basil is about the easiest thing to grow. i've done it the last two years with amazing results. i pretty much purchase the smallest basil plant i can find in the spring, plant it in some good soil, water and watch it grow. basil loves to procreate too...like little rabbits! i had basil babies all over my yard and ended up with way more basil than i could ever use in a tomato basil soup recipe (that will come later). so, this year i decided to make and freeze my own pesto. i've always been a little astounded at how expensive pesto is to buy in the store. you can make your own easily and it freezes beautifully. i now have tons of pesto in my freezer to thaw out and use for recipes all winter long. if you have extra basil, do this now. i'll post several fun pesto recipes after the holidays...
here's what you'll need to get started:
pick your basil: it's getting close to the first frost in some areas or it may have already frosted in your area. pick you basil plants. after washing them well, pull off all the leaves individually and wash thoroughly. i found little critters clinging to some of my leaves even after i'd washed the leaves a couple of times. i'm not one of those people who get excited about extra protein.
buy some products in bulk: i headed to costco and purchased big yet relatively inexpensive bags of grated parmesan, pine nuts, and extra virgin olive oil. you'll need all of those ingredients on hand.
get a food processor or borrow a friend's: this process is very easy with a food processor. if you don't have one, they are a great purchase and you can find a less expensive brand for under $50.00. you may want to add one to your Christmas list. if you don't have one and have no way to get one, check with your girlfriends. someone is bound to have one they don't use very often that you can borrow for a day.
homemade pesto recipe
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced (i used the pre-minced garlic in a jar and used about 2 t.)
1-2 t. lemon juice (eyeball it)
salt and freshly ground pepper
place all of the ingredients in a food processor. turn the processor on high to get things mixed well. stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor and turn processor on again until a smooth paste forms.
you can use this pesto immediately for any dish or you can freeze it. the lemon juice in the pesto will help to keep the pesto its fresh green color during the freezing process.
to freeze: use a regular sized muffin tin. spray each space with a non-stick cooking spray. fill each space with fresh made pesto. cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer on a flat surface. once completely frozen, pop out the little pesto "muffins" and transfer them to a freezer ziplock bag. these will last up to six months.
to use: put one or two pesto cubes in a microwave safe bowl. microwave until thawed (about 30 seconds) and use in your favorite recipe.
if you are too late to try this next year...think about planting for spring. even if you don't have a green thumb, basil can make you feel tremendously successful..and who doesn't enjoy that?