What To Do With a Basil Plant

by Sarah on July 21, 2011 · 14 comments

Last week, I met my friend Katelyn for dinner at Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, a vegetarian cafe in South Austin, where I had yet to go, but that had been on “my list” for ages. [Katelyn and I had actually bonded initially over our desire to see what it was “all about.”]
As it was in the triple-digits of degrees outside, we both ended up choosing the V-lux Salad, mainly because it featured shredded raw beets, with two dressings (because I can never pick just one): Citrus Vinaigrette and Ginger Miso–which will be recreated on this blog ASAP, I swear it!But still, I had debated a number of items on the menu, and could not get this idea of Chipotle Pecan Pesto out of my mind. [Nor could I get this idea out of my mind. ;)]I did just so happen to have a basil plant at home that had been sitting in my sink, gathering dust (if that could happen in a sink), for a period of time long enough to inspire my roommate to ask, “Um..do we have a plan for this?”Yes. The plan was not to say “no” when Rebecca offered me an entire basil plant–minus a few snipped leaves she needed for Basil Lemonade–after our Farmers Market excursion.But since I also happened to have pecans in the freezer……it seemed like as good a time as any to make some Chipotle Pecan Pesto. But y’all know I can’t just stick to a simple plan* and was struck by the site of an overabundance of pitted cherries still in my fridge.
*Not to be confused with the punk-rock band from the late-90s and perhaps early 2000s.
And so I thought, “What if I made Cherry Chipotle Pecan Pesto?” So I did. [And then I mixed it with pasta and chicken and yellow squash and more cherries….but we’ll get to that in a minute.]This recipe is so simple, I can’t even believe I’m calling it a recipe. Into a food processor, put 1 cup of pitted sweet cherries (about 28-30 cherries), along with 2 cups of tightly packed fresh basil leaves, 1/4 of pecans, and 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
Now when I say “tightly packed,” I mean keep on shoving leaves into your measuring cup and pressing ’em down like you do to the trash when it is about to overflow and you refuse to have to take it out.*
*You know you’re guilty of it…
They should be tight enough in there that they will hang, suspended, when you try to dump them into the food processor, and you will have to aid them in toppling out.
And then grind it all up!
At first it will look beautiful…but then it will turn quite unappealingly gray.
Now, if you are scared of heat, you might want to leave out the chipotle or just use half. It’s not an overwhelming amount or anything…but just enough of a kick to wake up your tastebuds a little.
And there you go. That’s all there is to it.You can use this is a number of ways I imagine…you saw yesterday how I mixed it up with ricotta cheese for a snack. You could also blend it up with ricotta or cream or cottage cheese (or tofu?) to make a nice little dip for some veggies or crackers. I chose to toss it with some pasta that I boiled up, adding some diced yellow squash for the last few minutes, and mixing all together in the same pot I cooked it in.
I added the chopped fresh cherries and basil only because I have some strange issue with muted color palates when it comes to food. [And it’s not like the pesto was doing much to brighten up the dish.]

Cherry Chipotle Pecan Pesto
(Makes 1 cup)

1 cup pitted sweet cherries (about 28-30)
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pecan halves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
salt + pepper [to taste]

1. Combine all ingredients (except salt and pepper) in a food processor.
2. Process until smooth, scraping the sides once or twice if necessary.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve over pasta, as a glaze for chicken or fish, or as a dip with veggies.

What did I do with the rest of that big ol’ basil plant? As I already have one growing in my fire escape garden…I used the entire remains to make Pes-Tofu!

I did alter my original recipe just a tad, using no oil at all, and 3 cloves fresh* minced garlic, rather than powder.
*And by “fresh,” I mean “came from a jar.”

Still delicious. Still protein-packed and nutritious. Still a great vegan “sauce” for pasta…or a dip to take on a picnic.

[Thank you, Shannon, for being the hand in the “action shot” above.]

As I did last night at Blues on the Green, a free musical gathering at Zilker Park every other Wednesday during the summer.

The Pes-Tofu was also delicious when paired with chips.
Or, in this case, popcorn chips.Goll, y’all, these PopCorners are ‘no joke’* delicious. I had finished up with the snack-sized packs they sent me, and moved on to the full-sized bags last night.
*I have decided this phrase can be an adverb. Deal with it.
Veggies, popcorn chips, pes-tofu

…and one of my current hummus faves: Oasis Black Bean & Chipotle Harissa.
I’m still not quite meeting my picnic expectations, but at least this time I brought a big ol’ bottle of wine. :)

[Ha! If you think I’d have photographic evidence of that…well you’re crazy. ;)]


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