My Amazing $4 Basil Plant

I don't know about you, but my basil proliferates like crazy. Not even a drought, which we had this summer, will affect how my basil grows. And there are days when I tend to forget about it and it wilts. But give it a drink of water and back to life it comes. And I am so grateful, because I will admit that I CANNOT grow rosemary, but that's another story.

Considering we are in a recession, oops, I forgot, it's $4 basil plant has out-performed all of the markets, the Dow Jones and the S&P 500.

Cut a little basil for an Italian dish and four more stalks grow. Trim a little basil for a garnish and, poof, it doubles in size in one week.

So, by the end of the summer or the beginning of fall, it's time to harvest it all and make something yummy before the first freeze.

But what can you possibly do with 10 stalks of bodacious basil? I would suggest you make a pesto or a basil vinaigrette.

Today, I decided to make pesto because it freezes so well, and the last time I harvested basil I made a vinaigrette. Thanks, Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, it was delicious and I just finished it the other day. It's great as a dip for raw carrots!

While I've used various recipes for pesto, I tend to switch it up and see if something better exists, so I went to David Lebovitz's blog and found a pesto recipe that I thought sounded good.

And considering I harvested five cups of basil and the recipe calls for five cups of basil, I thought it was a perfect fit. 

I topped a few slices of ripe tomato (that I bought at the farmers market) with a dollop of pesto for lunch today and served it with a veggie stuffed pita (shredded carrots, lettuce, red onion, avocado and tomatoes) which I drizzled with fresh pesto.

The traditional way to serve pesto is to toss it with pasta, which is heavenly. But David Lebovitz suggests a few more unconventional uses such as adding it to roasted or boiled (and cooled) fingerling potatoes for a delectable and unique potato salad, as well as adding a dollop to freshly sauteed corn. Other ideas include serving it over baked potatoes or spreading a little pesto over toasted baguette slices, which I would then top with a slice of tomato and fresh mozzarella.

Whatever way you choose to use basil pesto, as long as it's homemade pesto from home grown basil, it'll be delicious!

Buen provecho!

Fresh Basil Pesto
Adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet from David Lebovitz's recipe

Print Recipe

2 garlic cloves, sliced
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
5 cups loosely-packed basil leaves
5 tablespoons EVOO, or a little more if necessary
1/4 cup ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted (Toast nuts in a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes or until they turn lightly brown and are fragrant)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (basil can be a bit overpowering and so, if, at the end of making the pesto, it tastes a bit strong for your palate, I use a little red wine vinegar to balance the flavor)

In a food processor, chop the garlic with the salt. Add the basil leaves and puree until a slightly smooth paste is formed. Drizzle the EVOO into the food processor and puree until it is well incorporated. You may need to stop the food processor and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula.

Add the cheese and puree. And then add the toasted nuts and puree until finely blended and smooth. Add a little freshly ground black pepper to taste, and salt if you think it needs it. Generally, the cheese provides enough additional salt, but you can be the judge of that.

Fresh pesto should be served within a day or two after it's made. Otherwise the garlic can become overpowering, but I think that is a good thing...It can also be frozen for a few months in a plastic container.
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