My basil went a little nuts while I was on vacation. Shrouded in the unruly tomato brush it grew unsupervised for 10 days. (Tomatoes and basil make good garden companion plants.) The basil became so tall I only harvested the top half of the stalks. Herbs, I should mention, like to be cut. If you see flowers growing on your basil give the plant a nice trim. If you’re not ready to use your basil right away you can just pinch off the tops and get rid of those pretty flowers. Do this so that your herb will continue producing.
Fresh basil is a delightful addition to green salads, eggs, tomato dishes, and sauces. It has many practical applications. My favorite? Pesto. Mmm. Basil pesto is an easily prepared, uncooked sauce with many decadent applications. Love eggs? Scramble them with a little basil pesto. Top a nice fillet of wild caught salmon with pesto. Dollop pesto over a baked potato, stir it into some brown rice, or toss it with fettuccini. You are only limited by your imagination. I hate rules, but there is one I abide by; add your raw herbs or fresh pesto sauce at the very end of cooking or after you’ve pulled your food from heat. You’ll retain more of the the nutritional benefits of it’s raw state as well as it’s lively green appearance.
Pestos are pretty easy-going. Start with herbs such as basil, mint or parsley. Add nuts such as walnuts, pine nuts or pistachios. Maybe add some garlic. Drizzle in your best EVOO. Toss in a strong cheese (or not if you want a vegan pesto). Then blend with a little salt. Pepper too if that’s your thing.
Here is how I made pesto with my basil harvest. I left it as more of a paste than a sauce. I’ll add olive oil or pasta water to thin it as I get ready for whatever application I’m in the mood for.
- Yield: about 1 cup
Got Basil? Here is one way to make delicious pesto.
- 1.5 oz (about 2 cups) fresh basil leaves weight is for leaves, destemmed
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
- 1.5 oz strong cheese such as Parmegiano-Reggiano freshly grated
- 1 clove garlic pureed
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup EVOO
- salt to taste
- pepper optional
- Gather your ingredients. I've mounded my walnuts as I'm using halves and not pieces. I used a microplane to grate my cheese. I'm starting with 1/4 cup of olive oil. I've been really into pink Himalayan salt. That's what you see in the white grinder.
- Chop your garlic clove. Use as much or as little garlic as suits you.
- Whenever I'm using raw garlic that will remain raw in the final product I go a step further and puree it. This is a tip I picked up from my Julia Child cookbook. Throw a big pinch of salt on that minced garlic and then work it with the side of a knife, pressing it back and forth.
- Place the leaves, nuts and garlic in a food processor and blend until combined. Then add your EVOO slowly with the processor running. A mini-prep is just the right size for a little job like this.
- Add your cheese, and salt and pepper if you're using them. Blend. I used only 1/4 cup of olive oil so my pesto is pretty thick. I'll add oil or other liquid (pasta water is good when tossing with fettuccini) when I use it.
- Not using your pesto right away? No problem. Store it in the fridge for a few days. You can even freeze it. Drizzle some olive oil over the top to seal in the vibrant color.
- Skill Level: Easy
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