This is a wonderful method of preserving the fresh summery vitality of basil. If you have a basil plant growing in your yard, or you just love the taste of basil and it is in plentiful supply at the greengrocer, then this super easy condiment is for you. It is not a flavoured oil as such, but more of a basil puree, preserved in oil.
Basil oil shares a little bit in common with the wonderful Italian sauce, pesto. They are both methods of capturing the essence of basil, and they are both rich, basil-flavoured sauces that can be used to enliven dishes. But as delicious as pesto is, it contains the twin flavour forces of parmesan cheese and pine nuts. This can limit the application of pesto to certain dishes.
Next time try making a simple basil oil instead. I have recently been mixing equal quantities of basil oil and roasted tomato dressing, which makes a superb dressing for grilled fish, and basil oil drizzled on a simple salad of tomato and bocconcini cheese is a match made in heaven.
1 bunch of basil (about 2 cups)
250 ml (1 cup) olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 Tbs red wine vinegar (or use balsamic vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper
Pick the leaves from the bunch of basil. Wash well and dry in a salad spinner, or pat dry with a tea towel. Add to a cocktail style blender, rather than a food processor if possible, as it will help to retain the vibrant green colour, along with the oil, garlic and vinegar. Whizz until finely pureed. Add the salt and pepper and whizz again. Taste to see if it has been correctly seasoned.
Tip into a clean jar or bowl and cover with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidization. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.