Friday, July 10, 2009

Basil This!

Nothing excites Matt more than grilled salmon with basil aioli and a basil caesar salad. Nothing.

I returned from vacation expecting my basil to be limp and wilted, a testament to the weakness of Matt's "irrigation" system (which is a hose with holes he pierced in it). Instead, it was bushier than ever. Oh. In fact, all our newly planted trees and plants were thriving, except for our two tomato plants which were oh-so-casually missing their top third due to a deer bandit.

In a state of basil bliss, yesterday evening I made grilled salmon with a basil aioli and a basil caesar salad (both original recipes courtesy of Epicurious). I made them together because the caesar dressing and the aioli called for very similar ingredients, and lo and behold, they were quite identical. The dressing had a bit more kick (due to some parsley and additional sardines), and the aioli was a tad mellower. In fact, today I combined both to make a chicken caesar salad and it turned out splendidly. Both dishes are light and delicious, and a perfect accompaniment to summertime. Just add a glass of Riesling and you're set.

P.S. If you get all willy nilly about raw egg, then these aren't for you.

Grilled Salmon with Basil Aioli


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced (1 1/3 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • salmon fillets

For basil aioli:
Whisk egg yolks, basil, garlic, anchovies, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce in medium bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons oil a few drops at a time, then gradually whisk in remaining oil in thin stream. Whisk in 1 tablespoon warm water, lemon juice, and hot pepper sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

Note: To ease prep, aioli can also be made in a food processor.

For salmon:
Prepare barbecue (high heat). Brush grill rack with oil. Brush salmon with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill salmon uncovered 5 minutes. Using 2 large spatulas, carefully turn fish over. Grill until fish just begins to flake in center, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer salmon to platter.

Note: This recipe makes a full cup of aioli. Extras can be kept in the frig for a few days - use it on salads, fish, poultry, or a dipping sauce for potatoes or other yummy treats.

Basil Caesar Salad


  • 1 (10-inch) piece baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (I subbed with 4 anchovy fillets, which equals slightly less than a tablespoon of paste, being an anchovy novice.)
  • 1 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 package romaine hearts (1 pound), leaves separated and washed well, then halved crosswise
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Toss bread with several tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet. Toast in oven, stirring halfway through, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make extra croutons; trust me. (I don't trust anyone who can deny themselves fresh bread dipped in olive oil.)

Meanwhile, with motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and finely chop. Add egg, lemon juice, anchovy paste (or anchovies), and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse until combined.

I was scared, too.

With motor running, add remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified. Add herbs and blend until dressing turns green and herbs are finely chopped.

It will look like this.

Can you guess which is the basil caesar dressing and which is the aioli? Fine! The dressing is on the right. (These look disturbingly like healthy veggie drinks or something. Salud!)

Toss romaine with dressing, croutons, and half of cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Makes enough salad for 4-6 (dependent on if a side dish, hunger, and all that sort of stuff).

And there you go.

Every salad deserves its close-up.

This is Penny lurking at the side of the table, waiting for food.
She's devilish.

This is me being a bad dog owner and giving her table food.

Again, the aioli and dressing are similar; make one and place grilled fish or chicken on a bed and lettuce and top with some basil yumminess.

Next up? Chicken with grilled peaches and arugula, accented by grilled red onion and gorgonzola. Tell me you aren't salivating.


  1. What is aioli exactly--and how do you pronounce it?

    Looks delicious!


  2. Eye-oh-lee (although many folks incorrectly say aye-oh-lee, as I did, until I researched more deeply).

    It's an emulsion of oil and garlic (and additional ingredients) to make a creamy sauce, similar to mayo. Native to Provence, and traditionally served with seafood and/or veggies.

    So easy and so yummy!