Amazing as it may seem, life as we know it did not grind to a screeching halt when we left Tucson for our month on the Oregon coast. Not only did Georgie the cat wreck havoc in the back yard but all other living things kept doing just that...LIVING while we were away. Our basil went ballistic!
So what does one do with a bouquet of basil, excluding the blossoms of course. The flavor of this fabulous herb is really synonymous with "summer". I mean there's salads galore like Panzanella or a simple Caprese of fresh tomato, mozarella and basil; however, the main event in my opinion and one that we'll appreciate throughout the year is pesto. Not only does it whip up and freeze well - I put it into ice cube trays and transfer it into zip bags after it's frozen, there's a b'zillion or so ways you can make use of it.
When I make pesto I add a mix of toasted pine nuts and walnuts just because I like it that way, but a note of caution - watch those darn pine nuts when you're toasting them because they burn awful quickly. Also be careful with the garlic as you can always add more but you can't take it away and for heaven's sake, let the pesto "bloom" for about 30 minutes before you taste it, because it can be mighty bitter otherwise. Is that enough advice?
For dinner last night I mixed pesto in with a light mayo and used it to dress up a Salmon Club Sandwich and let me tell you people, this is a heck of a wonderful sandwich.
A piece of sockeye salmon grilled, along with some thinly sliced sweet onion, sliced tomato, lettuce and crispy bacon on top of lightly toasted bun slathered in pesto mayonnaise was about as decadent as you can get.
2 cups basil leaves, firmly packed (remove stems)
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Toast pine nuts and walnuts in a small sauté pan over medium heat, watching carefully so they don’t burn. Cool to room temperature. Place basil in a food processor along with toasted nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and mix until well chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil in a very thin stream until a paste has formed and all ingredients are pureed. Add parmesan cheese and mix lightly.
Transfer to a bowl and let sit covered at room temperature for half an hour so flavors can mellow. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. May be frozen in ice cube trays. When solid remove to zip bags and store in freezer. Keeps well for several months.
Salmon Club Sandwich
1 Tablespoon pesto
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3-4 ounce piece of sockeye salmon (approximately half inch thick)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper (or lemon pepper)
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
thinly sliced sweet onion
Large soft white bun (I used a Panini from Trader Joe’s)
Mix together pesto and mayonnaise and set aside.Remove skin from salmon and check for pin bones, removing them with tweezers. Sprinkle with lemon juice then coat with oil. Add salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan till very hot and cook salmon for 2 minutes on one side and 1 on the other, or until just cooked. Remove from pan. Toast bun in grill pan. Remove and slather one half of bun with some pesto mayonnaise. Place salmon on top and add lettuce, tomato, onion and bacon. Top with more pesto mayonnaise and cap with top of the bun. Enjoy! Serves 1