Photo Credit: E. Rosemond-Hoerr
When I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle one of the sentiments that stuck with me in her campaign for local, seasonal, eating was the idea that with the exception of greenhouse or window gardeners, most North Americans shouldn't be eating meals with fresh basil in the middle of winter. Her belief that you should adapt your eating to fit what can be produced in your area throughout the season is one that I wholeheartedly agree with and one that has a wonderful side effect- pure joy.
While February may not be the right time to top a pithy imported tomato with a wilted leaf of carbon expensive basil, August is the perfect time. Eating with the seasons insures that the fruits, herbs, and vegetables are always at their peak flavor, and every bite of what you're eating is its most delicious. In honor of that sentiment, here are my five favorite ways to eat basil:
-Lemon pesto: In a food processor combine 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 large garlic cloves, and salt & pepper. Blend until smooth.
-Brown Butter Basil Sauce: In a medium size pan melt one stick of butter over low heat. Add 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (chopped), one garlic clove (diced), and salt & pepper. Let simmer until the butter has browned. Serve over chicken or fish.
-Bruschetta: Thickly slice a loaf of Italian bread and toast. Roughly chop 5 roma tomatoes, 1 cup basil leaves, and 2 garlic cloves. Thinly slice fresh mozzarella. Drizzle the bread with olive oil, top with salt. Then add the mozzarella return to oven until the cheese is just melted. Top with tomato mixture and serve.
-Strawberry Basil Salad: Roughly chop 1 pint of strawberries. Combine with 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped. Serve over a bed of fresh spinach, topped with toasted pine nuts.
-Basil Infused Olive Oil: In a blender blend 2 cups olive oil with 4 cups fresh basil leaves. Blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a pot and simmer 1 minute. Pour through a fine mesh sieve and let cool. When at room temperature transfer to an air tight jar.