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You can make appetizers, soups, salads and sauces as well as main meals with tomato and basil. Fresh basil will add the most flavor, but the dried form is more concentrated and is best used in tomato sauces, broiled tomatoes and soups rather than salads. A variety of different tomatoes and tomato products may be combined with herbs such as basil to create delicious and aromatic dishes.
Appetizer or snack ideas for basil and tomatoes include bruschetta (pronounced brusketta) and broiled tomato slices. Bruschetta is a mixture of ingredients such as fresh basil leaves, plum tomatoes, ground pepper, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It may be spread on toasted Italian or French bread, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Tomatoes that are sliced, then topped with dried basil, Parmesan cheese and ground pepper before broiling can make a delicious side dish. Macaroni and cheese, rice dishes and roasted poultry are just some of the possibilities that may be complemented by broiled tomatoes with basil.
Tomato and basil soup is best made with fresh tomatoes. Fresh basil leaves also offer the richest flavor in soups, although the dried form may also be used. For making most soups, the tomato peel may be left on, but the seeds should be removed. Other vegetables such as thinly sliced sauteed onions may be added to tomato basil soups. Popular seasonings include minced garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Salads offer many different possibilities for combining basil and tomato. You could use crisp greens such as spinach or romaine lettuce, feta cheese, fresh basil leaves, chopped tomato chunks and vinaigrette dressing to create a salad suitable for a light meal. Another option would be to toss salad greens with halved cherry tomatoes, thin strips of ham, chopped fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts or thinly sliced celery and serve with a creamy dressing. Macaroni salad is another way you can use tomato and basil, but it should be chilled for at least several hours before serving. Mix together cooked macaroni with ingredients such as halved cherry tomatoes, ham cubes, chopped fresh basil, pepper, mustard, mayonnaise and sour cream.
An Italian tomato sauce can be a good base for many main dishes such as spaghetti and pizza. Plum or another variety of tomatoes can be simmered with sauteed mushrooms, onions and garlic as well as fresh or dried basil. You may also want to add salt, pepper and other herbs such as oregano. Meatballs may be added when using the tomato and basic sauce to top spaghetti.
The basil tomato sauce may be used as is to coat a pizza dough crust before you add toppings. Sliced tomatoes as well as fresh basil leaves can make both attractive and tasty pizza toppings. Cooked fettuccine or other pasta may be topped with a tomato and basil marinara sauce with seafood such as chunks of whitefish, clams or shrimp. Basic marinara sauce can be made by simmering together tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and garlic cloves that were first sauteed in olive oil.
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