Basil All Year ‘Round
This year my basil grew much wilder than before. Why? I decided to plant it in the ground instead of in pots and it spread like a weed before my eyes. It seemed like every time I watered the plant, it grew another few inches within a matter of hours. Now that the Fall is here and it is still a little warm, I want to make sure I make the most of all those beautiful green leaves by making some recipes that will last for a few months. Basil is in fact a member of the mint family, which by the way will do the same thing if planted in the ground (spread like crazy that is). There are over 60 kinds of basil-from purple to lemon.
Of course the most obvious basil storage recipe has got to be pesto. But someone told me recently how to actually store pesto so it doesn’t all clump together in the freezer: make the pesto and then pour the sauce into an ice cube tray and freeze so you can take out a few cubes at a time. When freezing pesto, do not mix any of the cheese in – you can do that once you toss the frozen cubes with hot pasta or potatoes.
Another frozen cube trick is to just grind up the basil alone in the blender and freeze as half size ice cubes-these are great to through in whatever you are cooking when you need some fresh basil.
Another fun thing to do with basil is to make gifts out of them-One friend of mine poured olive oil into tall glass bottles and stuck a few springs of basil in with the oil. After about 2 weeks, the oil was brilliantly flavored with basil and was delicious drizzled on warm bread or pasta. I would just caution against keeping the oil around too long as the basil is a fresh plant and may begin to rot. If you do think you will not use the oil right away, take the herbs out of the oil or stick the bottle in the fridge. It’ll get a little hard and dicolored from the cold air, but there is nothing wrong with it.
Here are some of Rachael Ray’s recipes using basil, which are of course good any time.