I’m almost afraid to say so, lest the garden gods take offense, but the basil supply was overwhelming this year. We grew eight or ten plants at the pea patch, which we shared with our friend Alice, plus a few more plants in the backyard, and it was plenty for everybody. Credit the unusually hot weather for this summer’s bounty; I snipped back the herb tops constantly to delay flowering, and the plants got bushier and leafier with each trim. Just like they describe in the books, but honestly, who knew?
So we made pesto, and ate the pesto with pasta and fresh cherry tomatoes, or sauteed zucchini squash. We spread pesto under chicken skin and grilled the pieces, so the cheese and garlic and the herbs all melted together.
Even then, there was scads more basil. Not that I’m complaining, not exactly.
We swirled pesto into a tasty frittata with ham, potatoes, and more sauteed zucchini. We spread it on sandwiches with leftover grilled chicken and avocado. We assembled caprese salads, and stirred basil ribbons into spicy tomato pasta with fried eggplant.
Abundance can make a person indifferent, as happens with zucchini. Or it can fuel more creative ends; for instance, we’ve discovered that basil mixes well with mint and cilantro in a spicy carrot salad. That it’s lovely in corn chowder with bacon and roasted chilies, that it’s delicious tossed into a green bean and radish salad, or with grilled nectarines.
Next on the agenda is basil-infused fruit syrups, blended with flavors like vanilla and cinnamon. Quinces are said to be wonderful poached with the herb, something I can’t confirm, since fresh quince are hard to come by locally. But Jerry Traunfeld does blueberries and watermelon in a cinnamon basil syrup, and he’s rarely wrong about these things.
Even after, there should be plenty of raw material to play with. So tell me, what are your favorite ways with basil?