Hello, basil. Welcome to my life.
I’ve never experimented much with fresh herbs. I know they’re supposed to be better than the powdered and packaged varieties, but dried herbs are certainly more convenient and easy to store. Quite honestly, the fresh herbs I see in my local supermarket often look pretty bad…even moldy. Eww.
When I saw this beautiful basil plant at Sam’s Club (of all places), I couldn’t resist it. The basil is actually one of several plants that came in this “Italian garden” blend, although the basil is certainly the centerpiece. I didn’t know what variety it was, but after a little research it looks like it’s Thai basil. Thai basil has a distinct anise or licorice flavor, which is really nice, and the purple flower clusters make it both beautiful and flavorful.
So now that I had a lovely basil plant, I had to figure out what to do with it. I knew that basil was a primary ingredient in pesto, so I decided that would be my first recipe. I quickly realized that pesto recipes use oil, which isn’t necessarily bad unless you’re trying not to use oil. My dad had a heart attack a year ago and he’s been trying to cut out excess fats, including oils, after reading about eating healthy and reversing heart disease. So I’ve been trying to make foods that are generally low fat and don’t use added oils (he does allow some higher fat foods in their whole form, like nuts but not oil extracted from nuts). Then I came across a recipe for an oil-free pesto from Oh She Glows (link to recipe is below). Success!
This is a great little recipe that uses beans in place of oil. I thought it was excellent, and my dad did, too! It may not be quite like traditional pesto, but it fills the bill as far as I’m concerned. And if you’re looking to reduce fat in your diet, this is a great alternative. This pesto was also a bit less traditional because of the variety of basil I used. As I said before, the Thai basil has a licorice flavor, which not everyone may appreciate. But I loved it in this pesto!
Click here to view the recipe. The only thing I changed in this recipe was the garlic. Fresh garlic doesn’t agree with me, so I rarely use it. I substituted a garlic and herb spice blend instead; I can’t remember the exact amount but probably 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.
So what did I do with the pesto after I made it?
Pizza!! I just spread the pesto on a simple crust and topped it with veggies. It was VERY good! The next day I used up the rest of the pesto with pasta.
I mixed the leftover pesto with a package of soft tofu. I combined that with quinoa noodles (gluten-free), fresh tomatoes, and a little seasoning salt. I didn’t like the pasta as much as the pizza, but it was still very good and easy.
And of course pesto also makes a great dip or salad topper. Hopefully I will do more experimenting with fresh herbs this summer, and I hope you will, too!