Wednesday Food: Basil Harvest Dinner

Our friend Amy, (who works with Eric) has been growing lots of herbs in her mini "urban" garden. Basil being the biggest section; she also planted sage, parsley, and scallions. So what better thing to do with all this green and lush basil than to have a Basil Harvest Dinner! She picked almost all of it until the thunderstorm blew in. Boo, weather!

Basil has not always been my favorite herb. Sometimes people use too much, and overdoing it can give the herb an anise taste. That bitter licorice flavor is not for my taste buds at all! But I know many people who love it.  My wonderful husband being one of them, Eric has been very persistent in getting me to like it.  He sneaks it in wherever he can so I can enjoy it as much as he does. And it's starting to work. Damn!

Amy has a smaller kitchen, so we didn't go too crazy with many different dishes. We made a nice big batch of pesto and then we incorporated it into what we made. Eric and I contributed a refreshing Basil Lemonade to go along with the dinner.

We came up with the idea for the lemonade just before grocery shopping. We needed to have a non-alcoholic beverage because I had to be up early for work the next day. Enter Basil Lemonade......

Basil Lemonade

2 1/2c - 3c. water
1c. sugar
3 lemons
1 lime
handful of fresh basil
1 L of seltzer (everything tastes better with bubbles!)

*You can also add some gin, vodka or rum if you want to make it boozey

1) Mix water and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil to make a simple syrup

2) Once it has boiled, turn off the heat and zest your lemons and lime over the pot. Take your basil and rip it up a little, add it to the pot as well.

3) Let it stand for a few minutes till it cools down, then put in the fridge to chill

4) Once cool, slice the citrus in half and juice them into the pot. Strain if you don't want the basil leaves or zest to get in the way. (I like keeping everything in there) Add the seltzer and serve!

As I said before we made a healthy batch of pesto and added it to anything we made (well except the lemonade, of course!). And the pesto goes like this.....


1 1/2c. of firmly packed basil leaves
4 cloves of garlic
about 1/2c. olive oil
1c. pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

1) First start off by toasting the pine nuts. We did this on the top of the stove in a pan. The trick is to put a little olive oil in the pan, medium heat and don't stop moving the nuts around. Keep toasting them till they have a nice light brown color. You can also do this in the oven.

2) Put all your ingredients in a food processor or blender. You may need to stir it around a little, but blend till smooth. Pesto is so simple!!

To start out with an appetizer - Amy mixed hummus, a very ripe avocado and some of the pesto.

A lovely dip but we forgot about chips! Not to worry. We made some flat bread with a pre-made pizza dough. Mix in some chopped basil, stretch out the dough and topped it with some sliced cherry tomatoes, sea salt and brushed some olive oil on the top. Bake till crisp and browned on the bottom. No chips, no problem!

With the rest of the pesto we made simple sicilian-style pizzas. One topped with pesto, mozzarella and heirloom green tomatoes. The other topped with pesto, mozzarella, zucchini and mushrooms.

Here are some other ways to incorporate pesto into your meals:

-  Mix with pasta, grilled chicken and fresh tomatoes!
-  Top your favorite fish with it, and don't forget a little lemon juice!
-  Make pesto garlic bread. Top your slices with pesto and Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, and bake!
-  Toss some root veggies (carrots, potatoes, turnips, beets, etc.) in pesto and roast!
-  Add some pesto to your eggs for an omelet or scrambled eggs. Throw in some cherry tomatoes and mozzarella and you've got a tasty twist on breakfast!

Well, that's alot of basil talk for one post people. 
Remember, when the kitchen gets too hot get back in there and keep cooking!


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