Thursday, June 23, 2011

Companion Planting: Tomatoes Love Basil

Illustration by the Girl

There are few things that go together as well as tomatoes and basil in cooking. Caprese salad, Margherita pizza, and tomato basil soup are some of the best dishes that come to mind for these two ingredients. But did you know that they compliment each other when growing as well as on the plate in a finished dish?

There are a lot of vegetables, herbs, and even flowers that help each other grow when planted near each other. Throughout this summer I will be posting a series of "companion planting" updates (complete with a hand drawn illustration by the girl).

Planting basil as a border to where you are growing tomatoes will help the tomatoes resist disease and will help to make the tomatoes taste better. The tomatoes will grow better because basil attracts bees which results in increased pollination. Basil will also repel flies and mosquitoes. I've even heard of people planting basil by the back door for the mosquito repellent effect!

Next year when you are planning your vegetable garden, be sure to put some basil with your tomatoes, you won't be sorry!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cream Scones and a Royal Wedding

All Photos From The Girl

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you know that there was a Royal Wedding in London at the end of April. The girl and I decided that we would get up bright and early (5:45 am EST) and watch the wedding of the future King of England. We'd clearly need some breakfast to go along with our tea, so the night before I decided to try my hand at baking up cream scones...with some help from the girl (she's a wonderful baker...I, well - I'm still learning!).

I found a simple recipe for English scones (pronounced "skohns" in the U.K.) and made it as is for the wedding morning. The scones came out okay, but were a little dense. After talking to the girl about the texture, I realized I'd overworked them a bit and that had toughened them. Nevertheless, they were delicious topped with raspberry jam for our morning of wishing we lived in London.

I tried the recipe again about a week later and tweaked it slightly. Instead of the milk listed in the ingredients, I used cream. I also made sure not to overwork them and used the "well technique" for mixing the wet ingredients into the dry (which helped a lot in keeping them lighter). The second batch was even better than the first! They had a wonderful, soft texture with just enough richness, and the butter made beautifully flaked layers. This is now a go-to recipe for me for a breakfast get-together. They are pretty easy to make (even for a non-baker!), and they are sure to be crowd pleasers as you can top them with whatever you like - clotted cream, butter, jam, jelly, lemon curd, or savory cheese and ham!

Scone with raspberry jam

English Cream Scones
Adapted from Taste of Home

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
Additional milk or cream

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Beat heavy cream and egg; add to dry ingredients using a well technique, stirring lightly. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; roll to 1-in. thickness. Cut with a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter. Bake at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Scones with butter, lemon curd and raspberry jam
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