As I write this, it’s a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning. I’m in the tail end of my vacation hangover (you know, that somewhat blurred period between “responsibility-free” and “real life”) and in the midst of the subsequent lapse of time, space, memory, routine, and full brain function. The trip back home to British Columbia was magical and inspiring, filled with relaxing, quality family time, a big farm wedding, perfect weather, and cool, yet comfortable, evenings (my favorite!). And though I appreciated every minute, toward the end I began to miss our home, our pets, my personal space, and, of course, my garden.
When I’m home, tending my garden regularly, I don’t notice all the small changes occurring daily. But when I leave for an extended period, I am always blown away by the progress it has made upon my return! I liken it to when you haven’t seen a child for a while, and they seem to have grown a foot in just a few months. When I returned to my garden (and reality), I was met with a jungle of vegetable plants and a slew of delicious goodies—and, of course, lots of weeds!
This week’s recipe focuses on herbs and cucumbers—two items that are more than plentiful now. This dish is perfect for warm evenings, as it is refreshingly crisp, with vibrant, fragrant flavors. Plus, it packs a whole lot of nutrition into a simple, appealing meal. Cucumbers are comprised of around 95% water, making them ideal to cool and hydrate in the summer months. They are also workhorses in the fight against inflammation, provide lots of soluble fiber, and offer a reasonable amount of vitamins and minerals. But one of the real stars of the show here is the basil.
Basil comes in all shapes and sizes, with the most common and familiar being Genovese, or sweet, basil with its large, rounded, bright green leaves and distinctive fragrance. In this recipe, we’ll use Thai basil, which is characterized by small, sharp, pointy leaves, a slight purplish hue, and a scent and taste both somewhat similar to Genovese basil, yet with a wisp of spiciness and the addition of a slight licorice flavor. Both types of basil are equally beneficial in nutrient content, and a little goes a long way in terms of taste and benefits. Basil ranks high—even higher than kale—for vitamin K content: we only need 20 grams or so to reach 98% of our daily recommended intake of this crucial nutrient. Vitamin K is necessary for injury response, regulating blood clotting, and assisting in the transport of calcium throughout the body. It also plays an important role in bone health, heart health, and brain function.
If you don’t have easy access to Thai basil, Genoa sweet basil will do, though the flavor will be slightly different.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: About 10 minutes
For the Steak
2 rib eye steaks (or other steak of choice), room temperature
Untoasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper
For the Pesto
1½ cups Thai basil leaves, loosely packed
¼ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
1 scallion, white and green parts, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ to ½ cup untoasted sesame or peanut oil
2 tablespoons roasted cashews, whole
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Salad
2 cucumbers, sliced
1 to 2 cups snow peas, sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
¼ cup untoasted sesame or peanut oil
3 tablespoons fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
1 pinch red chili flakes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
⅓ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
- To make the pesto: Combine all pesto ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside in the fridge to chill.
- To make the salad: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside in fridge to chill, ideally for at least 20 minutes.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high. Pat steak dry with a paper towel and rub with oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill steaks to your liking. Transfer to a plate to rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak into serving pieces and arrange on serving plates. Spoon pesto atop steaks (there might be more than you need).
- Divide salad among plates. Serve.
Image from Briana Goodall.