My herb Earthbox is still coming along (update tomorrow) but my neighbor, who’s about five weeks ahead of me in his Earthbox garden project, is starting to see the fruits of his labors. This weekend, he brought over a bag of basil (a third of his take after thinning his plants).
So…what to do with a surprise bag of basil? Well, you could whip up some pesto, of course, but everyone does that. No, there was something new I wanted to try, something I’d recently seen that intrigued me.
Deep in color, I’d seen it used to dot the rim of a plate of sushi, and to lay emerald cabochons on the surface of a bowl of ramen.
I looked up a handful of recipes, and came up with a process that I tried this weekend. It may need some tweaking, but it’s pretty good. In this recipe, the basil hits the heat twice. First, it gets blanched, which breaks down the leaves for better pureeing, and second, the puree is heated to enhance both the flavor and add more of that deep green color. Unlike some simpler versions, I strain the mixture twice, so there aren’t little bits of basil leaves floating about in the oil.
Use it when you want a hint of that basil sharpness, but don’t want to overpower, or don’t want the actual leaves. Great as a garnish, or as an ingredient in sauces, dressings, and poaching liquid.
This recipe calls for basil and oil in a 2-to-1 ratio, by volume, so scale it up or down to suit your needs or the amount of basil you have on hand.
- 2 parts fresh basil
- 1 part canola (or other neutral-flavored) oil
Prepare the basil and oil
- Separate the basil leaves and the stems. Reserve the stems (we’ll use them).
- Pack the leaves into a measuring cup to see how much you have.
- Whatever amount of basil leaves you have, measure out half that amount in canola oil.
Blanch the basil
- Prepare a pot of boiling, salted water.
- Prepare an ice bath.
- Using a sieve or blanching basket, blanch the stems for about 2 minutes.
- Add the leaves to the stems and blanch for an additional 20-30 seconds.
- Plunge them into the ice bath to cool.
- Set on paper toweling to drain.
Puree the basil
- Put the drained leaves and stems into a blender.
- Add the oil and blend on high to make a fine puree. If it’s too thick, add more oil.
- Put a metal or glass bowl into the ice bath (don’t use a plastic bowl).
- Pour the puree into a saucepan over a medium-high heat.
- Stir as you bring the puree to a simmer.
- Cook for 2 minutes, and then pour into the bowl; whisk to cool it down quickly.
Strain the puree and capture the oil
- Pour the cooled puree into a chignon or fine-mesh sieve and push out as much oil as you can.
- Pour the strained oil into a jar, cover the jar, and store it in a cool place for 24-48 hours
- Line a container with a flour sack or an old, lint-free cloth napkin.
- Pour the oil into the cloth, and squeeze the oil through; the cloth will capture most of the smaller particles, leaving you with a bright green oil.
- Store in the fridge for up to a month.