Dec 17, 2012

The Royal Herb

Aside: The word Basil comes from Greek, meaning "royal."

Basil.  It's a truly wonderful thing.  In fact, I often comment that I "should have planted more."  No matter how much I plant, I always feel that way.  Basil is a wonderfully fragrant herb and gives great flavor to dishes, and even better, can be used to make pesto.  Pesto also has many uses, so basil is the herb that keeps on giving.

This year, when my garden was taken over by unnamed persons, I knew I should have lots of basil coming.  I had planted a lot, it was a hot growing season (which basil loves) and I was already dreaming of pesto. Yes, readers, I dream about pesto. =)

One day, I inquired about the basil.  This gardening novice knew nothing about frequent harvesting of basil, and had let it flower.  Once it flowers, folks, it's the end of the basil.  So, I took what was out there and ran inside to make some glorious pesto.

Aside: I have been known, on occasion to make people in my kitchen stop what they're doing and smell the pesto. I've just decided, "Stop and smell the pesto," is my new life motto. 

If you look closely in the photo below, you can see the tiny white flowers at the top left.

When you are growing basil, pinch off the tops when it starts to get tall or show signs of flowering. You can also just pinch off a small amount if you need a bit for a recipe. It will continue to produce a lot more, until the weather turns cold.  For now, you can buy basil at the store, or try your local nursery to see what herbs they have available in plant or seed form.

Food note: If you find yourself with too much basil, send it to me.  Okay, but seriously.  You can dry basil to save it by hanging it upside down and then crushing the leaves.  However, I prefer to harvest it fresh, make a quick pesto, and then freeze that pesto.  It freezes and defrosts beautifully and then you can have the taste of summer all year round.  Below are two of my favorite recipes for pesto.  Enjoy!

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

Grilled Veggie Pizza with Pesto

Dec 14, 2012

Jalapeño Business

What does a nosy pepper do?  

Gets jalapeño business.

One not-so-great thing about having a garden can be overproduction of a certain crop.  Depending on the year and conditions, you can have a surplus of just about anything.  To this point, I've only tried to grow enough produce for two people.  I don't want to get into canning and preserving, because that's more time and energy than I am willing to give/have at this point in my life.  Heck, readers, I can barely find time to blog as of late.

Anyway, back to the point of this post.  Jalapeños and peppers in general are one of the things that I love having in excess.  Notably, because they freeze well.  I take my extra peppers, like so:

Simply place them in a freezer bag and stick them right into the freezer.  I like to make salsa year round, and I've found that you can throw a frozen pepper right into your food processor straight from the freezer. No cutting of the stem required!  The last few years it has worked out that I am running out of peppers by the time the next planting season is rolling around.  That's pretty perfect for me.

Food note: I usually like to roast my peppers on a fall day, when I can have the windows wide open.  You can blacken them on a cast-iron skillet (or comal like I do), or under the broiler for a few minutes.  (Watch carefully if you choose this method, as they will quickly become burned if you turn away.)

Once the skin is charred, wrap them in a paper towel and put in a plastic baggy and let sit.  When cooled, you'll rub the blackened skin right off and stick in bags to freeze.  The added flavor is amazing, but be warned... Your house will be a little spicy-smelling and smoky; Thus the reason I prefer to do it with the windows wide open. =)