Pongi - Basil question!!

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by marmalady, Apr 10, 2002.

  1. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Hi, Pongi - I got some imported basil seed from a local nursery, and wondered if you're familiar with it. Company name looks like 'Sapori Mediterranei'. Two kinds -

    -Basilico Genovese (Genoese basil)

    -Basilico a foglia di lattuga bollosa (Blistered lettuce-leaf basil)

    Remembering your patient posting about the different kinds of Italian basil a while ago, what you thought of these two.
     
  2. pongi

    pongi

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    Hi Marmalady!
    Sorry for posting you so late, but I don't check this board everyday!
    Genoese basil and Lettuce-leaf basil (Blistered or smooth) aka Neapolitan basil, are the two commonest types of basil grown here in Italy, and the most suitable for cooking as well.
    Genoese basil has smaller and smoother leaves and a strong, intense flavour, lacking however of that mint-like taste that most basils have. This is the reason why is the best for making Pesto, but you can use it for all purposes (maybe I'm biased but I think it's the best one;) )
    Neapolitan lettuce-leaf basil has a larger plant and larger leaves with a lighter, mint-like taste, and is particularly good for salads.
    Suppose you already got the directions for growing it, but you are supposed to seed it in small containers about now (here in Genoa now we have about a temp of 10° C min and 15° C max...sorry but I can't convert in Fahrenheit!), transplant in bigger earthenware pots when grown enough, and harvest between May and October (or longer if you grow it in a greenhouse) picking off the larger and lower leaves and sparing the tops. Water a lot and keep the plants in a place getting the sun in the morning and the shade in the afternoon.
    The best way to store the excess (apart from making Pesto) is freezing it. Wash the basil, allow it to dry in the open, and freeze the whole leaves in plastic bags. When you want to use them, crumble them with your fingers while they're still frozen, so you'll avoid to chop them with a knife (which oxidizes the leaves).
    Hope this helps!

    BTW: this is my Cilantro update!
    After having thought a lot on your posts about this topic, and although I'm sure you are right about the need to buy the seeds from a reliable source...being pretty lazy I opted for the easiest way (at least for my first attempt!) and ended up seeding the coriander seeds I got in my pantry.
    As this happened only a week ago, I'm still waiting for something to happen...
    Have you any good suggestion for me? What about water, sun exposition and so on?

    Thanks...and hope our "Cilantro-Basil Connection" will be lucky!:)

    Pongi
     
  3. pongi

    pongi

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    Hmmm...maybe I have been ambiguous, due to the language gap. When I said you must "dry" the basil before freezing, I meant you must carefully drain the leaves and let the water evaporate from the surface...but of course the leaves must be FRESH!:D

    Pongi
     
  4. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the freezing tip pongi. I have never frozen fresh basil before and it sounds like a great idea for using all that extra that seems to come my way. One question though, it is better to freeze just the leaves or make pesto and freeze that? Thanks again.
     
  5. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Pete,

    Pongi's manner of freezing basil is the best way, and I checked the methods in all my horticutural books, and they all concure.

    The advantage of freezing just the leaves is you give yourself more options for use.

    One note one of my books recommends is, for long term freezing of basil, dip the leaves in boiling water,shock and pat dry. Then freeze.

    This procedure I have never tried, Anyone?
    cc
     
  6. pongi

    pongi

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    cc, thanks for supporting my advice with your literature!:)
    As you may remember, we had a thread about pesto and basil some time ago and there was people suggesting that blanching basil could improve its flavour and preserve the color from oxidization. I was puzzled as I never heard about anyone here using this procedure, but anyway gave it a try. As for me, it doesn't work so much and I still prefer using it fresh...but this is only my experience. Maybe this procedure is the best if basil isn't just picked up from your garden (or if you can't buy the whole plants with their roots packed with ground or wet sawdust to keep them alive as we do), can't say.

    As for frozen basil, it's good when added to cooked dishes but not suitable for salads or garnish as, of course, it becomes flabby when thawed. For the same reason, if you process in a blender the thawed leaves, they immediately oxidize, become grey and end up in nothing. So, it's much better to make pesto with fresh basil and then freeze it. I always freeze pesto and it keeps very well for months.

    Pongi
     
  7. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Hi, Pongi - thanks for the confirmations re the basil types I got! I'm going to get the seeds planted this week.

    Re the coriander seeds - they do take a long time to sprout, don't get discouraged and don't overwater! Sometimes I put a plastic bag over my seed pot, poke a few holes in it and secure with a rubber band; helps keep the moisture in, and if it gets too wet, I can take the plastic off for a day to 'air out'.
     
  8. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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  9. pongi

    pongi

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    Although it made me feeling like an Aborigine from some exotic country, this article is very interesting and informative, also for Italian and even for Ligurian people...
    Thanks Kokopuffs!:)

    Only few comments more:
    All the things said in the article can be fully subscribed! The only one I still disagree about is the "mint" issue. Maybe I'm "nutty and protectionist", but you can't get a pesto with a true Ligurian taste if you use a mint-flavoured basil. I don't say you'll get something bad, but the taste will not be the same...

    Apart from that, the article is a mine of useful and amusing information, mainly for the part where the Italian products are compared to those available in US (I could never help you with that!) and the directions are given for making the best pesto.

    As for the two restaurants quoted in the article, they're both famous and very different the one from the other!
    Manuelina is a "historic" restaurant, placed in a very touristic village close to Genoa, that in the last 30-40 years has become very popular and crowded-TOO popular and crowded for my taste. So, as often happens, the quality of food has worsened a little. I can't say at all it's bad... the food is good and tasty, only somewhat ordinary (but the price is NOT ordinary, of course). It's just the place where Pesto is now made with the blender...

    Ca' Peo, on the contrary, is an "emerging" restaurant that during the last 20 years has gained high valuations of the main food guides, in Italy and abroad. The food is a mix between traditional ligurian and "nouvelle cuisine" dishes and it's pretty sophisticated...not meant as a fault, in any case. More, the place is wonderful...a nice, attractive small building on the top of a hill dominating an outstanding landscape. The right place for a VERY romantic dinner!

    So, if you come here in Liguria and are two people, go at Ca' Peo, if you're twenty it's better you go at Manuelina...

    Pongi

    BTW: I need a lexical help from you. What's the difference between a "blender" and a "processor"? According to my dictionary they're the same, but from this article I argue that a "blender" may be the italian "Tritatutto" and a "Processor" amy be a "Frullatore". Any input?
     
  10. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Pongi:

    The article mentions using butter and starchy water mixed in with the pesto just prior to serving. Is that done chez vous?

    Better yet, give us your recipe since it seems so superior.
     
  11. pongi

    pongi

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    OMG, Kokopuffs...
    I have posted so many times about this topic that I'm afraid I would be immediately banned from this site if I said something more!
    Also wonder if you're trying to tell me that I'm a kind of pignola;)
    Anyway, I have already posted Pongi's Pesto Superior Recipe in a Recipe Forum thread...as for your questions, chez nous 1-2 tbsp starchy water are usually added to pesto before mixing it with pasta. Adding butter or walnuts is less common and personally I never use them.

    Re Marmalady: thanks for the advice...I'll cover my pot with plastic and sit in front of it waiting for the first sprouts!

    Pongi
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Which type of M&P is preferred for mashing pesto: brass, stone or wood?
     
  13. pongi

    pongi

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    Marble mortar and wooden pestle.

    Pongi