We grow basil, not by the pot but by the row. Come summer there never seems to be enough basil. There’s basil to add to simmering passata, bruschetta, preserved tomatoes, and pesto.
This summer Duncan and I both planted basil so we would have our own supplies (last year I was chastised for using basil reserved for preserving). We mucked up the timing though so while the basil is in its prime the tomatoes are just starting to blush. So, keen to use the basil today I made pesto.
I use a couple of different recipes for pesto: David and Gerda Foster’s recipe from ‘A Year of Slow Food’, and Stephanie Alexander’s recipe from ‘The Cook’s Companion’. I experiment with nuts too. Pine nuts can be pricey, so I sometimes use peanuts if they are in the cupboard (or cashews if there’s a packet miraculously uneaten).
I enjoy folding pesto into cooked pasta to ramp up the flavour and add interest to the presentation, although my boys are not keen on the colour (green!). And when you have that magic combination of tomatoes and basil in abundance bruschetta is heavenly. Even worthy of a homemade loaf of bread.
Pesto (adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s ‘A Cook’s Companion’)
Ingredients: 1 cup basil leaves, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons pine nuts, 2 cloves garlic, crushed, salt, 60g freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Method: Blend basil, oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth, making sure to incorporate contents from sides. When blended, scrape into a bowl and stir in cheese. Store covered with a film of olive oil in a screw top jar.
[I used a large quantity of basil leaves, more like three cups and adjusted the proportions to suit, 1 1/2 cups pine nuts, 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, six cloves garlic crushed, salt, and 120g parmesan. I am learning from two friends, who are great cooks, to play around with recipes and rely on flavour not measurements].