My basil crop, which consists of 8 sweet basil and 8 lemon basil plants sits on a square of dirt right at the bottom of my back steps. I see them constantly as I go in and out during the course of a day, and I have been watching them turn from little plantlings (it should be a word!) into the teenagers they are today.
I have been dreaming about pesto since I used up my last cube, (I freezer batches of it in cubes to satisfy my winter craving for extreme green!) and was itching to make some. I sometimes buy a mixed variety of basil plants, but am always upset for not planting more sweet basil. I simply like it the best. When shopping for herbs in May I bought some sweet basil, and then relenting and decided to try another variety. The lemon basil appealed to me the most as I imagined how well it would go with fish dishes.
As they started to grow and get bigger I noticed the leaves were a lot smaller and the plant was bushier. The most amazing characteristic however was the aroma. Despite myself I started choosing the pungent lemony scented basil over my long time favorite, throwing it into my scrambled eggs, and into brothy dishes.
Last night I decided to make the first pesto of the season, and was excited to see how the lemon basil would fair? (they were still not fully grown but I couldn’t stop myself). I was more than happy with the result. It had that lovely familiar basil flavor but also had undertones of zesty lemon. The lemon also seemed to punch up the flavor of the garlic, and add a citrus note to the cheese. I immediately smeared it on a piece of toast and felt like I had gone to heaven. I made some chicken and some shell pasta, and let people choose how they wanted to have it. I stayed with the bread idea and just added some chicken. A yummy dinner.
You will Need: 2 cups lemon basil leaves, 3 tbs pine nuts, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp coarse sea-salt, 3 tbs Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, 6 tbs good quality extra-virgin olive oil.
1 – Using a good knife, chop the garlic roughly on a board. Add the coarse salt (it is important that it is coarse as it aids in the paste-making process!) and continue to mince the garlic, occasionally pressing the knife down on the garlic until you have a thick paste.
2 – Wash and dry basil leaves and add to food processor, along with the garlic paste and pine nuts. Blend until roughly chopped. Take lid off processor and scrap the mixture to the bottom. Add the cheese and pulse for a few seconds. Add oil in a steady stream through the opening at the top. Taste for more salt and add more oil if you want a thinner pesto.
This keeps in the fridge in a jar with a good seal for a couple of weeks. I also fill ice-cube trays and freeze it, and, when it is frozen I pop the cubes into freezer bags and have it all year round.
Last night my daughter had pesto with chicken breast cooked in broth and giant pasta shells.
It is also fantastic smeared on top of chicken on toast.