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A Fistful of Basil

By Anonymous in Food on Jul 27, 2005 3:10AM

Garden Basil.jpg
Chicagoist can normally give or take pesto, to be honest, but sometimes things made from your own garden taste better. So when our basil plant started to get out of hand, we had no choice but to blend it with olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts, and a little bit of garlic.

Now like most of you, we can’t boast the acreage that Martha Stewart’s Turkey Hill home has. Or the ankle bracelet. But container gardening for the downtown dweller can keep you sane until you can afford that four bedroom mortgage so far out in the burbs you are actually in Iowa. We’re partial to a great garden store that has been around for just over 2 years, Grand Street Gardens. Upscale gardening, but still a place you can buy soil and gardening tools, Grand Street Gardens is one of the nicest neighborhood gardening stores. Located at 2200 W. Grand (Grand & Leavitt), they carry both outdoor and indoor plants, have gardening seminars in the evening, and provide you with red wagons to hold your loads of plants. They also carry a good selection of gardening books, seeds, and planters including the cool styrofoam ones that look like stone but you can actually pick up and move. Gifts for the gardener from Crabtree & Evelyn and Burt’s Bees along with other soaps, lotions, home fragrance sprays, and candles round out this well-stocked store. Some items are pricey ($5 for bars of soap) but their plant prices rival Home Depot’s (but you can actually find help at this store when you need it). We purchased herbs there earlier this summer, and they’ve grown wonderfully. The out-of-control basil is what started this pesto fest.

We were half tempted to make the basil with the marble mortal and pestle we purchased at IKEA (unnecessary plastic objects!), but then realized we lived in the year 2005 and instead used the small food processor. Here’s what we came up with:

2-3 C. loosely packed sweet basil
½ C. olive oil
½ C. parmesan cheese
¼ C. pine nuts
1 t. garlic (some people prefer their pesto without garlic, we thought this added nice flavor)

Grand St Gardens
Mix everything in batches, we did it in three separate ones...could not have been easier! Adjust to taste...more garlic, more olive oil. Tossed with whole wheat noodles, this was a great summer meal. Chicagoist recommends spirals or wide, flat noodles to pick up a lot of the sauce. When serving, add a dusting or shavings of parmesan, and a few pine nuts on top. Yum.

Grand Street Gardens has pretty well exhausted their herb plants (folks, it’s late July!) but they do have seeds for planting indoor herb gardens for fresh herbs throughout the winter. Pick out a couple of beautiful ceramic pots they carry, plant the seeds, and make sure the soil drains well. The key to growing good indoor herbs is the correct amount of sunlight, which given Chicago winters is bleak. Basil in particular needs a lot of sun to grow. So make sure the plants are in a place where the get the most sunlight, or borrow some pothead’s sunlamp to help your herbs grow (don’t blame us when Chicago’s finest breaks down your door). Stop by Grand Street Gardens, they’ll help you make sure the basil for your homemade pesto is the best.

Grand Street Gardens
2200 W. Grand St.
Chicago, IL 60612