Basil is one herb you want to use or store within a week. Because the oils in the leaves are the source of that wonderful aroma and taste, drying basil is not recommended. When using it in cooking you want to add it at the last-minute so the flavor isn’t diminished. You can keep your basil fresh in a bag in the refrigerator for a period up to a week, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water.
The word basil comes from the Greek word, basileus, meaning “king”, as it has come to be associated with the Feast of the Cross commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St Helena mother of the emperor St. Constantine. Many cooks consider basil “king” of the herbs.
Personally, I place my extra leaves in olive oil and store them in the refrigerator for short-term use, or the freezer for a period of months. You can also store basil leaves layered in coarse salt which gives the salt which can be used at a later time a unique flavor. Just be sure to keep an eye on your containers in a cool dry place to avoid spoilage or botulism.
The most common way to use basil is in pesto which is easy to make and has a myriad of uses. A simple basil pesto recipe is as follows:
- 3 cloves garlic, peel removed
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (you can use walnuts or almonds as well)
- 2 ounces fresh basil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Place the peeled garlic cloves and toasted pine nuts in a food processor, and process for about 30 seconds until it’s well pureed and almost pastey.
Strip off the leaves from the basil stems, and add the leaves only to the food processor, and pulse it in until the basil is chopped up.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the mixture. With the food processor running, pour in the olive oil, and once it’s incorporated, stop the food processor. Add the parmesan cheese, and pulse it in a couple of times until incorporated.
Do a final taste of the pesto and decide if it might need more salt or pepper.