Summer cooking is not the same without basil, and for Italians, it is one of the most essential herbs and is always used fresh.
Many of us grow the royal plant in pots or garden plots and some of us grab it at the grocery store. In my own garden, there are literally basil bushes because we can’t help ourselves. After all it is a short growing season.
What do we do with all this basil? We make pesto! Lots of pesto and of course we use it fresh on pizza, in salads, soups, for general cooking and gift it as pesto sauce. But growing basil has a cost… how to keep it green because nothing is worse than pesto looking brown. So let’s know some ways to keep it green.
To make pesto, use fresh, younger leaves – collect bunches in the morning and break off the smallest leaves. You need about 2 packed cups of the leaves. Wash them dry and keep them aside. The traditional way to make pesto is in a mortar with a pestle that turns the leaves down into a pulp.
It takes time and since many of us lack it, there is an alternative method and that is to use a food processor (not to even mention it to the Italians) but the dilemma here is that the blades can also process the leaves. Can damage. Too much and brown them, so if you use smaller leaves instead of larger ones, you won’t have to pulse too long. I find that adding an ice cube to the bowl with the basil helps keep it green in the processor.
Air is pesto sauce’s enemy. When it is placed in the jar, leave some space at the top and fill it with a layer of olive oil. Cap the pesto in jars and refrigerate or freeze. When you use it, remove what you need and cover what’s left in the jar with more olive oil. Try it
1/4 c. pine nuts or walnuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 t. coarse sea salt
2 c. Small packed fresh stems of basil
1 ice cube
3 T. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil plus more if needed
Place the pine nuts, garlic and coarse salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse two or three times. Add tulsi leaves and ice cubes and give pulse twice. Add grated cheese. With motor running, pour olive oil one at a time through feed tube and continue processing until a smooth sauce consistency is achieved. You may not need all the oil. Transfer to a jar. Makes 2 cups.
(Recipe from “Ciao Italia Family Classics” by Marie Ann Esposito.)