Fab Finds Friday: 4 Fabulous Tomato-and-Basil Dishes

I cannot imagine eating Italian food without a trace of tomato or basil: two ingredients I adore for their amazing power to lend flavors to any dish: from the simplest to the most complex. Tomatoes -- not only are they healthy, they can also be transformed into almost anything: tossed in a salad, made into a sauce, pickled, or mixed into a drink. Basil on the other hand, has culinary uses and medicinal properties alike. But while the combination of these two is usually utilized in Italian cooking, any dish or cuisine can actually incorporate this duo -- you’re only limited by your own creativity! This week on Fab Finds Friday, let’s take a look at its versatility by checking out tomato-and-basil dishes I found around the metro.

1. Fresh Tomato and Herb Pasta from Café Mary Grace

A few weeks back I had a back injury and had to undergo physical therapy in Medical City in Trinoma. I looked forward to the sessions because: (1) the therapy was just like being given an expensive massage, but with machines and all; and (2) there was a nearby Café Mary Grace, where I ate lunch after each therapy—attacking the pasta choices.

There’s something incredibly addictive about the simplicity of Mary Grace’s Fresh Tomato and Herb Pasta: a concoction of fresh tomatoes, basil leaves, and mushrooms on spaghetti, served with a slice of garlic bread. A healthy creation that anyone can replicate at home (naks, feeling chef hahaha). I have yet to encounter a bad dish from Mary Grace—and among its selection of pastas, this modest one is my favorite.

Café Mary Grace
G/F Trinoma Mall, Quezon City
(02) 916-9003
Official website: Café Mary Grace
Facebook: Café Mary Grace
Instagram: @cafemarygrace
Other branches: click here
Budget: PhP200-PhP300/head

2. Sundried Tomato and Basil Cream Cheese from L.E.S. Bagels

When L.E.S. Bagels first opened in McKinley, I was among the first customers excited to try its arsenal of homemade bagels and cream cheeses. The bakeshop aims to bring us a taste of New York with its authentic, freshly-made products created by Chef Cuit Kaufman of Nolita and Borough fame. Customers can choose to “grab-and-go”—with an L.E.S. Addiction perhaps or some Jewish pastries—but the best way to taste a variety of breads and cheeses in one go is to come in a large group and revel in the upstairs dining area.

My favorite among all the cream cheeses is the Sundried Tomato and Basil Cream Cheese, an herby and slightly tangy blend perfect with even just the plain bagel (spreading it on salted ones makes the taste too overpowering). It was like a Margherita Pizza, in bagel form. I said before that if my mouth had storage compartments, I would pack this cheese into them with no hesitation. After trying L.E.S Bagel’s other cheeses, I’m still sticking to that declaration.

Check out my full review of L.E.S. Bagels: A Slice of New York from L.E.S. Bagels.

L.E.S. Bagels
G/F Tuscany Estates, Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Hill, Taguig City
(02) 804-0423
Facebook: LES Bagels
Instagram: @les_bagels
Budget: PhP50-PhP200/head (group sharing); up to PhP400 for premium sandwiches

3. Pizza Margherita from Handuraw

Self-confessed pizza lovers who haven’t heard of Handuraw should be ashamed of themselves; this pizza joint originating from Cebu serves some of the best pies in Manila. My favorite variant? Their version of the Margherita—cheese, tomatoes and basil on a thin, slightly chewy and non-greasy crust. Seriously, if you can’t perfect the basic pizza, how could you concoct a fancy one with all the crazy toppings? Handuraw executes it so well, I don’t know what more to ask for.
Check out my full review of Handuraw: Handuraw Pizza: 5 Flavors to Try.

Handuraw Pizza

3270-C Armstrong Ave
Merville, Parañaque
(02) 720-2883

1A Masunurin St. cor. Anonas Extension
Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
(02) 381-3349

Official Website: Handurawpizza.com
Other branches: Click here
Instagram: @handurawpizza
Budget: PhP150-PhP200/head

4. Pesto, Tomato and Mozzarella Panini from Seattle’s Best Coffee

Photo Credit: Seattle's Best Coffee

The only times I bought food from Seattle’s Best were those instances when I was in an airport or a hospital—could anyone tell me why they monopolize these establishments? Not that I’m complaining. A good brew and a portable, decent sandwich are just about perfect when you’re waiting for a delayed flight or while you’re lined up in front of your health insurance help desk. Seattle’s Best’s Pesto, Tomato and Mozzarella Panini is a deliciously simple sandwich of nutty pesto sauce, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese inside a toasted ciabatta bun. A cup of Americano demands to be paired with an order of this sandwich. OK, maybe two.

Seattle’s Best Coffee
Official website: Seattle’s Best Coffee
For a list of branches, click here
Budget: PhP200-PhP300/head

Any other tomato-and-basil dishes you have tried and would love to recommend? Blast off in the comments section!

pepe samson

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