Early summer, and the basil plant in my container garden is tall and bushy. Karin gave us a great pesto recipe, and I’ve already blended up handfuls of fragrant, dark-green leaves to make lots of that pungent Italian sauce. After trimming the tops off the plant, it took only two weeks for another healthy crop to grow in. What am I going to do with it all? Now I’m pondering other delicious ways to use up the basil bounty.
Basil’s flavor is dominant, and pesto is really where you can allow it to shine. But it’s a surprisingly versatile herb, and many foods accept its unique, almost clove-like taste. For example…
Basil and orange peel vinegar. Peel an orange, avoiding the bitter white pith as much as you can. Drop the fragrant swirls of peel into a jar of apple cider vinegar. Push a good handful of fresh, rinsed and dried basil sprigs into the jar and close it up. Keep the vinegar in a dark place for a week, then use it in any salad dressing. It will keep up to a year.
Roasting an organic chicken or duck? Separate the skin from the flesh with your fingers and carefully push basil leaves and slivers of garlic under the skin. Season the bird, dribble olive oil over it, and roast. This is especially tasty with duck.
Two-tomato and basil sauce. This no-cook sauce tops pasta or lightly steamed vegetables, and is vegan. Drain 1/3 cup of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, but reserve the oil. Put the sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor or blender. Add 15 oz. (425 grams or 2 cups) fresh cherry tomatoes. Push 1 cup of fresh basil leaves onto the tomatoes. Peel two cloves of garlic and add. Finish with the juice of one lemon. Whizz until you have the consistency you like, adding oil from the sun-dried tomato jar by tablespoons if needed. You can use dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes; then you’ll need to add olive oil to get a saucy texture. If you want a good, chunky texture, don’t process the tomatoes but chop them all up finely, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix it all up in a big bowl.
Summery herb cocktail. Muddle (slightly crush) a healthy sprig of basil and an equally healthy sprig of mint in a glass with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Add 1.5 oz. Rum and squeeze some lemon juice in. Top with ice and seltzer or tonic water.
How about a salad with fresh basil? Here’s our Caprese Salad.
More basil tips: Chop a small handful of basil and stir it into any marinade, for any food. Lay some basil leaves under the fish you’re about to bake. Make scented sweet cream according to our geranium-scented recipe, substituting basil for the geranium leaves. Pour over fresh fruit.
Get the picture? It’s amazing how many culinary uses basil has. Try some. You’ll feel good about using up your crop, and you’ll get a whole new view of its delicious flavor.
Image by Security via Pixabay.