During the heat of summer our basil thrives and my daughter loves to make fresh pesto. Sometimes she substitutes peanuts for the pinenuts and my grandson likes it that way the best. I convinced her to share her recipe:
2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed tight)
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (or peanuts if you prefer)
2/3 cup really good quality olive oil
Sea salt (I like the pink kind) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano, Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Combine the basil, garlic, and nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil a little bit at a time and continue to process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Put in serving dish and stir in cheese.
One of MY favorite ways to use the basil and tomatoes that abound in summer is the following soup, served either warm or cold like gazpacho:
TOMATO - BASIL SOUP
4-5 cups fresh peeled & chopped tomatoes — (Know the easiest way to peel them? Dip them in really hot, almost boiling water for just a minute or two and the skins will slide right off)
4-5 cups chicken stock — (Homemade is always best, but sometimes I cheat)
A handful of fresh basil leaves chopped fine
1 stick of real butter
1 cup whipping cream — (I like to use TJ's shelf stable whipping cream - it's thicker)
Juice of one lemon (or lime if you prefer)
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracker Pepper to taste
Cook tomatoes and chicken stock for at least twenty minutes in large pot on medium/low heat. Using a hand held blender (and being careful not to splash hot liquid out of the pot!) puree the tomatoes and stock. Add stick of butter and whipping cream along with finely chopped basil, sea salt and cracker pepper. Add the lemon juice and simmer another ten minutes, stirring often.
Enjoy with crusty bread and cheeses. Sometimes I sprinkle a little Gorganzola cheese on the top of the soup after spooning into individual serving bowls. I got these great pottery bowls with handles years ago from Todd at Cornwall Bridge Pottery and have enjoyed using them ever since. He also made me some flat rimmed bowls with beautiful wrens on them that are my mother's favorite. I really enjoy using the pottery I have collected over the years - I have met many interesting artists at the shows and when I use their dishes, it brings back good memories.
This is also the time of year that we start cleaning up our garden beds and getting ready for late summer when it cools off a bit and things (other than weeds) start growing again. Daisies bloom once more before frost, peppers abound and if you're lucky enough to have a few survivors in your tomato plants, you might even have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving.