Methods for preserving basil leaves - drying, refrigeration and freezing. Simple recipes to taste and savour this freshness herb - pistou, pesto and salad

The time has come for this herbal wonder to put its subtlety and versatility on display in the kitchen. Basil and its thousand and one associations!

Preserving

The harvest was good, but now you’re wondering what to do with all your basil. There are three ways to preserve basil for later use.

Drying

Basil loses a lot of its flavour when it is dried. As certain recipes call for dried basil, you’d might as well do it yourself than have to buy it! Finely chop basil leaves and leave them to dry in a dark place or put them in an electric dehydrator. Store dried basil in sealed containers away from heat or light.

Refrigeration

Chop basil leaves and put them in olive oil with coarse salt. Seal the jar and place in the fridge.

Freezing

Freezing barely changes the taste of basil. There are two freezing methods: whole, without the stems in a sealed bag, or pureed. Whole, they can be used for pistou. To puree, put fresh leaves into the blender and add olive oil if you wish. Put the puree in an ice cube tray and freeze. When frozen, remove the basil cubes and put them into a freezer bag, then back into the freezer. Use basil cubes in soups, sauces and vinaigrettes.

Delectable basil

Basil: preserving and enjoying

Think basil and you automatically think tomatoes, but there are lots of other ingredients that basil works wonders with – zucchinis, garlic, pasta, fish, eggs, chicken, rabbit and duck. For full-on flavour, eat your basil raw; cooking will always take away some of the flavour. Tear or chop basil leaves and use them in salads, sauces and vinaigrettes. Make pistou or pesto. Note: when cooking with basil, always add it at the very last minute.

Pistou:

  1. In a mortar, pound 2 cloves garlic, gradually adding basil leaves (approximately a handful) until you obtain a smooth paste.
  2. Add 3 tbsp olive oil while continuing to pound. Note: the mixture shouldn’t be ‘swimming’ in olive oil.
  3. Serve the pistou ‘as is’ on toasted bread or crackers as an appetizer, as a sauce for pasta dishes, or in pistou soup.
  4. Left-over pistou can be frozen in ice cube trays.

Home-made Pesto:

  1. In a food processor, finely chop 3 cups fresh basil, packed; ½ cup toasted pine nuts; ½ cup parmesan; 1 tbsp lemon juice; and 2 cloves garlic.
  2. Drizzle with 1 ½ cup olive oil until you reach a creamy consistency, though slightly granular.
  3. Use this pesto as sauce with pasta, as a pizza sauce, as a garnish in sandwiches, etc.
  4. Keeps up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Can be frozen.

Salad with strawberries, bocconcini, and basil:

  1. In a bowl, mix 2 cups strawberries cut into quarters; 3 tbsp balsamic reduction; 2 tbsp maple syrup; 1 ½ tbsp olive oil; and 2 tbsp finely chopped basil.
  2. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves on a serving plate and add the strawberry mixture, 8 mini bocconcini’s, sliced, and 16 whole basil leaves.
  4. Add pepper and sprinkle with maple sugar flakes to taste.

Bon Appetit!

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