Basil smells like summer, and it is one of the few plants still looking relatively perky during this mid-June heatwave. Pinching back its flowers and watering only when necessary should keep it going all summer. If yours starts to look sad, you can cut it back and it should come back again. This summer I'm trying variegated basil as well as the traditional Genovese variety. The variegated looks so pretty in the window box.
Pesto is a great way to use basil in the summer. It's an easy dish that requires very little cooking, so no worries about heating up the kitchen. This recipe makes enough pesto for a pound of pasta. While any kind will do, I like how the pesto clings to fusilli. If you have any left over you can freeze it in an ice cube tray before adding the cheese, then thaw as needed. Traditionally the pesto is made with a mortal and pestle, and someday I hope to have one of these. For, now I have a little, used food processor which does the job. I would highly recommend NOT using a blender. I have killed several making pesto and other such gloppy concoctions.
Pesto Genovese - traditional basil pesto
3 cups loosely packed bail leaves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (traditionally pine nuts but many recipes call for almonds. I prefer substituting pecans, our local nut.
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan - optional
Halved or quartered unrefrigerated cherry tomatoes - also optional
Process the first four ingredients in a food processor or grind in a mortar with your pestle. Add to the hot pasta. THEN add the cheese by sprinkling evenly over the pasta and mixing with a spoon. Adding the cheese after the pesto allows the pesto to distribute itself evenly without getting clumped together with the melting cheese. Adding some lightly salted and peppered cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes adds a wonderful contrasting color and some extra deliciousness.