How to Cultivate Basil or The Herb of Love Part III

September 14, 2008

Guest Article by Arlene Wright Correll

RED PEPPER PESTO 1 Serving

3 oz Sun-dried tomatoes

1 1/3 c Sweet red peppers roast/chop

½ c Kalamata olives pitted/chopped

1/3 c Flat-leaf parsley chopped

1/3 c Basil, fresh finely chopped

3 Cloves garlic minced

3 tbsp Olive oil

1 tsp Balsamic vinegar

Fresh-ground black pepper

Salt to taste

Put the sun-dried tomatoes into a bowl and pour boiling water over them just to cover.

Leave them to soak for 20-30 minutes. If using canned peppers, rinse and drain them well, and blot them on paper towels, then chop them pretty finely.

Combine them with the chopped Kalamata olives, the chopped fresh herbs, and the minced garlic. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes, reserving the water, and press them gently in a colander.

Pulse them in a food processor until they are finely chopped. (Don’t use the food processor for the other ingredients, as it can too easily turn them into mush, and you want to keep a little texture in this spread.)

Add the olive oil and vinegar, pulse again, scraping down as needed, until no large chunks of tomato are left.

If you do not have a food processor, just finely chop the soaked sun-dried tomatoes as you do all the other ingredients. It will only take a little longer.

Combine the tomato mixture with the other ingredients, mix well, and taste. Grind in some black pepper if you like, and add some salt if needed, though probably the olives provide enough.

If the pesto is too thick for your taste, moisten it with a few drops of the reserved tomato water until it has the consistency you like. The texture should be somewhere between thick pesto and soft pate.

PURPLE PESTO

2 c Opal or Purple Ruffle basil

2 tbsp Sun dried tomatoes

2 Garlic cloves

6 tbsp Asiago cheese

1/3 c Pine nuts or walnuts (I like to mix both when I have them on hand)

½ c Olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in blender or food processor.

Slowly add oil.

Blend to desired consistency and toss on freshly cooked pasta.

(This pesto variation makes a great sauce with sautéed strips of sweet Italian peppers and linguine.)

TOMATO AND BASIL PESTO Yield: 6 servings

3 medium Vine-ripened tomatoes

2 c Tightly-packed basil

½ c Tightly-packed Italian parsley

2 Cloves minced garlic

2 tsp Balsamic vinegar

2 tsp Fresh lemon juice

Salt (to taste optional!)

Freshly ground black pepper-(to taste)

Core the tomatoes and cut in half.

Grill over very hot coals for only a few minutes to take some of the color and flavor. (Use oven broiler if you don’t have access to hot coals.)

Remove from the grill and set aside to cool.

Place basil, parsley, and garlic in a food processor. Process until smooth.

Add the tomato, vinegar, and lemon juice and process.

Season with the salt and pepper to taste.

Basil Dips

Arlene Wright-Correll’s Cool Basil Dip for Vegetables.

The radishes are not doing well in the heat and the pots of basil are bearing in overload mode. It’s been too hot to cook and I was looking for something “zippy” to put some fresh vegetables back into our daily life without having to make a big meal. Here is what I came up with and it is very, very good.

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup radishes

1 cup sour cream

½ cup of mayonnaise

1 tbsp of grainy mustard

1 tbsp lemon juice (either fresh or from one of those little lemon “thingies”)

½ tsp course salt

½ dozen turns on your pepper mill or ½ ground pepper.

In a food processor or blender combine everything until a nice smooth paste.

You can tweak it with more lemon juice, salt and pepper if you desire.

You can use low-fat mayonnaise and sour cream. I make this just as it says above.

Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until thickened and chilled, about 20 minutes. Dip will keep up to 3 days.

Serve with cut up raw carrots, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli or whatever other kind of veggies you like.

History continues telling us about Basil. In Persia and Malaysia Basil is planted on graves, and in Egypt women scatter the flowers on the resting-places of those belonging to them. These observances are entirely at variance with the idea prevailing among the ancient Greeks that it represented hate and misfortune. They painted poverty as a ragged woman with a Basil at her side, and thought the plant would not grow unless railing and abuse were poured forth at the time of sowing.

The Romans, in like manner, believed that the more it was abused, the better it would prosper. The physicians of old were quite unable to agree as to its medicinal value, some declaring that it was a poison, and others a precious simple.

Culpepper tells us: ‘Galen and Dioscorides hold it is not fitting to be taken inwardly and Chrysippusrails at it. Pliny and the Arabians defend it. Something is the matter, this herb and rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another, and we know rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.’ But it was said to cause sympathy between human beings and a tradition in Moldavia still exists that a youth will love any maiden from whose hand he accepts a sprig of this plant.

In Crete it symbolizes ‘love washed with tears,’ and in some parts of Italy it is a love-token.

Boccaccio’s story of Isabella and the Pot of Basil, immortalized by Keats, keeps the plant in our memory, though it is now rarely cultivated in this country. It was formerly grown in English herb gardens.

Tusser includes it among the Strewing herbs and Drayton places it first in his poem Polyolbion. ‘With Basil then I will begin whose scent is wondrous pleasing.’ In Tudor days, little pots of Basil were often given as graceful compliments by farmers’ wives to visitors. Parkinson says: ‘The ordinary Basill is in a manner wholly spent to make sweete or washing waters among other sweet herbs, yet sometimes it is put into nosegays. The Physicall properties are to procure a cheerfull and merry hearte whereunto the seeds is chiefly used in powder.’

It’s easy to make herb and/or spice infused olive oils at home. They make wonderful gifts for all occasions. Wash and dry your basil and lightly bruise them to release flavor. Place them in a clean decorative glass container, cover with warmed oil, and seal tightly. Leave in a cool, dark place to infuse about two weeks.

Taste and if not strong enough, add more fresh herbs and let stand another week. You can either strain the oil or leave the herbs in. If you do not strain the herbs out, the flavor will become stronger as it stands, so keep that in mind.

Less strongly-flavored oils like sunflower oil and safflower oil work best to give a more prominent herb flavor. However, extra-virgin olive oil is also a good choice. If you begin with monounsaturated oil such as olive oil or peanut oil, the infused oils should be refrigerated. These are highly perishable and can turn rancid quickly.

You can also add garlic, but remove the garlic cloves after a couple of days so as to not overpower the flavor of the herbs. If you choose to leave the garlic cloves in the oil, be sure to refrigerate the oil to avoid the threat of botulism.

Use your favorite combinations. Use the oils within two months. Use infused oils in salad dressings and marinades to enjoy full flavor. You can also use most any type of herb in place of the basil.

Whatever you feel about Basil is up to you. Just remember it is so easy to grow. Once you start using it, you will wonder how you managed without it in your kitchen. Feel free to experiment with it. Feel free to “tweak” the recipes.

One of my simplest pleasures is a bowl of steamed carrots with finely chopped basil mixed into the butter. What a taste sensation!

Author Arlene Wright Correll Resource: Resources: Excerpted from “Food For Thought Series” by Arlene Wright-Correll

For more gardening or cooking information click http://www.learn-america.com/ and click on Arlene’s Books you can download or buy my gardening & cook books. All my royalties from the sale of my books go to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and we thank you for your attention to this site.

Article Source: How to Cultivate Basil or The Herb of Love Part III
Article From: Organic Gardening Articles

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