For many years now, one of my summer rituals has been planting — and then under-utilizing — a herb garden. I guess I’m lucky to have a green enough thumb to get my herbs to grow well, but I’ve never been good about using up what I grow. Cooking for one just doesn’t require a ton of anything really, so too much always went to waste.
I’ve decided to try to do better this year, and to that end, I harvested a giant crop of basil over the weekend, rather than just cutting off bits as needed. Cutting it back so thoroughly means I should get another whole crop (or more!) since there’s plenty of growing season left.
I decided to use my massive quantity of basil for pesto, since it’s easy to use, share, and freeze. Because I am growing two kinds of basil — Italian and Thai — I got to mix up two very different recipes. I’ve been making Italian pesto for years, and Google brought me to this recipe for the Thai basil. I adapted it slightly to make it spicier, of course, since I like a little heat. This is what I ended up with:
Thai Basil Pesto:
2 cups fresh Thai basil leaves
2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1.5 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I might even try 2 teaspoons next time)
3 garlic cloves
Place all ingredients in food processor and blend (stopping occasionally to scrape everything off the lid) until smooth. Which, incidentally, seemed to work better with the basil on the bottom and the chunkier stuff on top. Refrigerate for up to two weeks and/or freeze.
I made two batches, which yielded two cups of pesto. I stored it in these little plastic bowls, each of which makes about four servings. And because it was new, I couldn’t wait to try it, and cooked up some chicken, onions, peppers, and rice to serve as my pesto-delivery system — and it was delicious!
For the Italian pesto, I used the recipe my friend Mary (from whom I also got my famous cranberry salsa recipe, so you know she knows her stuff) gave me years ago, and it came out as delicious as always. I made a double batch of that, too — about two cups.
1 cup basil leaves, (firmly packed)
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves garlic (I did up this a bit because my cloves were small)
½ cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
Put basil and salt in food processor & chop. Add all other ingredients. Process until a smooth, creamy sauce.
Needless to say, this is more pesto than I can eat, so I’ve shared some with friends and will freeze some for the gardenless winter. And in a few weeks, I’ll repeat the process!