I planted a lot of basil this year. A whole lotta basil. My basil patch was about four foot long and five feet high (that's as high as me!). I know, it's a lot of basil. Why did I plant so much?? Well to cook with of course. It's one of my favorites to cook with, but the main reason for the copious amount was...... I wanted to make my own pesto and that requires a whole hecka of a lot of it.
Friday I had the day off so I recruited the kids to help me harvest (I had Sara too so that was an extra set of hands as well). Off we went to give the basil patch a real good thinning. We put a big dent in those plants I tell ya. We came back in the house with some overflowing baskets of the green stuff.
We sat pulling all the leaves off the stems, our fingers turning green and smelly. Not the bad kind of smelly but the very good kind. Even after a few good scrubbing, we all still smelled like basil. Once the leaves were plucked, I gave the leaves a good washing in my salad spinner and laid them on the table to dry. My entire table was covered. I should have taken a picture, it was a sea of green.
I use Ina Gartens pesto recipe. It's fast and easy and uses a combination of walnuts and pinenuts, which gives this pesto terrific flavor. We doubled the recipe so we'd have enough pesto to last us until next summer.
We used 10 cups of packed basil. 10!!
¼ cup walnuts
¼ pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1-teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Place the walnuts, pine nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leave and the salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive il into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for 1 minute. Use right away or store in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.
Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack in a container with a film of oil, or place plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.
To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.