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A Basket Full of Basil

Last week, I bought a basil plant. Before I met my husband, I never owned a plant of any kind – unless you count the plastic variety.  And I don’t think I even used any sort of fresh herbs in cooking until I was at least 30. When I was a kid, I think the only herbs/spices we had in our house were salt, pepper and a jar of garlic powder. A fresh herb would have jumped out of the window of that kitchen. Unfortunately, they don’t always fare much better in my kitchen since I’ve been known to slowly torture plants and herb plants with inconsistent care. My basil plant currently lives in the bedroom on top of the air conditioner in the window (0ut of the reach of the new kitten). I give it another two weeks.  

Some people are passionate about herbs. My husband is completely smitten with cilantro, but I am much more attracted to basil. My favorite uses for fresh basil are 1) Basil, fresh mozzarella and tomato pizza, 2) Basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella salad (or in any salad), and 3) pesto.

Pesto is a great alternative to red sauce when making pasta. Recently, a friend  gave me a great tip on basil – make pesto now with the fresh, in-season basil and freeze it to enjoy all winter long. Apparently, it is very easy to do and it keeps wonderfully.

Classic Pesto (from Cooking Light magazine)

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  coarsely chopped walnuts or pine nuts
  • 2  garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4  cups  basil leaves (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt

Preparation

Drop nuts and garlic through food chute with food processor on; process until minced. Add oil; pulse 3 times. Add basil, cheese, and salt; process until finely minced, scraping sides of bowl once.

Tips on Freezing Pesto: http://www.ehow.com/how_4532321_freeze-fresh-basil.html

Step 1: Trim basil off the basil plant. You can use regular kitchen scissors or your hands to gently pull the leaves off.

Step 2: Wash the basil thoroughly. Place the basil into a colander and shake to dry. Let sit for several minutes or press with paper towels to remove excess water.

Step 3: Place the fresh basil in a food processor. Pulse the food processor until the basil is very roughly chopped. You can also use a sharp knife to cut the basil by hand.

Step 4: Coat the basil lightly with olive oil. You can pour the olive oil in while you’re pulsing the basil in the food processor, or you can coat the chopped basil in the colander by pouring the olive oil over the basil and tossing it lightly.

Step 5: Put basil in a plastic container with a fitted lid. Pack the container tightly to avoid freezer burn. The basil will keep in the freezer for approximately a year. Note: or better yet – fill ice cube trays with the pesto, freeze and then place frozen cubes in plastic bags, which will also keep for the next season.

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