Saturday, July 26, 2008

Basil Puree

This basil puree was destined for use in a salad of tomatoes and haricots vert (beans that are green for the non-French). The ingredients are essentially the same as a basil pesto minus any pine nuts or cheese. I chose to make the aforementioned salad mostly because it included the basil puree. Why the desire to make basil puree you might ask? That would be because our basil plant is growing out of control and I needed to find something to use it for.

As I was saying, the ingredients are pretty straightforward; basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Take a note of the relative size of the bunch of basil leaves here compared to the garlic. There are a lot of leaves here, or so I thought. It turns out the recipe calls for about 10 times that many leaves. My plant was growing fast, but not nearly that fast. I scaled the recipe down significantly with only minor side effects. Continuing on...

The first step was to blanch the basil leaves in boiling water. This took exactly five seconds. Really. Five seconds isn't all that long, so there are no pictures of it. You'll just have to imagine the sight of a boiling pot of water with some basil leaves in it. I drained the leaves after the five seconds were up and plunged them immediately into an ice bath to stop any cooking as well as to set the color. I drained them again after all of the leaves were nice and cooled off, and dried the leaves off on paper towels for a few minutes.

After that I squeezed the remaining water out of the leaves. Can you tell they are supposed to be dry before continuing? Now that the leaves were totally dry, I chopped them up a bit to help with the blending process.

Here's your first chance to see the effects of basil shrinkage. The original leaves were about 30 times the size of the garlic, and now it's down to 5 or 6 times as big. I add the basil leaves, garlic, salt, and a little bit of oil into the blender and started trying to puree the mixture.

This is where I felt the effects of reducing the recipe by so much. There just wasn't enough oil in the blender to allow the basil leaves to puree, so I was forced to add more oil than I wanted to. The result was a slightly strong olive oil flavor in the finished puree, but hey, what are you going to do if you don't have access to a basil forest?

I eventually got everything pureed all together. I wish I had taken a picture of the garlic next to the finished puree, because we are talking about obscenely small quantities here.

That little container holds a 1/2 cup when it's full. I figured it was about 1/3 full, meaning there was about 1.3 oz at the end. It was probably about the same size as the garlic bulb in the other pictures. That is some concentrated basil goodness.

As for the flavor, it was good and very simple. When your only ingredients are basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt, that's probably what your puree is going to taste like. It worked very well in the salad (coming up soon!), so I was happy. I'll consider making it again the next time I stumble across a cubic yard of basil leaves.

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