Basil is a lovely plant, and quite easy to grow. I tuck it around my flower pots, so that I can snip away to my heart’s content. The flavor is best when harvested before the plant has gone to seed. To keep the plant attractive, snip healthy leaves above side branching stems. Place the harvested bunch into a vase of cold water until ready to use… it makes a very attractive bouquet.
A wonderful use for basil is pesto. Pesto tossed with pasta delivers a quick and tasty entrée, it also adds amazing flavor to paninis and Mediterranean style pizzas.
|WHAT YOU NEED||WHAT TO DO||WHY|
|2 cloves (1/2 ounce) of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 ounces fresh (no substitutions) sweet basil leaves, rinsed in a bowl of cool water and spun dry in a salad spinner
|In a food processor, layer in the order listed.
Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head; cut off root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife over top; strike with your fist or palm. Release skin and discard. Cut in half; place cut sides down and chop into a few pieces.
|Placing the garlic, nuts, and salt near the blades of the food processor helps move the basil around in the next step. Dried basil can never be used for pesto. It yields an unpleasant taste and an inedible texture.|
|1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
|Pour over basil. Pulse all together just until pine nuts are finely chopped but still visible. Scrape down bowl sides 2-3 times during the process. Transfer to a 1-quart bowl.
Tip: Cut a lemon in half at the equator, place cut sides down and quarter. Juice with a citrus squeezer held over a mesh strainer to catch seeds.
|Lemon juice helps basil retain its bright green color. Settings other than “pulse” lack control and can easily over chop the mixture.|
|3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cubed to 1/2 inch
|If butter is not yet softened, warm on medium microwave power in a tempered glass bowl. Pulse cheese in a food processor until fine. Use a silicone spatula to fold butter and cheese into basil mixture. If not using directly, refrigerate in a tightly capped jar.||A silicone spatula makes folding easy. Mixing by hand preserves texture.|
Testing Notes: Parmesan is the American version of Italian Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is not made the same or aged as long.