Monday, August 8, 2011

Holy Basil


It seems that the recipes which call for fresh herbs only require a few leaves or tablespoons. Without a home garden, it's impossible not to purchase larger bunches and have a ton left over. Realizing that I sound a bit liked the hot dog/bun crazed Steve Martin in Father of the Bride, I have to say this makes me NUTS!  I love fresh herbs, particularly basil, and h.a.t.e. when it goes to waste. 

For the last two weeks, gorgeous bunches of CSA basil have arrived, so I thought I would share, and ask about, basil storage ideas. 

Last year on this show (yes, that one...) I was introduced to Prepara's herb saver.  An ingenious little water-bottomed contraption which has been prolonging herb-life in my kitchen ever since... but there was more basil!

Below are two freezer-friendly storage methods: 1) Dinner-packet sized frozen pesto; and 2) Basil ice cubes, a lovely addition to soups and stews later in the year.  

Readers: do you have any tricks for storing your extra herbs or vegetables? Please share them below in the comments!

Pesto
Ingredients & Directions 
Blend / Food process:
  • 2 cups of washed, gently packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Healthy pinches of salt & pepper 
Storage
Split the pesto into two separate freezer ready zip lock bags, making sure to remove all excess air.  Defrost and enjoy over pasta, roasted root vegetables or as a topping to steak or fish later this year.  

Basil Ice Cubes
Ingredients & Directions 
  • Chiffonade the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them into a pinwheel and thinly slicing into long strips. A photo demonstration on how to chiffonade herbs is located here. 
  • Fill the individual ice cube compartments 2/3rds full of lightly packed, chopped basil
  • Add water to the fill line of the tray
  • Freeze overnight
Storage 
Pop out the basil cubes and store in a freezer-ready bag.  These make a wonderful addition to fall soups, can be melted in a hot saute pan when dishes call for "fresh" basil and enjoyed in tomato sauce and other pastas later this year. There may be some freezer burn, but your enjoyment will outweigh that.
About Basil
Basil, greek for the word "king", is one of the most commonly used herbs around the world. The herb has a revered history, used in the baths of Greek & English royalty, as a love potion aid in Mexican, Italian and Romania cultures, and as a ritual part of Indian courtroom.

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