On our rather small 3rd story wooden porch in the city, I have created my own little green haven. Adirondack chairs? Check. Hanging flower baskets and over-stuffed flower boxes on the railings? Check one, two. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme? But of course! And the staple of any basic herb garden? Basil. Lots and lots of basil!
While some of my herbs end up going to seed (sorry cilantro, I mean coriander), there are some that I use consistently. I make tea from my lavender or dry the leaves for little sachets that I stash in my luggage. Fresh oregano has so much more flavor than its dried jarred counterpart when added to tomato sauce. Parsley is easily snipped and adds a freshness to any dish. Dill goes nicely with salmon or mixed into tuna salad.
I’m always surprised to find that the basil has replenished itself so quickly. I clip, clip, clip the bottom leaves and add them to my fresh soups and salads, leaving little twigs behind. I return a day later to a full bush. Caprese salads, Vietnamese spring rolls, and fresh herb pasta make for quick simple healthy meals that grace our table all summer long.
But my all time favorite use for basil is homemade pesto! This is the reason why I plant so many basil seeds and end up picking up extra plants at the farmer’s market. I just can’t resist that fragrance. There are so many variations. I mix in arugula for a less potent bite or substitute walnuts for a creamier paste. Sometimes I use extra parmesan and occasionally I omit it completely. I play with the amount of oil I add too, determining its smoothness. Each ingredient adds its own layer to the flavor. If the mood hits you, overdose on the garlic (just make sure your companions eat it too)!
Smear it on a grilled cheese sandwich, top off a pizza with it, brush it on bruschetta, toss your roasted vegetables in it, pour it onto pasta…yum-ola! Pesto to me is like the freshness of summer all packed into a little spread. Make some tonight and enjoy.
Recipe: Basic Presto Pesto
2 C loosely packed basil leaves (around 30-40+ leaves) **mix in arugula for variety
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil (more or less depending on desired consistency)
1/2 C fresh shredded parmesan or romano
2-3 TBS pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 clove garlic, chopped
pinch of salt
Blend in a food processor, blender, or mortar & pestle