Sometimes using fresh basil leaves isn’t the best way to incorporate the plant’s amazing flavors into your food. The two most common cases where I find this is the case is on pizzas (where the leaves wilt quickly and turn brown from the residual heat, even when you put them on after the pizza is done) and in soups (where you want to maintain a smooth texture without chewy leaves getting in the way).
Basil oil works well for either, carrying the gorgeous flavor of basil without any of the downsides of using the fresh leaves. This quick, straightforward recipe involves blanching the basil before making the oil, which leads to a longer-lasting vibrant color and flavor. If you’re really in a hurry, you can skip the blanching step, but be sure to use the oil more quickly before it discolors. Regardless of method, keep it refrigerated, and use it up within a week or so.
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, fairly tightly (but not forcefully) packed
- 1 cup flavorless oil
Optional (but recommended) blanching:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of ice water.
- Plunge the 1 cup of basil leaves into the boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds, then scoop out and immediately submerge in the ice water.
- Spread out the basil on a kitchen towel, fold in half, and press to dry the basil as much as possible.
Making basil oil:
- Put the basil in a food processor (or blender) along with 1 cup of flavorless oil, and process for about a minute.
- Strain the processed mixture through several layers of cheesecloth into a small pot. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth or you’ll end up with cloudiness and extra water in your oil.
- Heat the oil slowly and gently over very low heat until it turns brighter green and the cloudiness dissipates, indicating that any water has evaporated out of the oil. Cool, then keep refrigerated and use within a week.
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