Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Growin' that herb.

Hahaha. I couldn't help myself, especially these days when I'm anticipating the next episode of Weeds! Horrible content, I know, but the show's so disgustingly outrageous that I'm hooked.
Today, I went out to buy some organic herb plantlings (basil and mint) in order to pot and grow. Hopefully I'll be able to keep them alive and thriving til I move into my apartment back at school. I'm going to try and grow them on my tiny balcony there. As for now, they're sitting in front of a window in our library room, and I slightly pruned/"pinched" them. This helps to stimulate new growth. Just pinch off the very tops (and any flowers) once in a while, right above the "second growths." Make sure to pinch off at the stem, not just the leaves. This ensures proper growing.

I used some basil in a whole wheat penne dish (I know, finally something healthier than cupcakes and butter), inspired by some pasta I had down in South Carolina at Immaculate Consumption. Definitely check that place out if you're near USC's campus; it's located at 933 Main St. "Immac," as students fondly call it, is a coffee and sandwich type of place. Their coffees are roasted in-house, the sandwiches and pastries are fresh, and prices are reasonable. What really stood out to me was their pasta you can have as a side to your sandwich. The whole wheat penne was perfectly al dente. The dressing was simple, comprising of fresh crushed garlic, chiffonaded ribbons of basil, and olive oil. My cousin said they put a little balsamic in there too, but I didn't catch it. Everything was tossed together in a hot pan and seasoned with just enough salt. Perfect!

Where the heck did my basil chiffonades go?! I will never know...

I paired the pasta with some minted lemonade, and it was a fine day.

Whole Wheat Penne, inspired by Immac
1 box whole wheat penne (I like the thin kind)
olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves, minced (or crushed if you don't like pieces when you eat)
1 handful of basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/2 small lemon
s&p to taste

Bring heavily salted water to a boil and add pasta. Meanwhile, heat up a saucepan on medium-high and add olive oil. Throw in basil and garlic and saute until fragrant. Fish garlic out now, if you only crushed the cloves (for those who don't like pieces of garlic in pasta). Drain penne when al dente, and add to saucepan. Stir to mix, squeeze in lemon juice (to your taste), and add optional balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste (I go pretty heavy on the pepper). Serve warm, and maybe add a little grated cheese (a good Parm or Pecorino Romano).

Minted Lemonade

1 cup water
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup sugar
a handful of mint leaves, ripped up

Bring water and sugar (add as little as 1/2 c or as much as 3/4 c to start) to a simmer until sugar is dissolved; let cool. In a pitcher add ripped up mint leaves and a teaspoon of sugar. Crush and muddle (add a little lemon juice if needed). Add juice of about 4 lemons and sugarwater. Taste to check sweetness. You'll probably need to add a little more water and/or sugar at this point. Adjust to your liking! Add some ice and stir. Rim glasses with raw or crystal sugar (I only had regular refined sugar hehe) because you're classy like that. Serves about 3-4 and then some.

Note: for a stronger mint flavor, rip up some mint leaves and throw them in the pot when making simple syrup/sugar water.

Random food fact of the day: The demand for lemons and their scurvy-preventing properties hit a peak during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Miners were willing to pay huge sums for a single lemon. As a result, lemon trees were planted in abundance throughout California (via



  1. =] This entry made me smile. You're VA's own Martha Stewart!

    Only difference being you actually know how to cook.

  2. MEEHEHEHEH :D oh, sey. you crack me up.. but don't joke on Martha, she got street cred due to jail time.

  3. That pasta dish sounds scrumptious! I think I'll try it. Immaculate Consumption--a bit sacrilegious maybe, but nonetheless brilliant, haha!
    One other thing, they sell powdered minted lemonade here in Mexico, and I used to drink it all the time as a high school pupil :]

  4. your skills are forreal, bourdain jr.

    p.s. you're not a gangster with your ambiguous blog titles.. although growing your own basil? somewhat gangster.

  5. christy- i thought the same thing when i saw the name of the shop hahaha :) and wow!! i wish they had powdered minted lemonade here.. i wanna try. we grew up with that regular country time mix..

    dan- bourdain jr, no! not enough skeelz. and you love my titles....