Once upon a time, I was a harried mother of two young children. I loved great food but barely had enough time to brush my teeth, let alone make time-consuming recipes from scratch. One of my favorite appetizers for those rare occasions when we had company was a basil, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese spread that I bought from my local gourmet food store for about $100 for a tiny container. (I’m exaggerating about the price, not by much.) Anyway, one day the store ran out of the spread and the counter guy, seeing my pain, did my a good turn. In a tone that probably sounded like “Here, here, little girl, stop crying – here’s a lollipop,” he told me what the ingredients in the spread were and suggested that I try making it myself.
Fast-forward a couple of decades. The spread is now a family favorite. I make it all the time and haven’t bought it pre-made since that day. I’ve experimented with the basics and found lots of ways to use it alone, with pasta, on sandwiches and every which way.
The basil and sun-dried tomato base is super easy to make. It has just 4 components (besides salt and pepper): fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and crushed fresh garlic. If you like goat cheese, this basil-tomato “sauce” gets poured over a disk or chunk of goat cheese. If you want it a vegan version, omit the cheese – it’s delicious that way too.
The secret to this spread is great ingredients – use fresh basil, really good olive oil and really good goat cheese. (Good cheese is about taste and texture, which are matters of personal preference. Also, check to make sure the cheese does not have artificial additives.) I prefer home-grown or farmer’s market basil, but often have to resort to fresh, grocery-purchased basil. This is a recipe only in the loosest sense of the word, because it does not involve exact proportions.
Basil, Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Spread – Medium sized deli container (enough for appetizer or pasta sauce for 6-8)
- Handful of basil
- Handful of sun dried tomatoes
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup or more of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- log or piece of goat cheese
- Cutting board
- Medium-sized knife
- Measuring cup
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Add a handful of sundried tomatoes. Boil for 8-10 minutes, until they are soft.
- Remove the tomatoes from the water by pouring the tomatoes into a colander and let them cool down for 10-15 minutes. Press down slightly to make sure that excess water is gone before you cut the now-soft tomatoes.
- Meanwhile, wash and dry a large handful of basil leaves. Cut off stems. Lay the basil leaves down on cutting board in same general direction, in a pile. Cut the leaves in thin slices, then cross-wise, into small pieces. Put basil in the bowl.
- Lay the tomatoes on the cutting board and slice them in the same manner as the basil leaves (thin slices, then cross-wise.) Add the tomatoes to the basil in the bowl.
- Pour ½ cup of olive oil into the basil-tomato mixture. Add more olive oil until the oil is obvious in the mixture. (The basil and tomatoes will soak up oil, especially at first.)
- Using a garlic press or the side of a knife, smash 1-2 cloves of garlic and add them to the mixture.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour the mixture over the goat cheese.
Ideas for using the basil and sundried tomato spread:
- With bread or crackers as an appetizer
- Sprinkled on pasta as a light but tangy sauce
- As a condiment on sandwiches, especially those with turkey or chicken.