Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making the most of basil from your garden -- all year long

1 pesto pizza 1
Ken's beloved pesto pizza, made from our garden
Garden plots can be finnicky. We've tried planting everything in our 20-year-old raised bed, but it seems to favor basil above all other hot-weather plants. One reason is the increasing amount of shade on the raised bed, from trees growing nearby. Most of the vegetables we plant there fail to flourish in the limited sunlight, but the basil tolerates the shade well.

  2 Ken's hand in garden resized

So we cater to the basil in summer. We nurture the soil with compost, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. We cover the young basil plants with mesh to keep beetles from eating it. (We use tulle from a fabric store.) Mulch it with leaves. And all summer long we collect lots and lots of basil, much more than we can eat fresh. To take advantage of the basil abundance, my husband Ken has perfected a method of freezing the basil with olive oil so that we have a steady supply all year, for pesto on noodles and pesto pizza. Yum! Each frozen packet is just right for one pizza or one pesto-on-noodles dinner.

Harvesting and preserving the basil

Periodically during the summer, Ken picks basil leaves without damaging the plants, for the purpose of preserving them. He washes the leaves and shakes all the water out, in the colander. Then he piles the leaves on the kitchen table. Each pile equals about one tightly-packed measuring cup of basil.
2 piles of  basil resized

He stuffs each pile of basil into a sandwich bag.
   4 stuffing basil in bag resized
Then he adds two tablespoons of olive oil to each bag to keep the basil from turning brown.

5 pouring oil resized
After that, Ken rolls up each bag as tightly as he can, squeezing the air out as he goes. He seals it shut and baggie of basil retains the rolled up shape; he pops it into the freezer for later use.
 6 folding baggie resized

Making a pesto pizza from the stored basil

Last night we decided to make a pesto pizza. We could have used fresh basil, but using the frozen basil is actually easier, and tastes just as good.
7 bag folded resized
Ken got out a frozen bag of basil, took the basil out of the bag, and broke up the icy chunk into smaller chunks. It has to be frozen to do this - don't let it thaw. Ken calls it "fracturing."

 8 fracturing frozen basil
He breaks it up into smaller frozen chunks, but leaves it chunky.

9 chopping basil resized
While it's still in pieces as in the picture above, he puts the still-frozen basil on the pizza crust. The crust below is a homemade crust, a blend of whole-wheat flour, white flour, corn flour and corn meal.

After adding the basil, we top it with sliced veggies and other things on hand: black olives, tomatoes and okra and zucchini from a sunnier garden plot, walnut pieces, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese. If we use cheese, the cheese goes on right after the basil. We bake it at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

It's one of my favorite dishes of all time! I'm glad our finicky raised bed forces us to plant so much basil!

Ken's crust recipe

3 cups of flour (the pizza pictured was made of a blend of flours: 1.5 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup white, 1/2 cup corn meal, 1/2 cup corn flour)
1 tbsp yeast
finely chopped fresh rosemary
garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
Work it into a ball, adding slight bit more water as needed to form a ball
Cover and let it rise for 30 minutes
Put it on an oiled pizza pan and shape it to the pan


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Lenny and Stacie said...

You gotta love the Pizza!!! Did you ever try the Marinara pizza?