I love basil. During the summer I add it to just about anything that contains tomatoes, plus I use it in cream sauces and salads for an aromatic kick. It’s a staple when preserving tomato sauce and salsa, so I grow a lot. In fact, I grow so much that it gets a space in the vegetable garden instead of in the herb bed. This year I have 24 plants growing and producing prolifically.
Like most herbs, basil tastes best fresh and drying completely ruins it. Although I use it fresh in season, I must find a way to preserve the excess for winter use. Yesterday I cut back all the plants by half their height, which resulted in about 4 cups of fresh basil leaves. Today I turned it into pesto to use this winter!
There are a million pesto recipes out there but you don’t need any of them. I don’t use a recipe so much as a method:
1: Fill food processor with basil leaves (I use a hand cranked model, but you can use an electric one or a blender). Process briefly to shred the leaves.
2: Add a crushed garlic bulb, a handful of nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but I used almonds here), and a dash of pepper. Process some more until the texture is pretty smooth.
3: Mix in some olive oil until you get the consistency you like.
Voila! That’s it. You don’t have to limit yourself to basil either. Spinach works well, but my favorite is garlic scape pesto (soooo good on crackers!) You can play with the seasonings however you like. A pesto also usually includes parmesan, but when I’m freezing it I don’t add the cheese until I’m ready to use it. If you want parm in it now, just mix it in when you add the garlic.
So what can you do with pesto? I freeze mine in ice cube trays then pop out the cubes and store them in a plastic bag. I use the thawed pesto all year long:
-As a pasta sauce — on its own or added to cream sauces.
-For homemade garlic bread. Just spread some pesto over a split French loaf and heat.
-As a dip for crackers or vegetables.
-In vegetable and meat marinades.
-Thinned with a bit of olive oil for a quick salad dressing.
What are your favorite things to do with pesto or basil?