Thursday, July 21, 2011

Basil Basil Everywhere

It's funny, after a winter of concentrating so hard on eating local, carefully planning and buying just what we would need for a week of eating, the glut of summer produce seems especially... gluttonous! Among other things that those Dark Days taught me, I think I'm even more appreciative of the bounty that we have this time of year, and I'm trying my darndest to not let it, or much of it anyway, go to waste.

Of course I saw it and ate accordingly in the past, but the seasonality of our food has really struck home as of late. I guess I'm just a slow learner. Or maybe life in Southern California all those years spoiled me on the idea that in the "real" world you don't have strawberries and avocado and oranges available and in season and local nearly all year round?

But now I get it.

Early in the year it was the asparagus, then the rhubarb, then spinach and peas, now we have kohlrabi and zucchini, and the tomatoes are just starting to ripen one at a time. Soon I'll have more than I know what to do with, and beans, peppers and eggplant will not be far behind. Carrots and onions and celariac should be ready for storage long before the first frost. It will feel so good.

First zucchini(s?) of the season. We'll probably have at least
one a day now for a while - anyone out there have a favorite
zucchini recipe they want to share?
But right this very moment?  It's basil season.

Raised basil bed, after first major harvest.
Did I mention that I put in some raised beds for the herbs this year? I thought it would be easier to weed and keep the edges tidy that way. It seems to have worked. Of course, I also planted eight plants with several different varieties... so that might also have something to do with my overflowing plants!  

What is one to do with so much of this wonderful green plant anyway?  Some of my favorites are salad dressing, caprese salad, chopped and mixed into salad, sauteed in eggs, veges or pasta, and of course, pesto.

A great hot summer night supper: caprese salad, fresh
sliced kohlrabi and a glass of nicely chilled home made
pinot grigio.
This year, I'm determined to put more of this glorious herb in the freezer than I have in the past. Somehow pulling a container of pesto out and tossing it with pasta or mixing it in soup on a cold, dark winter evening never ceases to bring back wonderful, refreshing memories of summer. I want to be able to do that more often.

Here's what we've been up to:

Pickin' and Washin'

Laid out to dry. For reference, this amount of
basil made two batches of pesto.

One of the varieties of basil I tried this year was
a mammoth - check out the size of the leaves in
front compared to the "usual" ones in back!

I also tried freezing some chopped fresh - I covered them in
water, froze them, then popped them out to store in a
ziplock for quick access.

Pesto making process. Here, I decided to add a little more
garlic after the basil was already ground.

For the freezer, I use short plastic containers, and cover
the pesto directly with plastic wrap to minimize oxidation.

Basil Pesto
My version is not traditional as I put a few "extras" in, but this is how I've grown to like it. It freezes well if I press down some plastic wrap directly onto the pesto before putting on a lid. I tried this year to freeze it in ice cube trays for easy use in soup; it was a little hard to get them out of the trays (maybe I'll oil them first in the future?), but they now sit safely tucked away in a freeezer bag, ready for quick access! Also, I've read that pesto stores best if you don't add the cheese; I've always added it without noticing any ill-effects, but this year I tried it both ways. 'Tis up to you!

3 T pine nuts (or walnuts), toasted
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
big pinch of kosher salt
juice of 1/4 lemon (to taste)
2-3 cups (packed) fresh, cleaned basil leaves
1/2 to 3/4 c olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 c grated romano or parmesean cheese

In a food processor, briefly chop nuts, garlic, and salt. Add basil and lemon and turn on blades again. Drizzle in olive oil until all leaves are processed and pesto is of desired consistency. Stir in cheese. Taste and add more lemon or salt as needed.

Great on toast, stuffed in baked mushrooms with a touch of feta cheese, or of course tossed with pasta and some diced tomatoes.


I other local happenings:

Annual "first Thursday concert of the summer" family picture.

Little Peep is growing up quickly - and
for some reason she LOVES the top of
my head!
My "miscellaneous stuff" kitchen drawer
after an addition by the local toddler.

Said local toddler who got ahold of the camera
and actually managed to get himself in some
of the shots!

Here he actually managed to get ME in a shot!

These 90°+ days, were mighty happy to be able to go for
a swim in the lake! Even when the water's warm, it still cools us down!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Wendy your basil looks AMAZING! I am completely jealous because this is NOT our year for tomatoes or basil. Add I wait all year!!! Ugh. Well I'm learning to make pesto out of other ingredients (arugula, cilantro, scapes, etc.) but fresh basil is the best. Well done!


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