Sunday, January 13, 2008


Basil is pretty cheap right now. I truly love basil. In a platonic sense, of course, but you never know. Basil on toast, basil on tomato on toast, basil in a chicken stir-fry, basil in tomato soup, basil smashed into a caipirinha, basil all day and all night all summer long.
Then to winter, when we dream about basil and for that first warm day when it will return to us, triumphantly, like Persephone returning from the underworld to spend the long summer days with her mother, Demeter.
Ooh, evocative.
Anyhoo, right now is basil time. The Broadway markets have GIANT bunches of pretty much any herb for a buck fifty. These bunches are so big, I could only fit one each of basil and flat-leaf parsley into my new Andy Warhol commemorative neon tote bag. The big pink one. True story.
The basil has enormous glossy leaves and looks like it tooks some sort of steroids to get that big.

Incidentally, in this humidity and heat, I am finding that herbs can't live well out of the fridge, but they won't fit into the fridge (standing in a jug of water with a plastic bag elasticked over the whole thing, which DOES work and really DOES keep them fresh for ages) in their enormous steroid state, and I refuse to pull the leaves off and watch them wilt in the crisper. So I found the best option for me is to stand the bunch in the laundry sink, or a bucket, with a few inches of water in the bottom. The laundry is a relatively cool spot, and then each day I soak the whole bunch in water for a few minutes. Works very well.

I did have a bit of the basil in a salad, but then I made the whole bunch into pesto. Pesto on crackers, pesto through pasta, pesto on a steak, pesto straight out of the jar...
I'm sure this isn't the legit traditional way, but this is how I made it:

  • One enormous monstro-bunch of basil, leaves only (nicely washed and dried)

  • 2 peeled garlic cloves

  • big pinch of rock salt

  • Handful of pine nuts, medium-toasted

  • Good olive oil

Insert all into food processor. The leaves might need to go in bit by bit so they fit. Blitz. Pour in olive oil gradually, just enough for the pesto to move freely and spread nicely. I like mine not too oily. Taste and check, decant into jar, store in fridge. Savour the season.


Helen said...

Oh I hear you on the basil. I don't think I have ever loved a leaf more.
I must go to these markets. I keep on forgetting about them, this weekend perhaps. I have a few different basil plants in the garden including one that is an annual so I can have fresh pesto in winter. However I think I might be checking this steroid basil out :D

you need to add some parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano/Grana Padano to it! It adds this whole new taste level. I have also found that the pesto flavour improves after a few days in the fridge. mmm.

Pinky said...

You're so right: I just didn't have any suitable cheese in the house!
The hard part is letting the pesto go unmolested while you're waiting for the flavours to mature. Very tempting!

montre said...

looks good