Guess who's coming to dinner - and lunch? Versatile basil adds a delicious bite to both meals.
There's a saying among gardeners that if you curse basil when planting it, you'll get bunch after bunch of the delicious, sweet herb. And it must work: My garden is a pungent sea of green. When I think about summer, I'm not plotting an exotic vacation; I'm planning what I'm going to eat - specifically, what I'm going to do with all that basil.
It's pretty straightforward, really. Basil's best friend is the tomato. I use them together in every way possible - in salads, bruschetta, sauces, or as a plain pair. Basil also goes into some of my favorite dishes: pesto, risotto, shrimp scampi, potato pancakes, and icy lemon granita - an exotic touch to make up for that vacation I won't be taking.
Even if you don't have basil plants burgeoning in your backyard, the aromatic bouquets available in practically every farmers' market and grocery store, and the recipes above, are reason enough to make this a basil summer.
An all-time favorite home for basil is in pesto. Those in the know make up a large batch and freeze it in ice cube trays. When it's firm, you can pop out the cubes and store them in heavy zip-lock plastic bags. They'll melt into a summery sauce months after your shorts have gone into storage.
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a blender or food processor, purée basil, garlic, and oil until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.