Basil is one of my favorite year-round seasonings because it's so versatile. Its flavor is potent enough to hold up to culinary staples like tomato sauce, bean and pasta soups and pestos.
My favorite fresh basil pesto is flavored with plenty of garlic, a small amount of parsley and a spoonful of miso paste, a seasoning available in Asian markets. The miso is an unusual addition that gives the pesto a rich flavor and beautifully offsets the tang of the basil leaves. It also replaces some of the oil and cheese my original recipe called for.
SWEET BASIL PESTO (IT'S A SNAP)
1 1/2 cups basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tablespoon miso paste
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Process basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, miso paste and cheese in food processor or blender until consistency of paste. Refrigerate in small jar or pack into ice cube trays and freeze. Drizzle with little more olive oil to prevent browning. Remove frozen cubes from trays and store in freezer in plastic bag or freezer container.
2 cups. Each 1/2-cup serving:
188 calories; 197 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.36 gram fiber.
SOUPE AU PISTOU
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup dry Sherry or apple juice
1 cup sliced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced leeks
1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup cooked white or pinto beans
6 cups vegetable or nonfat chicken stock or water
1/2 cup pesto
Combine olive oil and Sherry in Dutch oven. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until limp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, leeks and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
Add beans and stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Stir in pesto.
4 servings. Each serving:
217 calories; 1,567 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 25 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.38 grams fiber.