First, I have some personal news to share. There is a reason I have not felt like thinking or writing about food for the past few months. We're expecting a new member of our family in October, G-d willing! Now I'm back on my feet and feeling creative. I look forward to sharing some fresh summer ideas with you.
Today I'd like to tell you about the three types of basil I have hanging out my window and share a dish I made a couple months ago that I can't stop thinking about.
Sweet basil (left) is one of the most popular, for good reason. It grows easily, is easy to cut, prune, and cook with, and tastes great. It has bright shiny leaves and little white flowers (if you don't keep it cut).
I bought Greek Basil (right) because I liked the smell and I thought it was unique. I bought one tightly packed plant and "unrolled" it into three little plants in my window pot. Two parts thrived and one died. It doesn't grow as quickly as other varieties and I find I don't use it as often because I don't want to deal with the little leaves.
I also wanted to get purple basil, but ended up taking home a large basil plant with purple tinted leaves. I think it might be called Siam Queen Basil, African Blue Basil, or Cinnamon Basil. It grows faster than I can use it. It has a strong basil smell put a less delicate taste and mouth feel than I would prefer for cooking.
When growing basil, you want to cut it back before it buds. I can't seem to keep up with my purple-ish basil. It has pretty lavender flowers that are very attractive to bees. My other basil has little white flowers. I usually prune them a little less that once a week and immediately make pesto with all three types and clipping from my other herbs like lemon thyme and garlic chives.
Here are the steps for the awesome pesto with mushrooms I made. You can change it depending on what you have around. The mushrooms make it fancy and it can stay in a warm oven or stove until you are ready to eat.
- Boil quality pasta. I like a wide noodle. Drain when ready.
- Wash basil and other herbs and put them in a food processor or cup for hand blender.
- Toast pine nuts in a very wide saute pan. You can also use other soft nuts like walnuts.
- Move pine nuts to the blending dish and add good olive oil, one egg yolk (optional), and a couple cloves of roasted garlic. (If you don't have time to roast garlic you can use one raw clove.) Blend well.
- Slice mushrooms and sauté them in the pan from the pine nuts. Add white wine to de-glaze pan, and let mushrooms absorb wine.
- Mix pasta with pesto and mushrooms in the hot pan. Continue stirring to give the eggs a chance to half cook. Optional - garnish with basil chiffonade and/or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.