Our family is full of anticipation for spring. It’s getting warmer, and the days are getting longer. It’s like slowly waking up from a haze you didn’t know you were in. Suddenly so much more seems possible. I’m full of energy, and keen to escape the office and instead get on the scooters with the kids in search of adventure!
The garden also seems to be slowly waking back up, as everyone starts showing off. The plants are blooming with my favorite camellia’s covered in a blush of gorgeous hot pink, greeting us each day as we head out the gate.
Down in Grandma’s Garden it seems the green vegies and herbs are having their day. The Garden beds are an abundance of fresh basil and spinach leaves. Green vegies are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. It seems nature may know our lives are about to suddenly get more active with the change of season, and so is preparing us with all this goodness.
The great thing about basil is that you can pick leaves when needed, and this encourages the plant to produce more leaves. So don’t see it as harvesting, rather, keeping your basil plant looking sharp as ever. So, with basil, pick a few leaves off at a time from each plant, rather than cutting whole stems at a time.
One quick tip is that you should try to harvest your basil (or any herb) in the morning just after the dew has evaporated from the leaf. This means that the plant isn’t too hot, making it much more friendly in the kitchen.
With so many gorgeous basil and spinach leaves, we made two recipes, pesto, the perfect way to preserve the goodness of fresh basil leaves, and then a fresh basil and cashew dip, which you can make for the pesto.
Only the best ingredients
Double if making both recipes
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1 and 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
6 Tablespoons olive oil
TIPS for harvesting – If you have basil in abundance pick the top leaves off multiple stems rather than cutting full stems. It will encourage more growth. If using the leaves as a garnish, the flavour is best when you rip the leaves. Always crush your garlic rather than cutting it, as it releases more of the oils and so flavors. It seems getting your hands dirty is the best way to cook!
Place the dry pine nuts in a dry pan on medium-low heat. Continue to stir or move them until they are a golden brown, and then immediately remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Toasting the pine nuts will given them more depth of flavor.
Blend the pine nuts, basil, garlic and Parmesan in a food processor until finely chopped and then gradually add 2/3 of the oil.
Taste test to ensure you are happy with the balance of flavors.
Place the Pesto (or half the pesto if you are making the next recipe) into a sterilised jar and add the remaining oil onto to seal the pesto. This will ensure it stays lovely and fresh for a week. (Pesto also freezer)
Pesto Dip with spinach and cashew
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup roasted cashews
Tablespoon of lemon juice
Add the extra ingredients to the blender which already includes half the pesto.
Taste test to ensure you are happy with the balance of flavours.
Serve with carrot sticks or biscuits and enjoy with friends and family.
A bowl of pasta with a spoonful of pesto is great, isn’t it. Its a go-to for our family.
But (and it’s not a big but) I know that after the third lunch in a row of Pesto Pasta, the charm does start to begin to fade.
Why not try to top it on all your breakfast needs. Much like my obsession for putting Vegemite on everything slightly related to breakfast (try veggie bacon sandwich, or Veggie avocado on toast), I thought we would up the anti by using this pesto. They are great on top of eggs and add that little something that starts your day off with a bang.
There’s so many things you can do with it, and as our tomatoes aren’t quite ready yet, we thought that we would use pesto sauce instead of tomato sauce on our homemade pizzas. YUM. To be honest, its so versatile and rich that you can spread a little on anything to make every meal a little bit better.
For storage, make sure you use the smallest container possible. This is because pesto isn’t great at being contained for a long time. It will darken relatively quickly.
It will still taste great for around a week in the fridge. Don’t worry though, because it can be frozen for a while. About six months or so.
Pesto with a drizzle of Olive Oil on top
The important point is that you need to get all the air out of it as you can. So, pack to the brim. Once you are happy with that, drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top
Cling film (or bees’ wax) the top and bobs your uncle.