Basil is my favorite herb. It is so easy to grow, even in northern climates like mine. Having basil (and other herbs) growing on my deck, which is directly accessible from the kitchen, is not only convenient, it helps keep me inspired and makes it so easy to cook delicious food. Just walk outside, snip a handful of leaves, cut ’em up and throw them in whatever I’m making—burgers, chicken, pasta with white sauce, pasta with red sauce, pizza (home-made, store-bought, delivery… it doesn’t matter, just throw some more basil on there!). The options are limitless. There is only one problem with basil: eventually, you have more than you know what to do with.
Near the end of the season, when the plants are growing so fast I can hardly keep up with them, I grab what I can before it flowers and make Pesto. There are nut-free and dairy-free versions out there, but traditional pesto includes basil, olive oil, roasted pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Throw all that in a food processor (or grind up with a mortar & pestle) and bingo-bongo, you’ve got yourself the perfect way to season just about anything. You can freeze it and store it for use over the winter, you can throw it in your pasta, or spread it over breakfast pizza or use as a dip for buffalo chicken—I just made that last one up. But see how easy it is to find ways to use pesto? The only drawback to Pesto is that pine nuts (and most other nuts) are quite expensive. So I made this batch nut-free.
Nut-Free Basil Pesto
adapted from this recipe
- 3 C fresh basil leaves
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese (I recommend using the good stuff; not the stuff in the green plastic shaker)
- 1/2 C olive oil
- Pinch kosher salt
- Throw it all in a food processor and process until it’s the consistency you want.
- Storage options:
- keep in the fridge for a week or so; it will separate a bit and any basil exposed to air will start to darken; don’t freak out, it’s still good. To prevent browning, add a protective layer of olive oil on top.
- freeze in an ice cube tray, pop out the pesto cubes and store in a freezer-safe bag. You can then easily take out however much you need, when you need it.