With this year’s early and overly hot summer, it is a saddening experience to drive around my community and see all the plant and tree damage. I have just finished adding a sloppy manure and earth mixture under 100 feet of cedar hedges to help with nutrients and moisture and hopefully keep them strong enough to recover from their sunburn.
On the slightly better side, there are some very good deals to be had. Yesterday I picked up three pots of ripe basil for .94 each (normally $4.00) because they had been out in the sun and some of the leaves were decidedly unhappy. The damaged leaves are visible in the photo below. I thought there was still a lot that could be preserved.With my good fortune I got busy in the kitchen and whipped up some lemon basil salt, lemon basil sugar and some pesto for the freezer. The “preserving” time of the year has started and these were three lovely options for keeping and sharing.
As always, having gratitude for the plants that are releasing their life force for us not only shows respect, it helps us remember that nothing on this earth lives without something else perishing. It is all a question of what we deem to be valuable and where we choose to place importance. Be generous with your appreciation.
Basil Lemon Salt
You will need:
One pot of basil
the zest of 4 lemons
about 2 cups of coarse salt
Into the food processor, place about 1 1/2 cups of basil leaves. After sorting through the pot that was about what I had to work with. They were not fully packed, just slightly pressed down. Zest 4 lemons and add the salt. Coarse is best as it will get ground down as everything is mixed together.
Pulse until fully mixed and then transfer the damp mixture to a cookie tray lined with paper towel. Spread out and allow to dry, stirring every so often. This batch took about a day to dry. There will probably be clumps and it is okay to put the dried mixture back into the processor and pulse a few more times to get a finer grain.
You will need:
1 1/2 pots of fresh pesto (2 cups of leaves)
2 Tbsp. pine nuts (This is where the ish part comes in)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4. tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated cheese (more information below)
After collecting, washing and drying all the good leaves, I had about 2 cups of reasonably compacted leaves, not firmly squeezed in but also not just lightly dropped on top of each other. Combine all the additional ingredients in the food processor and pulse until well combined and smooth.
Pine nuts are the traditional choice for Pesto Genovase but as this all came to be very quickly, there weren’t any sitting on my pantry shelf. So pecans it was. Pesto recipes are very flexible. It is possible to combine and switch up the herbs as well as the cheese and nuts. (Walnuts are a popular alternate choice.)
Cheese options include Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino. They can also be mixed in a combination that works for you.
The most well known use of pesto is as a sauce with pasta but another idea is to freeze in ice cubes and try these other small use options; spread on bruschetta, replace your pizza sauce, use in sandwiches, salad dressing or add to your bread dough.
Basil Lemon Sugar
You will need:
1 cup of basil leaves
zest of three lemons
This is a repeat of the basil lemon salt above. Using cane sugar, which is a larger grain is my first choice. However, refined white works as well. Switching out the salt for sugar opens up the finished product to cakes, cookies, scones and all sorts of baked items. The sugar can be a total substitution or a sprinkle on top, over a fruit salad?
Try a taste change for summer drinks, like lemonade, iced tea and cocktails. Rimming the glass can be fun too!
So there you have it. My $2.97 investment and half an hour in the kitchen. May you also find treasures that are worthwhile enjoying in the coming weeks of summer or tucking away for cooler winter meals.
A blessing right in line with the themes of the season.