BASIL 101

Basil is by far one of my favorite herbs. Which is why when I started planting tons of herbs in my garden I knew I wanted a whole bunch of basil plants. I got a pack of seeds and planted about half the bag thinking that most won’t make it for whatever reason. However, almost all of them made it and now I have a ton of basil to use up.


When I have a good amount of basil leaves I like adding them as garnishes to dishes, sprinkling them into sauces, or serving them with tomato and mozzarella (my favorite in the summertime). However, when I have way too much basil, I need to strategize how I’m going to use up all the basil before they start to wilt or go brown. So here are the three ways I like to use up my basil when I have too much on my hands. However, no matter how much basil you have on hand, I hope these three recipes will help you in the kitchen! 


Homemade Dried Basil 

During the end of summer, my family likes to cut down all of our annual herbs and spend a weekend drying them out in the oven so that we have tons of herbs to last us until next summer. This was my first year planting so I ended up with tons of basil plants thinking that not all of them were going to grow. Well.. almost all of them grew and needless to say, I started the drying process this month for my basil plants. 

Even though it is not in the instructions and isn't really necessary I do wash my basil. It’s best to not until you are ready to use them but since I will be drying them I like to make sure they are clean. I  start by running them under cold water for a bit and then soak them for about 1 hour just to make sure. Then I dry them with paper towels or you could use a salad spinner. Any excess water I let air dry off. From here I ready to go and start the drying process!  


Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup of basil


Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 185 degrees F. 

  2. While it’s preheating lay the basil down in a single layer on a sheet tray. Use multiple sheet trays if necessary. Bake for 1 hour or until dry and crispy.

  3. Take it out of the oven and let it cool down for 5 minutes. Collect the basil into the palm of your hands and crush them into nice, small pieces like you see in spice/grocery stores. 


Pesto

I used both purple and green basil so my pesto didn't come out that electrifying green color that most know pesto to be. However, no matter what basil leaf you use it will taste delicious! Even though most pesto recipes call for the same ingredients, don't feel obligated to have to go out to get these ingredients. I’ve made great pestos without the cheese and used walnuts instead of pine nuts. Both came out great! 


Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup of fresh basil leaves

  • 2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced 

  • 1- 2x2 piece of parmesan cheese

  • ¼ cup of olive oil 

  • Pinch of salt and pepper


Instructions: 

  1. In a food processor, add in the basil leaves, pine nuts, minced garlic and parmesan hunk. Pulse until everything is broken down. 

  2. Slowly stream in ¼ cup of olive oil so that it becomes emulsified into a bright green pesto sauce. Once your pesto sauce is ready, give it a taste and sprinkle in some salt & pepper if needed. 

**Use pesto within a week of making it! Keep in the fridge to keep fresh.** 


Sun-dried Tomato & Crispy Basil Pasta

Oil flavored with basil and garlic, rigatoni tossed in sun-driedtomatoesand pesto, crispy basil and garlic for a little extra flavor and crunch on top equals a total flavor bomb! Every part of this dish was flavored perfectly and came together in just minutes. 


​​I originally made this to feed two people but I ended up eating it all by myself. I do love pasta but it was honestly just that good. So next time, you're in a pinch but still want to eat something that tastes like it took you hours to make, try this! 


Ingredients: 

  • 1/3 package of rigatoni 

  • 2 - 3 tablespoons of oil 

  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced thinly

  • Handful of basil leaves

  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste 

  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon of pesto 

  • 2/3 cup of reserved pasta water

  • salt & pepper to taste 

  • parmesan to taste 

Instructions: 

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packaging. 

  2. In the meantime, add the oil to a large sauce pan and add in your thinly sliced garlic. Next add in your basil leaves in a single layer. Do not overcrowded the pan since you want to fry your basil until they are dark green and crispy. 

  3. Once the garlic is golden brown and the basil is crispy take everything out and set aside. Add in the tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes. Fry on medium low just for 1 - 2 minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon of pesto and pour in 2/3 cup of pasta water and bring to a simmer. 

  4. Add in all your cooked pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle in parmesan cheese, fried basil, fried garlic, salt & pepper to taste.  Enjoy while hot!



Bonus: Proper Trimming for Your Basil Plant


It's one thing to plant too many basil plants but no matter how many plants you have, properly trimming your basil plant is the best way to increase your basil yield. One of the biggest mistakes that most gardeners make when trimming their basil plant is cutting each individual leaf. This was me earlier this summer! I have since learned my lesson. 


The best way to cut your basil plant is to cut below a node but right above where two leaves have started to grow out from the sides. The growing power that your plant has will start going into growing those two leaves, essentially creating two new branches and thus growing more basil! 


It's always better to have a short and very bushy basil plant than a tall one. You really want to maximize and utilize your plants growing power and proper and consistent trimming is the way to do that!

Cut right above the two leaves (pictured on top) and you will be left with two sets of leaves on each side of the basil stem (pictured on the bottom).

Eventually you will get two new branches! (Pictured below)

Thanks for reading this week's email. Let me know how you liked it and stay tuned for more!

- Alex

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