Basil is a wonderful and versatile herb that is found frequently in Italian and Southeast Asian cooking. Known as the “king of herbs,” basil has a long history as an herbal symbol in Christianity as well as having an unusual association with scorpions. If you have been growing basil, now is the time to start using it up as it does not keep growing once the weather starts to cool off.
Basil grows best in hot, dry climates. It is very sensitive to cold and that is why it is best to plant your basil quite late in the season when there is no chance of frost. If your outdoor climate is not very dry, as is the case for most of Vancouver, basil can be grown indoors by a window.
If you grew a lot of basil this year and do not quite know what to do with it all, it can be kept for a short time in the refrigerator, or for a longer time in the freezer. If you are going to put your basil in the freezer, you should first blanche your basil leaves quickly in boiling water for no more than 5 seconds. After you blanche, quickly put the basil in an ice bath and then dry. After the basil leaves are dried, put them in the freezer.
If you did not grow your own basil this year but would like to taste the herb, there are a number of delicious Italian restaurants around Vancouver that serve dishes involving basil. Basil Pasta Bar on Davie Street has a pesto shrimp linguine, as well as a spaghetti puttanesca and lemon chicken fettuccine. Nicli Antica Pizzeria on East Cordova Street has the pesto B. B. T. pizza and the diavola pizza. Pronto, on Cambie Street, has a caprese salad, pasta pomodoro, and margherita pizza. All of these delicious dishes use basil to an extent.
Finally, Mama Friesen has a delicious pesto recipe to share. Done largely in a food processor, pesto is a great addition to all sorts of dishes including pasta sauces. It also freezes well and can be stored into the winter so you can have that fresh basil taste all year around. The recipe is as follows:
2-3 cups fresh basil leaves
2-3 cloves of garlic (preferably Russian)
100-gram package of toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon Sea salt
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Lemon (optional)
Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, pepper (as much as you prefer), and Parmesan into a food processor. Whirl the ingredients together until they are mixed. Slowly drizzle your olive oil into the mixture through the feed tube while the processor is still running. If you wish, you can add the juice from your lemon at this time too. Mix well.
Store the pesto in a Tupperware. Drizzle some olive oil on the top of the stored pesto to keep it from turning brown (the lemon helps with this too).
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