The end of summer … or the beginning of autumn … means harvesting everything that you planted in your garden. For me, it was simple: basil. Yup, that’s all I planted this year. While basil is best used fresh, when you have it in abundance it’s best to use it rather than to waste it.
I first shared a large portion with friends. One friend took some to dry and use at a later time. Another friend took some to use in canning tomato sauce, and pesto. Even after sharing a large portion of my basil I had enough left over to do it all again!
So today I decided to get out in my backyard and bring in some basil for me. What to do? What to do?
Here are 10 DIY uses for basil that are simple and fun:
1) CALM THE STOMACH – Basil tea is great for soothing an upset stomach or helping digestion. Steep three basil leaves in a cup of boiling water and drink three or four times a day, between meals. They say it’s also good to relieve symptoms of acid reflux, especially when mixed with a spoon of raw honey.
2) BITES AND STINGS – You can apply some basil oil to the affected area; you can also chop or chew up a basil leaf and apply it to the bite for quick relief.
3) CALMING BATH – Basil leaves or oil can be added to your bath, along with a cup or two of Epsom salt … keeps skin soft and relieve anxiety.
4) CONGESTION – To relieve congestion, steam your face. Just add a little fresh or dried basil to your steam.
5) BASIL SALT – Basil salt is easy to make and contains only two ingredients – fresh basil and kosher salt. You will need a food processor, baking sheet and a glass jar to store your basil salt in afterward.
1. You will need 1/2 cup each of fresh basil leaves and kosher salt.
2. Puree the basil and kosher together in a food processor.
3. Place the basil/salt mixture in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes in a 225 degree oven. Baking it in the oven will dry out your basil salt. Lightly mix it up after 10 minutes in the oven and then cook for another 10 minutes.
4. After baking, put the mixture back into the food processor and blend until finely ground. Be sure your food processor is dry before adding your dried basil salt mixture.
5. Put your finished basil salt in a glass container with a tightly closed lid. That’s it!
You can use basil salt to flavor Italian sauces, sprinkle over ripe tomatoes or a pizza for extra flavor – basically, you can use it in any recipe that calls for basil and salt.
6) BASIL PESTO – crush the leaves with garlic and salt, then puree with olive oil. That’s it. After it’s been turned into a freezer container, make sure it’s covered in oil which helps to keep it from freezer burn. When ready to use, let it defrost, add it to pasta and top with grated cheese.
*note: suggestion that basil purée, whether you turn it into pesto or not, should never be frozen but kept in the fridge in a glass jar under a layer of olive oil.
7) Basil Sorbet – (makes 1 1⁄2 cups):
– In a food processor purée 3/4 cup tightly pack basil leaves, 1 clove garlic, 1 1⁄2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons dry white wine.
– Add 2/3 cup water and 1 slightly beaten egg white. Pour into a metal container and freeze until slushy.
– Process unitl light and fluffy. Return to the freezer to harden.
The recipe comes from James Murcko (at the time chef at SF’s Cafe Bedford) and was published in 1984 in the prophetic *New American Chefs and Their Recipes*. Chef Bedford served a scoop of the sorbet in his cold tomato bisque.
8) Store Fresh Basil – don’t wash it, put it in a plastic bag, blow it up with air, seal with a twistie, and keep it at room temp. (stays for 2 weeks, or more)
9) FREEZE – Chop roughly and freeze in ice cube trays, with water. (I was actually told to cover with olive oil). When you need basil for sauce, just throw a cube in the pan!
10) CONDIMENTS – like:
a) Make basil mayo by finely chopping a handful of basil and just a bit of garlic, then mix it with 1/4 cup of mayonnaise. Yummy on salmon burgers!
b) Make basil butter the same way as the mayo, but skip the garlic and replace the mayonnaise with butter. Make your morning eggs with the tasty basil butter and you’ll never want them another way again!
c) To make basil oil, blanch two handfuls of basil by dropping it into boiling water for 5 seconds, then immediately into ice water. Squeeze out water, then add it and a cup of olive oil into a blender. Puree, then strain until all that remains is a beautiful bright green oil. Perfect for drizzling over some grilled white fish, for example.
d) Make basil vinegar by packing basil, peppercorns, and garlic into a jar topped with apple cider vinegar. Let infuse for 2 weeks before using as an ingredient in a fabulous vinaigrette.
I’m certain there are other ways to use up basil. If you have any yummy family recipes you’d like to share, or perhaps innovative, fun ways to use basil feel free to post them in the comments.