Sunday, October 01, 2006

all the things I haven't cooked, plus my favorite herb

I haven't cooked anything at all this week. I'm working on a big project, and D has taken up the spatula (as he did for a lot of the summer). Yesterday, he made a crockpot venison stew that was the ultimate comfort food, with drop biscuits to sop it up, which was so heavenly and nourishing that it may even have increased my IQ a couple of points.
I wasn't cooking over the weekend, and I wasn't blogging either, so I missed contributing to Kalyn's my-favorite-herb event, and didn't get to vote for basil, which came in poor second to cilantro (cilantro 13, basil 7). Check out her round-up, here.
So this is a belated tribute to basil. I have 7 basil plants growing in my garden, 3 of them still looking pretty good although it's been chilly (we haven't had a frost yet). The photo above was taken yesterday, when I was on my way to the library.
I use basil a lot. In summer it goes into 8 out of 10 dinners. I use basil leaves instead of lettuce on my sandwiches. I put a leaf or 2 in my cup of herbal tea in the mornings. I dry part of what I grow and use it as long it lasts (it never lasts long enough). And I make pesto and freeze it.
Pesto is my favorite basil recipe. I got my original pesto recipe from a book on herbs that I've lost. I bought it at an herb shop run by a chirpy old woman, the kind of person from whom you want to buy something, because they're so nice and they answer all your stupid questions about growing this and making vinegar out of that, and in this case, because they're so cute (she was wearing a straw hat with real daisies stuck in the ribbon band around the crown). So I bought the book, and read it through and through, learned how to make herb vinegars, different ways to dry, and most important, how to make pesto.
I changed her recipe somewhat, reducing the oil, for instance--and I see no need to stick to pine nuts; I've used walnuts and almonds, both of which were fine (walnuts give a better texture though). I add a little vinegar because I was nervous then about botulism or something, and I still do because I like the way it tastes. I also like it to be spicy, so I often add part of a hot pepper.
Here's my recipe, which is always amendable--I don't really measure anything anymore, so these are estimated measurements.
Basil Pesto
2 cups of basil (I put it in a pyrex 2-cup measuring cup and really squash it down tight)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (it's best if you use fresh-grated, but in a pinch, I've used the stuff in the green can and it's pretty good that way)
a handful of some kind of nuts: pine, walnut, almond; I used pecan once, and I'm thinking of trying pistachio this year, since I have half a bag in the freezer)
a splash of vinegar: probably this splash is in the nature of a scant tablespoon; I use whatever I have in the cupboard.
a whole or half hot pepper: I've used both dried and fresh; jalapenos or cayenne, usually.
a clove or 2 of garlic
I put everything in the food processor except the olive oil and let it go for a minute; then I add the olive oil a little at a time through the feed tube. Sometimes I use more than a quarter cup--I like it to be moving toward smooth, but still a little textured--more olive oil would make it more sauce-like. Mine mounds up in the spoon.
I sometimes add other things on a whim--some green or red pepper; half an onion; some parsley. And I mix basils, except for purple, which I segregate.
I freeze it in small containers, and we eat it in all the usual ways--pasta, mainly. But it's also good on a sandwich, either by itself or mixed into a little mayonnaise. Even frozen it has a strong aroma--when I open one of the little containers I can smell the basil and it's like opening my back door to summer.


Karina said...

Ah, fresh basil. There really is nothing like it. Your plants look healthy and wonderful! [And now I'm craving pesto.]

Kalyn said...

I agree, basil is pretty fabulous.

BTW, you could send this to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast for WHB this weekend if you wanted to. (Add a link to her if you do.)

Gina Ventre said...

I love the smell of it rubs off on your hands when you touch the plants.

Pesto chicken sandwiches on crusty bread brushed with a little bit of olive oil and lightly toasted...MMM.

Basil, mozzarella, tomato salads with crusty bread brushed with a little bit of olive oil...MMM.

lucette said...

Karina--writing this made me crave pesto too--but I won't have time to make any until the weekend.
Kalyn--thanks for the tip.
Gina--I think I might grow basil even if it wasn't good to eat, just for the smell.

erieblue said...

This entry made me ask myself why I don't have a food processor. Whole words would open up!

C(h)ristine said...

mygawd, i'm in the mood for pesto now!