Enjoying Basil

Right now I have (3) varieties of basil growing in my garden: Purple Basil, Sweet Basil, and Spiced Basil; altogether I have 15 Basil plants. (I would like some Cinnamon and Lemon Basil, but that would bring the tally close to 20 plants…) Last week, after seeing how quickly the plants were growing, I had a bit of a pruning panic. Scissors in hand, accompanied by a large salad bowl I managed to prune nearly (8) cups of Basil without really making the plants look much different.

There is so much information available on the Internet in regard to pruning basil; at times I feel that the Internet may provide too much information and too many differing opinions, this time, however, there was a significant consensus regarding Basil. Follow these steps to keep your plants healthy:

  • From the level of the soil up the main stem of each plant count up 3 sets of strong healthy leaves, cut above the 3rd set of leaves. This should be done approximately every 3 to 4 weeks to encourage maximum growth.
  • For day to day use in cooking prune the secondary stems taking the amount desired, with the leaves intact, just above the next lowest set of leaves, shaping the plant as you go.
  • Avoid clipping single leaves without removing the stems as this encourages flower growth; allowing the plants to flower will cause the leaves to become bitter and unsuitable for cooking purposes.

It was only after I brought the Basil inside, removed it from the stems, and washed and dried it that I realized just how much I had. The mix of the shapes, sizes, and colors of Basil was stunning. After the pruning panic had subsided a new one set in, what to do with all of this Basil. In the end, in lieu of making the old standby: Frozen Pesto Ice Cubes (yuck), I opted for Garlic and Spiced Basil Infused Olive Oil, a Basil Marinade for that night’s Pork Cutlet Dinner, and an experiment, Frozen Basil Leaves.

Garlic and Basil Infused Olive Oil

Materials/Ingredients:
(1) 80z. (or small) Bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(3) Peeled whole Garlic Cloves
(1) loosely packed cup of whole washed and dried Spiced Basil leaves

Method:
Carefully remove the clear plastic pouring cap from the Olive Oil bottle add the Basil leaves and Garlic Cloves. Replace the plastic pouring cap and seal tightly. Store away from sunlight and use within (1) week.

Note: Feel free to substitute any variety of Basil in this recipe; as well a “lighter” Olive oil may be used. Right now I am using this infused oil anytime I would use Olive Oil: drizzle it on lightly salted tomatoes, add a dash of black pepper and enjoy!

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Basil Marinade

Materials/Ingredients:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(3) rough chopped Garlic Cloves
(2) loosely packed cups of rough chopped washed and dried Spiced, Purple, and Sweet Basil leaves

Method
Rough chop the Basil and add it to a small plastic airtight container, rough chop the Garlic Cloves and add to container. Slowly add the Olive Oil to the Garlic and Basil stirring to ensure even coating of the leaves, do not over coat. Seal the container and refrigerate until chilled. Once chilled use as a marinade.

Note: Use this marinade with chicken, beef, fish or pork. I combined Pork Cutlets, the Basil Marinade, added salt and pepper, let it stand in refrigerator for about 2 hours, and pan fried them for a delicious dinner. The oil will help to keep the Basil and Garlic adhered to the cutlets, be certain to get as much of that delicious flavor as possible into the pan!

Frozen Basil Leaves

Materials/Ingredients:
Whole
washed and dried Basil leaves
Ziploc or other airtight plastic bag

Method
After thoroughly drying the Basil leaves freeze in an airtight plastic bag.

Note: This method of preserving Basil will lead to significant color, but not flavor, change, these leaves can easily be used in pasta sauces or recipes where Basil’s bright green color would anyway be affected by the cooking process.

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