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Walnut Basil Pesto with a Twist – Garden To Table Cooking

One of my top three herb favorites for the garden and kitchen is basil. This fresh summer herb is a standout performer whether grown in a kitchen garden, herb bed or container garden. And with more than 50 types to choose from, there’s a variety to suit nearly every purpose and every taste.

Of the 25 varieties I’ve grown, I have a handful of favorites that I always rely on: Genovese or Sweet basil for cooking and fresh use; Thai basil for stir-fries and curries; Cinnamon basil for fruit salads, herbal teas and baked goods; Lemon basil for fish, chicken, vegetables, salads and desserts; and Purple basil for herbal vinegar. K-Mart is right on track as I picked up four of my favorites from my local store: Lemon, Thai, Cinnamon, and Sweet basil.

While this herb is easy to grow, there are four essentials for ensuring bountiful harvests.

  1. Plant in a sunny location after all frost danger has passed and night temperatures remain above 50 degrees.
  2. For quality production, grow in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. I work in compost or aged manure prior to planting, and feed with manure tea every few weeks, or a mid-summer addition of compost or high-nitrogen organic fertilizer.
  3. Keep the soil consistently moist for big, lush leaves. Mulching around plants will keep moisture levels more even.
  4. Harvest leaves frequently for a bushier and more productive plant. Start by pinching the tip clusters when plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall. Cut plants back by two-thirds when they reach 12 to 18 inches tall. This will delay flowering and keep the harvests coming.

The true essence of basil is best when used fresh. Here are a few tips to keep the harvest fresh in the kitchen.

  • Create a basil bouquet by storing stems with leaves in a glass of water on the kitchen counter. Change the water daily; the leaves will remain fresh for up to 10 days.
  • Avoid storing fresh basil in the refrigerator as cold temperatures cause the leaves to blacken.
  • Freeze the excess in ice cube trays as a puree with water, broth or olive oil. Once frozen, you can store your frozen basil cubes in a freezer bag.
  • Combine classic ingredients like pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, olive oil, fresh garlic, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and salt. Or give it a twist with the following recipe.


Walnut Basil Pesto with a Twist

1 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup fresh lemon basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves (do not pack)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste and combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and continue to process to a fine paste, season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with cooked pasta; store unused portions in the refrigerator. Make alot of pesto and have fun! – Kris Wetherbee

 

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kris wetherbee

 

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  1. The only experience I've ever had cooking with basil came from a jar. You've inspired me to try growing basil for myself. Can't wait to try this recipe -- thanks!

  2. Sounds so delicious! I'm planning to try the recipe this week.

    1. In response to laurelS

      What's great about this pesto is that you can use it in so many ways: as a topping for baked potatoes, steak, hamburgers or chicken; tossed with pasta, pasta salads, potato salad or rice; served with green beans, roasted eggplant or zucchini--so many ways!

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