Near the end of August, when the gardening chores become lighter, I love harvesting basil-- though it can be harvested several times in a season.
I clip off individual leaves with my thumbnails-- giving them black tips for a month no matter now much I scrub-- and each leaf drops into my bowl. I try to pick clean, that is with no stems, no dried or yellow leaves.
Then all I have to do is wash the basil thoroughly in a big bowl and tip it into a strainer. To finish the drying I bundle the leaves in a dish towel, take it outside, and swing it around. Then I spread those leaves I’m not using for pesto in my homemade food dryer. (see website information below)
Once the leaves are crisp, I'll pack them into recycled jars for use in soups, stews and spaghetti sauces during the coming winter. Some go into decorative jars for gifts to friends who appreciate the scent.
Here’s my recipe for Basil Pesto:
1 Cup (firmly packed) snipped fresh basil
1/2 Cup snipped parsley May omit
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (approximately 2 oz.) – don’t skimp; use more if you like it
1/4 Cup pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds
1 to 2 cloves garlic, quartered (may use 4-6 if you love garlic)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup (or more) olive oil
For each batch of basil pesto, put above ingredients, except olive oil, in the food processor. Turn it on and begin pouring in olive oil in a thin stream. Cover and process briefly a couple of times, then use the ON button until the paste is smooth; takes about a minute.
Possible additions: a few drops lemon juice when serving, or a few sprigs coriander.
Serve over pasta, without any other sauce. Spread on sandwiches, or bread or crackers
Pesto can be kept in refrigerator for weeks if covered with a layer of olive oil to keep it fresh and prevent discoloration.
You can freeze pesto in muffin tins lined with paper cups; once it’s frozen, pop each “basil muffin” out of the tin, and package several in a double layer of plastic bags. Each “muffin” is enough for a single serving of pasta, and one batch of ingredients makes 6 pasta “muffins.” Or put one or two servings in small plastic bags, flatten them, and freeze. Then enjoy this summer green all winter long.
This year I'm not making pesto because I have an ample supply in the freezer left from last year. Still I can't resist nibbling some of the leaves as I pick, and will no doubt sprinkle some over the scallops and pasta I'll fix for lunch.
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For more information:
Living Foods Dehydrators website: www.DryIt.com
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