What do I do with all this damn basil?
September 3, 2005 9:46 AM   Subscribe

What do I do with all this fresh basil?

We have been blessed this year with a bountiful crop of basil. A small forest, really. I love the stuff, but am running out of ideas. We have made pesto and frozen plenty for the lean months ahead--now what? Googling seems to produce only more pesto recipes. What are some creative and delicious uses for fresh basil?
posted by LarryC to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here are six ways to make use of an abundance of basil.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:55 AM on September 3, 2005

You can freeze it too.
posted by misteraitch at 11:02 AM on September 3, 2005

Best answer: When this happenned to my SO and me, we first ditched the plant. It started to get to that unappetising sticky phase and attracted flies. My suggestion would be to make a basil granita. Last summer we made an amazing anise hyssop granita and I'm sure the same can be done with basil.

Anise Hyssop Granita -- Chicago Tribune 5/7/03
This frozen dessert from Bruce Sherman of North Pond takes advantage of the minty-licorice flavor of anise hyssop-and it doean't require an ice cream maker. Sherman suggests basil or lemon verbena as substitutes; [the Tribune test kitchen] had success with mint. This can be made a day ahead. Use flowered tops of anise hyssop, if available, for garnish, or fresh berries.

1/2 cup each: sugar, water, freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh anise hyssop leaves, coarsely chopped

or, since I found those quanities a little too intense,

juice from 7 lemons
1c torn and coarsely chopped anise hyssop leaves
3c water
1/2c sugar

1. Combine sugar and water in a small pan; heat to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat; stir in herb leaves. Place overturned plate or saucer over the mixture; let stand 30 minutes. Carefully strain out leaves; discard leaves. Mix in lemon juice; chill in refrigerator 30 minutes.

2. Pour mixture into 13 x 9 baking pan. Place on level surface in freezer;chill 20 minutes. Remove from freezer; rake the mixture with the tines of a fork to aerate and and to allow mixture to crystallize. Repeat process until mixture is completely frozen through, about 2 hours. Rake one more time just before serving. Makes 1 pint.
posted by scazza at 11:06 AM on September 3, 2005

If you like pesto, it can be frozen. Just don't add the pine nuts or p. cheese (either can be found in the store mid-winter.)

Freeze it in amounts that match a meal and enjoy pesto all winter.

Don't worry if it turns black as it freezes.
posted by leafwoman at 11:10 AM on September 3, 2005

Best answer: How about Asian pesto? Here's the recipe from Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles book. She has it as part of a recipe for Spicy Pesto Soba. I am sure that the Spicy Pesto would freeze fine, and could be used in this dish and others. For me, it's helping me use up all of my basil and mint!

Spicy Pesto Soba

1/2 lb. snow peas, ends sanpped, strings removed
3/4 lb. soba noodles, cooked until just tender, rinsed under cold water and drained

Spicy Pesto Blend to a paste in food processor or blender

1 to 2 hot red chile peppers or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 Tsp. toasted sesame oil

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into thin strips
3/4 cup scallion greens

Rice Wine Dressing
Whisk together
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. soy sauce
6 Tbs. Japanese rice vinegar
3 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. mirin OR 2 Tbs. Chinese rice wine or sake plus 1 Tbs. sugar

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the snow peas and blanch for 10 seconds. Drain, refresh in cold water and drain again. Blot dry.

2. In a bowl, toss together the noodles and the spicy pesto. Arrange the noodles on a platter and arrange the snow peas, chicken, and sallions in concentric circles on top, with the chicken and scallions in the center. Serve the dressing on the side or sprinkle the dressing on top and toss lightly.
posted by picklebird at 11:19 AM on September 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

By the way, I freeze pesto and spaghetti sauce in ice cube trays and then keep the cubes in containers in the freezer. Since I'm a bachelor, I make single serving meals all the time and it's a great way to keep from having to defrost more than you want and then possibly have it go bad.
posted by SpecialK at 11:39 AM on September 3, 2005

You can make some nice sandwiches out of fresh basil leaves. In particular, a friend introduced me to fresh tomato, fresh basil, and feta cheese on rosemary sourdough bread. Maybe use 1.5 - 2 layers of basil leaves. Go for some good fresh tomatoes.

Chopped, fresh basil is also a nice pizza topping.

You could also try drying the basil, but I'm sure you've thought of that and I'm no expert on drying.

I know you've received about three freezing suggestions in spite of the fact that you mentioned in your question that you'd frozen some already, but it's not clear whether you were freezing the basil by itself or the pesto. Just in case you only meant the pesto, I've frozen basil leaves with some success - just dropped the frozen basil leaves directly into a simmering sauce (or onto a pizza).
posted by amtho at 12:03 PM on September 3, 2005

Here's a link with some instructions for drying basil.

Because frozen basil does indeed blacken, many people prefer to dry it than freeze it. YMMV.
posted by briank at 12:29 PM on September 3, 2005

Make a simple tomato salad with cherry tomatos, feta or mozzarella cheese cubes, basil, and oil & vinegar.
posted by leapingsheep at 12:47 PM on September 3, 2005

Best answer: Chimichurri sauce is great with steak: Big ol' bunch of chopped basil, 8 minced cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup white wine or sherry vinegar, 3/4 cup good olive oil, 3 TB lemon juice, salt, pepper & cayeene to taste. Mix it all up and use as marinade or dipping sauce.

You can also make basil aromatherapy oil. It's a big pain in the ass, but buying basil aromatherapy oil is $35.00/ounce. Basil armoatherapy promotes "clarity of thought." I'm not an aromatherapist, but two summers ago I had an overabundance of basil so it was one of the things I looked into to get rid of some of the stuff.

Or just make gallons of pesto, put it into individual containers and give as gifts. Pesto is pretty inexpensive to make by the boatload, and gifts from people's gardens are always very special.
posted by macadamiaranch at 1:14 PM on September 3, 2005

I like the gift idea - you could even just give some of the basil itself away - less work and still appreciated. I know I'd love it if a friend offered me a batch of anything direct from their garden.
posted by lorrer at 1:42 PM on September 3, 2005

Basil coulis or fried basil leaves. Okay, you can't really store the latter, but while they last, they're magnificent
posted by IndigoJones at 2:58 PM on September 3, 2005

Best answer: Evil Jungle Prince

Wonderful Thai chicken dish with lots of basil.

Or substitute the chicken with shrimp -- or mixed vegetables such as bell peppers, string beans, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, miniature corn, asparagus, cucumbers, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, and mushrooms. Serves 2-3.

1/2 lb boneless chicken breast
2 small red chile peppers -- (2 to 6)
1/2 stalk fresh lemon grass
2 kafir lime leaves
2 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional) -- (1 to 4)
10 basil leaves -- (10 to 15)
1 cup chopped cabbage
Thinly cut chicken into 2-inch strips. If using vegetables, cut into thin strips. Grind together red chili peppers, lemon grass, and kafir lime leaves in a food processor or pound in a mortar. Heat oil to medium-high and saute pepper mixture for 3 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken (or vegetables) and cook for 5 minutes or until cooked. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in fish sauce (if using), salt, and basil. Serve on a bed of chopped cabbage.

From: Keo's Thai Cuisine by Keo Sananikone
posted by wryly at 3:00 PM on September 3, 2005

Some basil aioli goes great with fish, especially salmon.
posted by gyc at 3:28 PM on September 3, 2005

Don't dry it. What a waste. About 95%, or more, of the flavor is lost upon drying basil. Freezing is somewhat better, but still a waste in my book. Make yourself some pesto using your favorite recipe. It is concentrated basil flavor that survives freezing. You can cut down on the garlic if that is not to your taste. Olive oil an basil are the two main things necessary to preserve the basil flavor. To prevent germ issues (botulism) use good fresh oil and freeze the product, or if you merely refrigerate, use it soon. Adding acid will alleviate most botulism concerns but is not really that traditional.
posted by caddis at 4:44 PM on September 3, 2005

Chicken stuffed with basil and sundried tomato is yummy and easy.

Plain old margarita pizzas don't use a ton of basil, but are awfully good regardless.

It's a tasty punch of flavor to salads.

What about replacing spinach with basil in some recipes? A basil quiche or fritatta would probably be really good... but I really love basil. :)
posted by gatorae at 9:05 PM on September 3, 2005

Orzo with Parmesan & Basil

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan, add 1 cup dry orzo and stir, then add 1 14-oz. can chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, then simmer 15 mins. until liquid is absorbed. Then remove cover and stir in 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup coarse chopped basil. Serves 2-3.
posted by justonegirl at 9:34 PM on September 3, 2005

make mojitos using basil instead of mint, and citron vodka instead of regular vodka. TASTY!
posted by hulette at 9:42 PM on September 3, 2005

I am deeply envious.

I use fresh basil in salads, replacing up to a third of whatever is the green leafy du jour with basil. It is very wonderful just like that. I either tear the leaves by hand or, if I am in a hurry, cut them with kitchen scissors.

It's also very wonderful with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a drizzling of olive oil and maybe salt; the Italians call this 'Caprese salad' after the inhabitants of the island of Capri, who favor it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:16 AM on September 4, 2005

Best answer: You can freeze basil without it blackening if you blanch it first. Here's what I do:

Blanch basil in boiling water. Shock in cold water.

Place leaves in a salad spinner and process until reasonably dry.

Spread leaves on cookie sheet and freeze until hard. Transfer frozen leaves to freezer bag and use as needed.

You can crumple frozen basil leaves into dishes or chop it as you would fresh. The only case in which I bring the basil back to room temp is if I am using it in a dish that is not heated.

To my taste, blanched and frozen basil is pretty damn close to fresh and it does stay bright green.

I've used basil in pesto and salads and on pizzas and sandwiches. I've baked fish in foil packets with basil, tomatoes and a sliver of garlic for flavor. I've mixed basil with other herbs in yogurt as a sauce for fish. You could use it in a green goddess type dressing too.
posted by Sully6 at 6:55 AM on September 4, 2005 [3 favorites]

Tonight I made this amazing Tomato Proven├žal. Soo yummy.
posted by scazza at 7:32 PM on September 4, 2005

I use frozen basil all the time - it's great and much better than dried. I buy it fresh, but I'm just one person and it will rot in my fridge before I use it, so I rinsed it, let it drip dry and freeze loosely in a bag. Then I just pull off what I need when I need it. I also do this with cilantro.
posted by jb at 9:20 PM on September 4, 2005

Everyday crush some and tape it to your warts. It takes a while, but after several weeks the warts will disappear.

I second freezing pesto.
posted by pointilist at 10:18 PM on September 4, 2005

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