Basil Summer: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner-And Lunch? Versatile Basil Adds a Delicious Bite to Both Meals. (Outdoor Entertaining)

Article excerpt

There's a saying among gardeners that if you curse basil when planting it, you'll get bunch after bunch of the delicious, sweet herb. And it must work: My garden is a pungent sea of green. When I think about summer, I'm not plotting an exotic vacation; I'm planning what I'm going to eat--specifically what I'm going to do with all that basil.

It's pretty straightforward, really Basil's best friend is the tomato. I use them together in every way possible--in salads, bruschetta, sauces, or as a plain pair. Basil also goes into some of my favorite dishes: pesto (see year-round strategy below), risotto, shrimp scampi, potato pancakes, and icy lemon granita--an exotic touch to make up for that vacation I won't be taking.

Even if you don't have basil plants burgeoning in your backyard, the aromatic bouquets available in practically every farmers' market and grocery store, and the recipes here, are reason enough to make this a basil summer.

Preserving pesto

An all-time favorite home for basil is in pesto. Those in the know make up a large batch and freeze it in ice cube trays. When it's firm, you can pop out the cubes and store them in heavy zip-lock plastic bags. They'll melt into a summery sauce months after your shorts have gone into storage.

Basil Risotto

PREP AND 000K TIME: About 50 minutes

NOTES: Roasted red peppers are wonderful with this dish; serve them whole, on the side, or minced, on top.

MAKES: 6 servings

       About 6 1/2 cups fat-skimmed
       reduced-sodium chicken broth
    1  Cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
    2  cloves garlic, peeled
    1  tablespoon olive oil
    1  cup shredded parmesan cheese
    3  tablespoons butter
    3  shallots (about 2 1/2 oz. total), peeled
       and finely chopped
1 1/2  cups arborio or other short-or
       medium-grain white rice
  3/4  cup dry white wine

1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring 6 1/2 cups broth to a simmer; cover and reduce heat to maintain simmer.

2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, whirl basil, garlic, and 1 teaspoon olive oil until coarsely chopped. Add cheese and whirl until finely ground.

3. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the butter to a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat; when hot (mixture will be foamy), add shallots and stir often until limp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add rice and stir often until beginning to turn opaque, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Add wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 6 cups broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until almost absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes total. Stir in basil mixture and cook, stirring often, until rice is barely tender to bite and mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes longer. If risotto is thicker than desired, stir in a little more broth.

5. Ladle risotto into wide, shallow bowls, and serve immediately.

Per serving: 316 cal., 37% (117 cal.) from fat; 13 g protein; 13 g fat (6.4 g sat.); 38 g carbo (4.5 g fiber); 932 mg sodium; 26 mg chol.

Basil Shrimp Scampi

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 40 minutes

NOTES: To sliver the basil, stack about six leaves at a time; starting at tip ends, roll up tightly, then thinly slice rolls crosswise. If desired, serve scampi with grated parmesan cheese to add to taste.

MAKES: 4 servings

    1  pound dried linguine
  1/4  cup (1/8 lb.) butter
    2  tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2  pounds shrimp (35 to 40 per lb.),
       peeled (tails left on),
       deveined, and rinsed
    2  tablespoons minced garlic
  3/4  teaspoon hot chili flakes
  1/4  teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
       About 1/4 teaspoon salt
    1  cup dry white wine
    2  cups lightly packed fresh basil
       leaves, slivered (see notes)

1. …