Friday, August 6, 2010

Basil Bliss

Basil is another one of my favorite foods/herbs; the perfect complement to my personal red/orange/yellow/green or multi color Tomato bliss. I think you might imagine my next favorite, but that’s another blog, but I will say it’s always white and should be consumed fresher than fresh. ;)

There is nothing that I can think of, except maybe…hmmm, I can’t think of anything, Basil can’t go with. Now keep in mind, there are several varieties of Basil, so if you want to challenge Basil's infinite use, use it as a desert garnish, choose the right variety, like sweet or lemon basil. Choose the right basil for cooking and/or drinking liquids.

I realize that Sweet is the most common, but if you have access to the various types, use them accordingly.  How tasty would a Lemon Basil sorbet be?  I quiver with enjoyable passion of the amazingly tasteful exotic flavor.

I can tell you if you choose Sweet (which is most commonly found) or Lemon Basil, this is excellent in mixed drinks that may generally call for Mint; if you are serving a spicy drink, more spicy Basil is appropriate, like Spicy Globe or Purple Ruffles.

About a year or more ago, I went out with my co-workers after I was recently let go and we met up at this bar that served a mean Pear and Basil Martini. The bar treated the drink like a Mohito, by muddling sweet basil instead of mint, served up in a martini glass. I remember that I kept asking the bartender to add more basil to my drink until it became more basil than pear and vodka because I love Basil no matter what! The Bartender thought I was crazy!

One suggestion is a twist on the tried and true Bloody Mary-We all think that Celery is a great munch, and that should not go away as the primary green for the Bloody Mary, but if you are a spicy person, muddle in some spicy Basil as an extra special addition to give your Bloody Mary a more special kick your guests will be talking about.

Hey, a Bloody Mary is essentially Tomato Based, so adding its herbal significant other can’t hurt and not make it taste like spaghetti sauce. Remember, you’re not adding oregano or marjoram and garlic, which would ultimately make a drinkable tomato sauce concoction (which wouldn't really be that outlandish and very tasty).

But, today is about Pesto, an amazing mash of Basil, Parsley, Olive Oil, nuts, cheese and additional herbs. I learned to make Pesto the old school way, originally in a mortar, but now that I own a food processor, it makes life so much easier. So I won’t subject any of you to that old world method.

There are several ways to make pesto, and not all of them need to be basil centric, but to me, the best pestos are basil dominant. Not all pesto’s need to have cheese either; my recipe this round/post is dairy free, although my pics do show slivers of cheese as a garnish only.

The one thing to note is that this is so easy to make and if you’re a person that buys that store bought stuff, you’re really missing out on the true taste of homemade fresh pesto. I will admit, on short notice, store bought pesto’s are for just that, last minute-short notice, but honestly, if you compare freshly made to store bought, you will notice the difference. For the time it takes for you to pick out pesto ingredients to the “Pre-Made Brand”, you could have made your pesto at home 2 fold.

One major difference is that homemade, you can mix it up. You can add more or less of each of the ingredients. You are not bound to what the store bought brand has sold you. You can add different herbs for different flavors and taste that will compliment your meal or appetizer. This is why I highly suggest you start and learn to make your own.  Remember, making Pesto homemade will cost you much less than if you purchased it for a quicky to get out of cleaning extra dishes or save time on your overall meal prep.

Let's just say you are making boxed pasta, the cook time is about 8-9 minutes for "aldente".  Within the 8-9 minutes, you can make pesto in about 3-4 minutes, while the pasta is cooking.  A min or 2 to peel/crush the garlic, set up the Blender or Food Processor, add the rest of the ingredients and 1-2 min to process.

Homemade Pesto, will last in your fridge for about 5 days or more and is also freezable up to 1-2 months (honestly I’ve kept homemade pesto for 2 weeks in a tight lid container in the fridge).

BTW: The cracker in the pics are a multigrain brown rice “thin cake”. I found these in my local organic market a week or so ago…Again, I am not one to promote, but these snacks are better than the thick Rice Cakes we all think and are familiar with at the supermarket. They are a product of Belgium; Suzie’s Thin Cakes. Gluten, Cholesterol, Fat and Sugar free and they are quite yummy.

Basil Mint Pesto
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Basil
  • ¼-1/3 bunch Fresh Italian Parsely (about a handful)
  • ¼ bunch Fresh Mint (about a ¾ handful)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (medium sized) If you are a garlic freak like I am, add 1 more.
  • 6 oz of Pine Nuts or about a handful
  • About 1/8 to ¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Please use the good stuff for this)
  • S&P to Taste
  • Optional: ¼ cup Grated Parm Cheese 
Add Basil Leaves, Parsley, Mint Leaves, Garlic and Pine Nuts, and Cheese (Optional) to Food processor or Blender; Pulse until a medium rough chop. Slowly drizzle in Extra Virgin Olive oil (you may not need all of it)…you should process until ingredients are well blended; pesto should not be too “wet” and should have a consistency of say, a thickened vinaigrette minus the vinegar. Do not over process! You do not want a Puree! You want to see the herbs!

Ideas on mixing it up with Pesto:
  • For Nuts Try: Almonds or Walnuts or Pecans or Cashews or hazelnuts
  • For Herbs Try: Tarragon or Marjoram or multiple varieties of Basil or Cilantro or Lavender
  • For Cheese: Any Hard Grating cheese will work; Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano or Asiago
  • Other Thoughts: Sun Dried Tomatoes or Flavored Olive Oils or Roasted Garlic or Roasted Shallots or Roasted Peppers. 
Pesto for simple and quick dishes:
  • Mix in with your favorite Pasta or even Rice as a primary sauce
  • Mix in with your favorite Tomato Sauce for an extra kick!
  • Replace Mayo or Mustard on Sandwiches, Pasta and Potato Salads
  • As per the Pics above, use as a base spread for Appetizers
  • Use as a “Dip”
  • Add to Mashed Potatoes for extra flavor
  • Even mix in with soups
 As Lidia would say “Tutti A Tavola A Mangiare!”


♥ Kathy said...

I loooooove basil too! Your pesto looks perfect!!

Tony said...

think i might need to try that pear and basil drink...