil (olive oil mixed in with other nut oils) and less fresh. The best I've found without paying 100 bucks that I don't have is Costco's store brand (virgin). It seems to be the freshest? Course you have to buy a big bottle, but I use a lot of olive oil.

And will we see the character you mentioned soon in a story on SWUBIRD'S NEST?

Enid Wilson said...

The coasters go quite well with your basil, Conda. But I've to say I don't like to eat basil. In fact I'm not a huge fan of herb. Thanks for mentioning my site too.

Bargain with the Devil

Carol Kilgore said...

What a coincidence, Conda - we had pesto for dinner tonight.

A little basil chopped into salad perks up the flavor.

My live-in handyman makes a killer ravioli dish with frozen cheese ravioli in a lemon-basil-parmesan sauce.

Good connection to getting in creative mode.

Conda Douglas said...

Enid, you don't like basil or other herbs?! Ah, well, just goes to show how different people can be, one to the other (and shouldn't we keep that in mind while writing characters?).

Conda Douglas said...

Lemon, basil and sage go well on fish and chicken too, I've found. And the ravioli dish sounds delightful.

Lynda Lehmann said...

You know what they say, Conda: "Necessity is the Mother of Invention."

You are creative as well as practical, so of course you didn't want to waste too-much-of-a-good-thing. And all your recipes sound delish, whether you've earned your chef's hat, or not.

Did the tomatoes fail to thrive because of too much rain and lack of sunshine?

Conda Douglas said...

Thanks, Lynda. And the tomatoes were our first attempt at our new place to grow, so it was a combo--planted too late, planted too many plants (2 in each planter). We have oodles of sunshine here on the high desert plain and frustratingly enough, we got lots of blooms setting and little green tomatoes growing--in September. With an early deep frost first week of October--one ripe tomato!

Dave King said...

Sounds like you've had a summer somewhat like ours, in which some things have done exceptionally well and others have just given up the ghost. Lovely twist at the end, though, applying your cookery prowess to poetry. That's not a hint, that's a whole army of hints. Thanks.

Conda Douglas said...

"Whole army of hints" I love it! Thanks, Dave.

Helen Ginger said...

I meant to tell you that I like those coasters. I wanted those when Enid was giving them away. I'm glad you included them in the picture!

Straight From Hel

Conda Douglas said...

Yes, Helen, they match my living room decor, how cool is that?!

Caryn Caldwell said...

Whenever I have something to use up I go to and search by ingredient. It'll pull up all the recipes that use that particular ingredient. It's amazing what foods people can come up with, and I end up eating stuff I never would have tried otherwise.

Conda Douglas said...

Caryn, I'd forgotten about Recipezaar! I've gotten some great recipes from there--ain't the 'net useful?

Kathy McIntosh said...

Love the coasters.
Visited my daughter last week and one of her guests made Thai basil fried rice...yummy! He used a touch of anchovy and shrimp paste, but I wasn't able to watch that part so can't share his recipe.
Your comment about dumping too much of anything on a character is thought-provoking, especially since I write comic fiction. I'm hoping it starts something cooking in my tired brain.

Conda Douglas said...

Kathy--your comment about Thai basil fried rice made me hungry! And since so much comic fiction is exaggeration--how much is too much?!