My friend Tracy recently mentioned that she is growing basil in her back yard garden and would like to eventually make pesto. Pesto is a delicious way to add flavor to a wide number of dishes, it's not just for pasta. It can be used for a fabulous sandwich spread for tomato or tomato and mozzarella sandwiches. It's wonderful to use on chicken and thinned down it is a great dressing for a cold bean salad.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb with a very strong flavor; originally from Asia it is now most common in Italian cuisine. Basil comes in a number of different "flavors" so in additional the sweet basil that we are used to you can also get cinnamon, lemon, Genovese (which has sort of a clove flavor), licorice basil and a wide number of others. Basil is a very useful herb with high levels of vitamin K as well as calcium, iron and vitamin A. If you plan to grow it all summer to harvest in the fall for pesto you can increase your yield by pinching the flower stems. This will prevent the flowers and seeds from forming and keeps the essential oils from drying up.
This is my favorite recipe for pesto:
2 C. fresh basil leaves, washed and destemmed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C. parmesan cheese
1/2 C. pine nuts
1/2 C. olive oil
place all ingredients into a food processor
turn the food processor on and begin to add in olive oil until mixture is smooth
add salt to taste
Note: you can make different types of pesto by using parsley or red peppers instead of basil, using walnuts instead of pine nuts and changing the parmesan for romano cheese. Experiment and find out what your favorite flavor is.
photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net