There’s no such thing as too much basil
All my friends and Dear Readers have heard me say it: there’s no such thing as too much basil. Basil is my favorite herb, even ahead of parsley, which is surprising, isn’t it? Because parsley is in just about every recipe there ever was.
First, basil is a good companion plant to peppers and tomatoes. There is good evidence that planting basil near nightshade plants ) will increase the yield for both.
And basil is the perfect compliment to just about any dish containing one of the nightshades. Of course, fresh is always best, but basil is a ver tender plant and will die with the first frost. So b e sure to to dry as much as you can to enjoy basil goodness all winter long.
But once I’ve dried all I think I’ll need for a year, then I start making pesto. If you’ve never had pesto, you are in for a treat. Pesto is a delicious addition to just about any food: pasta, Italian sauces and just about any meat. It’s very expensive if you buy it in the store and nothing can compare to fresh, homemade pesto.
It’s so easy to make pesto
Here’s the recipe:
2 Cups basil
1/2 Cup olive oil
1/2 Cup fresh Parmesan (don’t you dare use that powdered stuff in the plastic shaker!)
1/3 Cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves
Put 1/3 of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend till you have a paste. Add another 1/3 of all the ingredients and blend, then blend the last 1/3. That’s it. I don’t think anything could be easier.
Don’t stop there
This is a very flexible recipe. You can substitute Porcino, Regiano or any other hard Italian cheese for the Parmesan. Use cashews or walnuts instead of pine nuts. (Pine nuts can be very expensive!) And you can substitute a portion of the basil with other leafy herbs, like cilantro, oregano or parsley (preferably flat-leaf Italian parsley, which is much more flavorful than the curly stuff.) I usually don’t substitute more than half of the basil with parsley. But I love pesto made with all dill or sage. The dill pesto is delicious on fish and the sage is perfect on chicken. But with all your substitutions, don’t skimp on the garlic or olive oil. There really is no good substitute for those.
So how do you use pesto?
Use it on anything you want to add a good herby-garlicky flavor to. I add a cube to a pan of spaghetti sauce, a cube to a pan of pasta or put it on top of pork chops or country-style ribs as they bake in the oven. Toss your zucchini “noodles” with a bit of pesto for added flavor.
This is one of our family favorites. It is so quick and easy to make:
Insert a sharp paring knife into the thick part of a chicken breast and cut the inside to create a pocket. Fill that pocket with about 1/2 – 1 cube of pesto (depending on the size of the chicken breast), bread the chicken with your favorite coating (we like those crispy onion rings you can buy in a can, crushed and used as a breading, maybe add a little grated Parmesan cheese. But any breading is fine.) and bake until just cooked and still moist and tender.
Or make the
World’s Best Garlic Bread
Slice a French loaf open lengthwise. Spread the cut sides with a little butter, then spread pesto on liberally. Sprinkle with cheese (Parmesan, Mozzarella, even a little Cheddar, if you like.) Bake in oven at 350° for 10-15 minutes, until bread is hot and cheese is melted. Bake longer if you want the cheese a little crispy.
There are lots more ways to use pesto. A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of recipes for you. So be sure to make (and freeze) plenty this season to last you till next year. Because you really can’t have too much.