A Fistful Of Basil

I’m off to the city tomorrow, for an unknown period of time (probably a week) so this will be the last post for a bit since the laptop is kaput. I do have a couple of nice things scheduled, so if I can I’ll post them while I’m there. Tonight’s dinner is unremarkable to look at, for sure- but to taste, well, that was another matter. It began with some ground (local, organic) turkey. Now this is a bland meat, made all the more so by the inexplicable absence of fat. It makes a passable burger, or meatball, or even part of a sausage, but not without copious flavoring and usually heroic doses of duck fat.

In this case, however, such is the bounty that is pouring forth from the garden every day that all I had to do was throw it in the mix- though it definitely got an assist from the lobster broth we brought back from Vermont. So turkey, white carrot, white beet, yukon gold potato, onion, beet greens, green beans, Roma tomatoes, zucchini and herbs all went in a big pot along with a pint of the broth (after the meat and roots browned a bit) and simmered or about 30 minutes I thickened the liquid with a little flour about halfway through. The result was a one-pot meal that spanned sweet and hearty, and had astonishing freshness and depth for what was essentially a pot pie without the crust on top. Ingredients are almost everything.

I kept this simple and confined to one pot because the rest of the stove was covered with our two biggest: the huge stock pot and the far bigger speckleware canning bath (which, on our crap-ass stove, takes about a week to boil, even when filled with piping hot water from the tap.) Into the big stock pot went a ton of our sauce tomatoes, supplemented with about ten pounds more I picked up at the farmers’ market yesterday, plus a mound of basil, parsley, and garlic. After about an hour of gentle simmering, I ran it all through my Grandmother’s food mill that we retrieved from a drawer in VT and canned it all.

We ended up with 14 pints total- a good start, but I want to make more; these worked out to about $2.50 per pint as compared to around $3.50 for the big organic cans which come from California or Italy. Now those contain more, but one jar of this has more flavor and would handsomely cover a full box of pasta, so these win hands down. The people I bought the paste tomatoes from have some beautiful yellow ones that I’ll buy and sauce when I’m back. I opened a 1998 Turley Moore “Earthquake” Vineyard zinfandel, which at 10 years old is an eloquent rebuttal to those who find zin cloying and lacking in complexity. Yes, it’s fruity and rich (like Elton John) and nobody’s going to confuse it with a Côte-Rôtie, but it’s elegant, graceful, and just plain beautiful. But that’s why Helen Turley is famous.

5 comments to A Fistful Of Basil

  • Heather

    Jeez, don’t they have Trader Joe’s where you live? $1.79 for organic tomatoes in the big cans.

    The stew sounds perfect for these cooler nights. With lots of bread for sponging up that gravy.

    Have a nice time in the city! I’ll be out for a week later this month, too.

  • cookiecrumb

    I love a one-pot meal.
    I love Zinfandel, too. Am I a dip?

  • Zoomie

    Your red, red jars of tomatoes just look beautiful. I used to make and can tomato juice when I lived in WNY and after you’ve tasted that, nothing that comes from the store will do. Made enough to last through the winter. Big hit with Husband #1.

  • Jen of A2eatwrite

    Congrats on the jars. Hope the trip is a good one.

  • peter

    Heather: No Trader Joe’s.

    CC: No, though I have to say that barring Turley and a couple of others, it all tastes too much like Maneschewitz to me.

    Zoomie: There’s more to come.

    Jen: It was OK. Now I’m home for a week.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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