Basil recipe ideas

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Wiped Out, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have a ton of basil growing in a pot and can't use it fast enough. I love basil but don't have a ton of recipes. I do have a couple but need more.

    Anyone have any good recipes using basil?
  2. nvts

    nvts Active Member


    Cut up some fresh mozzarella cheese, red onions (sliced thin), roasted peppers, tomatos, and fresh basil and pour balsamic vinagrette salad dressing over the mix and toss it well.

    This is really delicious especially after it "sits" in the fridge for a while. You can either serve it as a side dish or an appetizer with some melba toast or other "stiff" cracker (or even with slices of Italian bread). It's very refreshing on a hot summer day.
  3. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Do you like polenta? I make polenta and fry it with garlic, pepper and salt. Then add a little tomato and fresh basil leaves.

    I could eat basil on a big heavy piece of soft bread (fresh) with garlic, salt and pepper and a slice of tomato, drizzled with lots of olive oil.

    You can also take the leaves and layer them between wax paper and freeze them for the winter. (not as good as fresh, but it works in sauce).

    I make an awesome salad dressing with basil, garlic, olive oil, mayo, sour cream, salt, pepper, parmesean cheese and a tiny amount of anchovy paste. It's awesome on a Boston leaf salad! It takes a LOT of basil.

    You can make pesto and freeze that too.
  4. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Meant to get back to this earlier to say thanks!

    Great ideas! I need to find some good pesto recipes now too!
  5. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    Thai cooking uses a LOT of basil, and while it often calls for "opal" basil, you can substitute common basil.

    As an OP said, Pesto freezes well. You can also preserve basil in the fridge by running it in the food processor and mixing well with olive oil. Store in one of those disposeable plastic containers and take out to use as needed.
  6. amazeofgrace

    amazeofgrace New Member

    chop it in the processor add some olive oil and lemon juice freeze in small bags or an old ice cube tray for future use in sauce or to make fresh pesto!
  7. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    Or you could mail it to ME... :p
  8. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Pesto...again, I don't do's all just dashes and glubs of whatever and it's all in my head, so here goes. These are just approximate don't hold me to it.

    LOTS of Basil
    olive oil (about a cup or more)
    Parm. Cheese (1/2 cup or so)
    garlic 1 to 2 cloves (or more)
    pepper (a few dashes)
    pinoli (or pine) nuts (1/2 cup)
    Anchovy paste (or substitute plain salt) A small squeeze of paste
    Lemon juice is optional...but small amount.
    Sundried tomatoes are also something you can add to it.

    Put all of it into a food processor except the olive oil. Pulse it and then add olive oil slowly. That's it.

    Another idea for basil that I love is mixing it with olive oil and a little salt and pouring it over fresh cut melon with prociutto or sopressata. YUM!
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2008
  9. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    You can also substitute sweet walnuts or hazelnuts for the pine nuts if they are hard for you to find or too expensive (or your late husband is violenty allergic to them)
  10. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I make a pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then I use one or two cubes for each recipe as needed.

    I also cut tomatoes from the garden in half and place them on the grill 5 minutes before everything is done. I drizzle them with a little EEVO, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put thin sliced basil on top, and top with a little grated parmesan reggiano. Oooh, yum!
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I've been making pesto for years now, various types and in varying quantities. Whenever husband & I eat out (not often) and we find something really special, we try to duplicate it.

    Here is the absolute best pesto recipe, adapted and modified until we've got it as good as as we can. Adapt quantities according to how much you want to make.

    First - pick your basil. Always pinch back your flowering heads, preferably as soon as you see the beginning of a flower appear (instead of leaves at the stem tip, you will begin to see a sort of concentric square structure forming). As soon as basil flowers, it goes to seed then dies back. If you keep pinching it back it will get thicker and bushier (and the more leaves, the thirstier so keep the water up to it). If it sneaks some flowers past you and goes to seed, save the seed and sow it next spring.

    So, pick the basil, including any flowers beginning to form. Yes, you can eat the flowers too. You can keep basil in the fridge in a plastic bag you've blown up like a small balloon. Make sure the basil isn't dripping wet or it will go black and soggy. In the inflated plastic bag, it should stay fresh for a week or more. If it gets bruised it will begin to turn black and go soft.

    For about a pint of basil leaves (approximately, gently packed into a jug) -

    To make pesto - gently pull or cut the leaves from the stems. Put in everything apart from the tough stems. Soft stems at the tips can go in. I put them in a blender or a glass jug (which I use with a Bamix or stick blender).
    Do not pull leaves off the stems unless you're about to use it all. You can't do this more than a couple of hours before you make pesto, because picking it off the stems bruises the basil leaves.

    Toast your nuts. For about a pint of leaves I use a generous palmful of pine nuts. I dry toast them in a small pan on the hot plate. Alternatively you could roast them in the oven but it's harder to watch and get it right. Toasting only takes a couple of minutes but oh, what a difference in taste! And it is best if you toast the nuts fresh, don't toast weeks ahead and put them in a jar. It's pointless. Toasting the nuts gets rid of the flouriness you can get with a lot of nuts and intensifies their flavour.

    Throw the toasted nuts in with the basil leaves. Add in about quarter to half a cup GOOD olive oil (although I have also used macadamia oil). About half teaspoon of salt. Three to four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (do not use garlic from a jar - this must be fresh).
    Puree/blend. It won't be really smooth, but do the best you can. The nuts will take the longest to break down, blend until the pieces of nut are small enough for you. Granular texture is acceptable - tell people it's deliberately "rustic".

    Next check the pouring consistency. It should be fairly runny. If it's really gluggy and semi-solid, add more olive oil and puree again, until it's more like pouring cream than cottage cheese.

    Next step - add freshly grated parmesan cheese. Do this to taste. Again, for a pint of leaves to begin with, you should use about 1-2 palmfuls of parmesan. To make it easier it's OK to use pre-grated parmesan. I keep bags of grated cheese in the freezer, it keeps forever.

    Although you began with a pint of leaves, there would have been a fair bit of air spaces around them. despite adding other ingredients, the end product is a bit under a pint in volume.

    At this stage I check it for taste. Enough salt? Enough garlic? Enough cheese? Add what you think you need, this is yours. But there MUST be enough olive oil to form a puddle on top when it settles. This helps preserve it. If there is no puddle, the pesto could slowly go black and mouldy.

    Once happy with it, I bottle it into small jars and label it. Or into one big jar and freeze it.

    Frozen pesto keeps forever. Even when not frozen - our spare fridge has bottles of pesto that I made a year ago and still haven't eaten. BF1 raids it when he visits, says it's still as good as ever. As long as it looks OK it's fine. If it goes off, you would really see it - the pesto goes black and smells wrong.

    If you don't want pine nuts (for example, BF2 is allergic to pine nuts, even if it's easy child 2/difficult child 2 who eats the pine nut pesto and then kisses him) then you can substitute other nuts. Walnuts are supposed to be good but we find them too bitter. I generally substitute cashews - again, freshly toasted. Cashew basil pesto is fabulous.

    My problem every summer is not having enough basil, no matter how much I grow.

    Uses for pesto - other than to stir through freshly cooked pasta, I've added pesto to a batch of pasta dough, to a loaf of bread I'm baking and we use it as a spread base for sandwiches, especially salad sandwiches. You spread pesto instead of butter, then layer on the onions, tomato and lettuce. Delicious!

    Or to use just the basil - here's a great recipe, really quick.
    Chop up a couple of fresh tomatoes. Shred some freshly picked basil leaves. Chop up some onion, maybe quarter to half an onion per large tomato, about six large basil leaves (or more) per tomato. If you want, also finely chop some red capsicum (aka sweet pepper).
    In non-stick skillet add a little olive oil, then cook the onion until just beginning to colour. Throw in the tomato, the capsicum and the basil, warm through fast and take off the heat. It shouldn't be stewed, just heated until the tomato has softened a little. The basil should still be green.
    Serve on bruschetta.

    Alternatively - don't cook it at all, just mix the finely chopped ingredients together and pile it onto a fresh slice of crusty bread or eat it as a salsa.

    Use as much or as little basil as you want, but unless you know you like it, don't use the leaves whole except as a garnish. A lot of TV chefs are serving their salads etc with hand-torn bunches of basil tossed through and while it LOOKS good (and "rustic") basil is a herb with a very strong flavour, it needs to be finely chopped (or even coarsely chopped) if you don't want your guests to have nasty "hot spots" as they eat it.

    The thin sliced basil Witz describes in her post - that works well, is a good option, It also looks good but is a much more sensible way to eat it and enjoy it.

    Summer, in my opinion, is home-grown tomatoes enjoyed with fresh-picked basil from the garden. I'm a bit rusty - I think along with bay leaves, basil was considered to be sacred to Apollo, it's a very male herb and with the masculinity, the tomatoes and Apollo (the sun) - it defines summer healthy eating.

  12. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Oh, yeah....I forgot about the parm cheese in my recipe. I'm going to edit that.

    Sounds good Marg.
  13. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Gosh, you guys are making me look bad. I love to cook, but never thought about cooking with Basil as a core item. I just toss it in here and there.

  14. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member


    Thanks for the info on the flowering part-I wish I had known that-oh well now I do. I can't wait to be trying these recipes out!
  15. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I think it might be wise to not tell some men that a bay leave has the potential to cut the larnyx. What a way to silence your wife!
  16. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    You guys are making me feel guilty now. I've cooked with Bay leaves all my life. Little did I know I could be cutting someone's larnyx. I was just cooking Italian.

    Now I have to worry about Basil? Shoot. I'm just going to stop cooking.

  17. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I didn't know that about bay leaves. I'm still not sure about that one.

    I have a large bay tree in our backyard which I had to cut back a bit a fortnight ago. I tend to use the leaves fresh, but if I cut a bit and don't use it all, I stick the rest of the branch in my herb rack and just break off a bit when I want more. I use the sticks too, when all the leaves have been snapped off. There is so much natural oil in bay that the leaves never go mouldy.

    You're supposed to pick the bay leaves out before serving, because they taste bitter and very strong if you accidentally chew on them. But I have used the young shoots, dried and powdered, in my bottles of mixed herbs that I prepare myself to sell. They work really well and add a great flavour.

    Are you sure it's bay that's supposed to silence your wife? Or are you getting confused with the oleander, which the Greeks also had as sacred to Apollo? It was oleander that the Delphi Oracle used to chew (or breathe in the smoke) in order to have those hallucinatory dreams and ravings which were then written down and interpreted by priests for the benefit of pilgrims looking for supernatural guidance.
    In Greece the bay tree was called "dafnes" after the nymph who was turned into a bay tree by her father to protect her purity from Apollo's pursuit, according to mythology. That's why Apollo wears a wreath of bay leaves.

    scientific name is "Laurus nobilis". There are other plants also known as laurel, which are toxic in various ways. That could be where the idea has come from, that bay can make you lose your speech.

    I do know that Dieffenbachia, also known as "dumb cane", can paralyse the vocal chords (and the muscles at the back of your throat) and lose your speech temporarily. It is very toxic. And another plant, Sanseviera, is also known as "mother-in-law's tongues" and I believe it also has a similar toxic effect. Sanseviera is also long, green and spiky.

    I wouldn't worry about basil's toxicity. It's a member of "Labiatae" (defined by the shape of the flowers) and all members of that family are supposed to be safe to eat. Most herbs we use in cooking belong to that family.

  18. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Bay leaves can cut the insides of your intestinal track. That's why you need to make sure they are completely removed from what you are cooking. It's wise to put them in a cheese cloth and tie it up, so that the pieces that fall off don't get lost in the sauce.

    That being said, I think that is on another thread....this one was about Basil. There is a Bay leaf thread, though.
  19. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Found it.


    Anything herbal - I love it!

  20. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It