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Overgrown Basil

September 4, 2011

What was once four, cute, little basil plants at the beginning of spring have become large bushes – completely taking over my 4×4 square foot garden box. Let’s just say that instead of stems, they now have branches. And since it is now getting time to start planting some things, I decided I needed the space and pruned them.

They look great, except for the fact that I had many branches of fresh, aromatic basil I needed to figure out what to do with. Since basil leaves start loosing flavor as soon as they are picked, I needed to decide fast.

So, I dried half of it, and probably have close to a lifetime supply of dried basil. I decided to make pesto out of the second half. The problem was, my pesto recipe calls for pine nuts, and if you’ve ever had to buy pine nuts, they are expensive. Lucky for me, there was a recipe in the Arizona Republic that substituted toasted walnuts for the pine nuts. Thank you Chef Patrick Fegan of TK’s Urban Tavern in Phoenix!

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Basil Pesto

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (substitute walnuts. Toast by shaking over hot skillet 5 minutes)

2 cups fresh basil leaves packed tightly

3 fresh garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Add pine nuts and basil to a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend the two ingredients. Add garlic and pulse until blended. Next, run the food processor while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. When oil is incorporated, remove from processor, and fold in the cheese, salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup.

You can keep this in the refrigerator for several weeks if you cover with a small film of olive oil, or you can freeze up to a year.

This tastes great thinly spread on a one of the layers when making your favorite lasagna recipe, or toping toasted crusty bread. If you know of any other great uses for Pesto, post them in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

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