Six Things to Do With an Abundance of Basil
Basil is at the top of the list of "best buys" at summertime farmers markets. The herb is so fragile, beginning to turn black in the refrigerator in several days, that supermarkets have a hard time keeping it in stock for a reasonable price. At a good farmers market, you can buy bulging bundles of just-picked basil for a dollar or two. That would be a bargain at twice the price, in my book. Here are some ways to put large quantities of basil to good use.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
2. Store in refrigerator in a tightly closed container for up to a week, or freeze for a few months.
clove garlic, peeled
1. In the bowl of a food processor, purée garlic and salt until a paste is formed. Add pine nuts and basil and process until a fine paste formed.
2. With motor running, add vinegar and then slowly add oil in a thin stream until the mixture is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning.
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1. Mash garlic with a press or the back of a knife. In a food processor, combine basil, pine nuts, parsley and anchovies, and puree. Add garlic. With motor running, pour in enough oil through feed tube to make mixture smooth but not runny.
2. Serve with fresh vegetables, such as sliced fennel bulb, sliced red peppers, celery, green onions, mushrooms, radicchio leaves, radishes, carrot slices and cucumber slices.
1 cup dry
2. Bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil. Add the basil and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the leaves with a skimmer and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible,. Immediately combine the blanched basil with the milk in a blender (this will stabilize the color of the basil). Blend for about 3 minutes, adding more milk if necessary to make the mixture move easily, scraping down the sides of the container as necessary. When the mixture is bright green and the basil is completely pureed, gradually add the cream mixture with the motor running. Add the salt and white pepper and strain the sauce into a clean pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. To complete the sauce, bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in half the butter and continue to stir until all the pieces have been absorbed. Immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter, whisking until all of the butter has melted and the sauce is emulsified. Taste, adjust the seasonings if necessary, and use immediately.
The technique for making infused oil is much the same whether the ingredient is basil, rosemary, oregano, garlic, chiles, mushrooms or citrus fruit. For every cup of olive oil, use two tightly packed cups of basil or any other soft-leaved green herb--chervil, chives, cilantro, mint. (Tarragon does not work well except early in the spring when it is very sweet, he writes. Otherwise it tends to taste bitter when infused.) Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the herbs, making sure that the leaves are submerged, and blanch for five seconds. Drain into a strainer and immediately plunge the herbs into a bowl of ice water. Drain well and squeeze out all liquid. Puree in a blender with olive oil. Strain puree immediately through a fine-mesh strainer. Strain again through four layers of cheesecloth. Put in a sterilized glass bottle, cover tightly and refrigerate. For optimum flavor, use within a week.
Chiarello recommends using a blender, which makes a finer, smoother puree and extracts more flavor than a food processor. To filter the mixture, he uses cheesecloth, which he first rinses and squeezes dry. Coffee filters can also be used, although they, too, should be rinsed and squeezed dry first. Patience is required. Pour the oil slowly, and stir occasionally. You will probably need several filters.
You can use the infused oil in, among other things, the following recipe for a vinaigrette, which tastes as good on chicken or roasted eggplant as on a green salad.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef