Our basil plants are growing faster than we can use them these days so we are thinking of all the ideas we can...pesto, basil chiffonade on sliced tomatoes, basil oil for salad dressings, basil simple syrup, etc. Luckily I have two fantastic helpers in the kitchen.
BASIL PESTO (makes about 2 cups)
Blanching the basil keeps the pesto a nice bright green but if I am in a big rush, and am making pesto to use immediately, I sometimes skip this step -- the result is a pesto that turns brown quickly but is still delicious.
1 large bunch basil, stems discarded
1/3 cup pine nuts
cup 1/3 grated parmesan cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch basil leaves for 2-3 seconds or until they turn bright green and transfer immediately to an ice bath. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture. Our bunch of basil produced about 1 1/2 cups of blanched leaves.
Place basil, pine nuts, parmesan, and olive oil in a blender and puree until combined but not totally smooth. Add salt and lemon juice and quickly blend to combine. If you are not using the pesto immediately store in an airtight container with a little olive oil drizzled over the surface.
If you really have tons of basil, and want to make several batches, you can also freeze it. For easy portioning when it is time to thaw it out try freezing in icecube trays. Once the cubes are solid transfer them to a ziploc freezer bag and just thaw a few cubes at a time.
Basil syrup makes the most delicious and refreshing basil citrus soda when combined with seltzer and the juice of a lemon or lime. Rather than the traditional 1:1 ratio of sugar to water we made a slightly less sweet version.
a few large sprigs of basil
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil gently for about 5 minutes then turn off burner and allow mixture to sit in pan for 30-40 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and chill before using.
BASIL INFUSED OLIVE OIL
2 cups basil leaves
2 cups olive oil
Blanch basil leaves in boiling water for a few seconds and immediately transfer to an ice bath. Dry on paper towels. Place in blender with oil and salt and puree. Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with a paper towel. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator.
Large leaves of basil can sliced into beautiful thin ribbons -- stack large leaves and roll into a tight bindle. Thinly slice crosswise. It makes a perfect topping for a sliced tomato salad or a garnish on top of pasta.