I love the bounty of summertime and basil is one of the tops for me. First of all, I think it is such a beautiful plant. The green of the leaves, the delicious aroma and the possibilities in the kitchen that are endless. It is part of the mint family nd in Greek, basil means “King”. It is high in Vitamin A, beta-carotene, magnesium and potassium. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is used for skin ailments as well as cold, headache, reducing fever and digestive aid. Medicinally, not only the leaves but the seed and oil of the plant are used for treating various ailments.
Basil is fairly easy to grow especially in the garden. It will also do well as a potted plant. Since it likes humidity and lots of sunshine, it is easier to grow in the summer than indoors in the colder months but it can be done and is quite worth the efffort. If you pinch back the plant, it will bush out a bit creating more and longer growth. Use the leaves as they are picked. Keep those stems! When mincing up basil for use in sauces or making pesto, use those stems.
Oooooo, speaking of pesto, what a treat it is to have in the summer! It is so fresh and makes you feel incredibly alive. I swear I get a jolt of energy when I eat the stuff. It is so easy to make and I recommend making a lot, I mean a hge batch so you can store the goodness away for the middle of winter as well.
2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium sized cloves of garlic
salt to taste
Put all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until well blended.
Now, the great thing about making pesto is it lends itself to a lot of variation. Instead of pine nuts, you can use walnuts or a comination of the two. I like to use a bit less oil while making the pesto when I am going to be storing it. To do this, make the pesto minus a little oil. Fill an ice cube tray wwith eh pesto. Then, here is the little trick, top the pesto cubes with a little more oil. That helps seal in the color and it will brown less. Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out and store in the freezer in a container until you are ready to use it. The otehr reason I like to use less oil is so I have more flexibility withe the cubes. In winter, it is lovely to pull out a pesto cube, add some coconut milk and serve over veggies.
Let’s not rush things though. After all, it is still summer and we have plenty of sunny basil picking days ahead of us. Pesto is a great way to dress up a plate of veggies or add some fresh basil to your homemade salad dressing. A perfect appetizer or main meal for two is summer pizza. Using your favorite raw bread or cracker recipe, make one large or a couple smaller rounds and dehydrate. My new favorite is a cheezy cracker recipe. It is made with cashew and sunflower seeds as the base. Added in are tomatoes and red pepper. It is the loveliest orange color and really tastes like cheezy crackers. It compliments the color of the pesto superbly. Top your pizza with pesto and fresh sliced tomatoes. Rigth now there are a lot of great Heirloom tomatoes available in your garden or at local farmers markets and stands. The pizza takes only five minutes to make if you have preparred pizza flats stored away and is filling, full flavored and a divine treat!