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One of the saddest things that can happen inside my refrigerator is the demise of a gorgeous bunch of herbs. It happens like this: I buy herbs, I have a grand plan to use them, I put it off for a few days, the herbs get bullied toward the back of the fridge, and by the time I find the basil or cilantro the leaves are black and mushy and I shed a tear. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way.Yes, I know, I should wrap my unwashed fresh herbs first in paper towels and then in plastic, or I should stand them upright in a glass of water, loosely covered with a plastic bag, either on the counter out of direct sunlight (basil) or in the fridge (everything else). I know. But usually, honestly, I just open the fridge and shove ‘em in there.
Hence my new strategy: use fresh herbs fast. Sure, it’s nice to have some sturdy dill or parsley in the fridge as a spontaneous addition to whatever I might cook later in the week, but if I don’t have an immediate plan for a delicate herb these days, I make it into a sauce and pour it on whatever else I’m eating. Somehow, crunching through an entire bunch of basil in a salad seems daunting, but puree it into a pesto or this basil oil and it easily disappears into one serving bowl of pasta. So I make a lot of pesto (the regulars in my kitchen include cilantro, parsley, and of course basil)–and if you haven’t made this dill butter yet, please stop everything else and do so now.
But this basil oil is even simpler than pesto. It takes just one minute and four ingredients, three of which are probably sitting on your countertop right this minute. You can toss it with pasta or drizzle it on fish or a tomato-and-mozzarella salad. Skip those persnickety fava beans and spoon it onto ricotta-topped crostini. Someone in our family even ate some on vanilla ice cream. It’s versatile, is all I’m saying. What a nice way to avoid the sorrow of finding a blackened bunch of basil in the fridge.
Basil Oil (Adapted from Bon Appetit): Wash the leaves of one bunch of basil (about 1 packed cup) and blanch them in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain and rinse in cold water, then pat or squeeze dry. Puree with 1/2 c. olive oil until smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate any leftover oil and use it within a few days.