Another sweltering Sunday, another food related party. This time, the guest of honor was basil, picked right outside the back door at a friend’s house.
Alarmed by the aggressiveness of her herb bed, Ring decided to take action and invited a group over for an Italian-themed Basil Festa – a sort of working, cooking party, where we would slog through piles of basil while making Lemon Basil Martinis, Basil, Bacon and Tomato Sandwiches, Caprese Salad and a batch of pesto.
We muddled, we picked, we sliced, we piled basil on toast. The entire house was filled with the smell of the licorice-scented herb – better than any air freshener on the market.
Ring said it best – basil and tomato just tastes like summer. But basil and lemon is a pretty close second. And basil and bacon? Who needs wimpy lettuce?
Adding basil to the sweet lemon martini provided a bracing drink with an unexpected effect. The astringent, turpentine-like flavor not only cut the sweetness, but slowed down the sipping.
Granted, none of the dishes we made were difficult – but isn’t that also the essence of summer? Buy the best quality ingredients you can and join them together.
So, we kept it real. The sandwiches had real mayonnaise and thick applewood smoked bacon, the Caprese – real Buffalo milk mozzarella and Modena balsamic vinegar. And the pesto had real butter, in addition to the olive oil.
After three hours, when the last piece of mozzarella had disappeared and the pesto had been whisked away in take-home containers, we declared victory. Until Ring later sent us a photo of the basil bed. We didn’t even make a dent.
Hey, y’all? What’s everyone doing next Sunday?
Lemon Basil Martinis
6 basil leaves, torn into pieces
2-4 tsps. sugar
juice of one lemon
1 1/2 oz. citron vodka
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil and sugar. Add lemon juice and swirl. Add vodka, fill shaker with ice and shake until cold.
Marcella Hazan’s Pesto
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. grated romano cheese
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
Toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Chop the garlic into a few pieces. Place nuts, garlic and basil in food processor or blender. Process about 30 seconds, then with machine still running, add olive oil in a slow stream until mixture in almost smooth.
Pour into a bowl and use a spoon to mix in cheeses and butter.