Update: We came up with one more idea! Keep reading for 11 great ideas for basil. Let us know if we missed any in the comments. Nothing says summer (to me) like fresh basil. Mostly because after fresh basil comes from fresh tomatoes! (I’m looking out the window at our high tunnel tomatoes as I type this, counting the days until they ripen) Every week when the crew brings in the huge bunches of genovese and now Thai basil I can’t wait to open my csa share box. Personally, I enjoy making lots of pesto in the summer, and then freeze it to use later, but I know that huge batches of pesto aren’t everyone’s thing and honestly basil is so much more versatile then just pesto. Read on for more ideas to get the most out of our plentiful bunches of basil.
Pesto. Pesto is the condiment of summer, and if you make larger batches it freezes beautifully. I currently have various containers filled with three types of pesto in my freezer. Fresh pesto is perfect tossed with pasta for an easy meal – add grilled chicken or shrimp, beans like chickpeas or cannelini, and when those tomatoes ripen big chunks of heirloom tomatoes. Spread over wild Alaskan salmon and grill, mix equal parts with mayo for an awesome sandwich spread or just spread pesto onto any and all sandwiches. (Try pesto mayo on a blt, one of my favorites) Check out our pesto tab – we have traditional and dairy-free options.
Basil Oil. Here’s any easy and great way to preserve basil. Blend and gently simmer it into a basil infused oil. The oil keeps for about a week in the refrigerator, and can be frozen in smaller portions to toss with pasta or add to dressings. This is a great way to add mild basil flavor to dishes.
Salads. I love adding whole leaves of basil to salads. One of the things about basil is once washed and chopped it can start to turn dark and blacken around the edges. Most of the time it still tastes fine, but adding the leaves whole to salads is a nice solution. Try Summer Squash Ribbons with Basil & Pine Nuts or Grilled Radicchio Panzanella.
Salad Dressing. Add a tablespoon or two of basil chiffonade to homemade dressings and marinades. What’s basil chiffonade? Wash and dry your basil. Stack the leaves on top of each other and thinly slice. This is the easiest way to slice basil. Check out our tutorial on salad dressing, and this Grilled Pepper Salad.
Eggs. Fold pesto into omelets and swirl into frittata. Top scrambled eggs with fresh basil or sprinkle over quiche.
Drinks. Try infusing your favorite summer beverages or cocktails with fresh basil. Simmer into simple syrup or blend into juice and strain. Basil pairs really well with citrus based drinks like lemonade, limeade, and grapefruit juice. Garnish each glass with a sprig of fresh basil!
Caprese Salad. A classic Italian dish that requires no recipe, but here’s our family favorite. Slice heirloom tomatoes thick, drizzle each slice with 2-3 drops olive oil, and one drop balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each slice with a basil leaf and a thick slab of fresh mozzarella. Top the mozzarella with a few slices of kalamata olive (optional).
Freeze. There’s really nothing better than saving some fresh summer produce in the back of the freezer, it can really lift your spirits on a dreary winter day! Don’t freeze whole basil leaves, they’ll just turn black. Instead, wash and dry the basil. Pulse in a food processor with enough olive oil to coat each leaf. Freeze in small containers or ice cube trays. Thaw and add to pastas, vinaigrettes, and salads. Here’s more on freezing herbs.
Stir Fries. Typically thai basil is used in stir-fries, it is a little hardier and stands up well to coking. You can also remove the stir-fry from heat and add genovese basil before serving. Pairs great with noodle dishes.
Desserts. Sounds wild, but basil is also an excellent pairing to stone fruits like cherries, plums, peaches and also berries. Try poaching summer fruit with basil and water, adding it to homemade ice cream, and pairing with watermelon. Try our Basil Cherry Cobbler.
Marinara. Try our Simple Marinara Sauce recipe, basil is added to the onions while they are sautéing and also at the end.