The Bounty of Basil

By Suzanne Ledbetter, Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Summertime. When markets are overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, local melons, and stone fruit. When the smell of overripe fruit fills the air in San Joaquin county and the mercury melts an ice cream cone before you get your first bite. But you know what brings all of these ingredients together into spectacular meals? Basil. A summertime staple, aromatic and herbaceous, the bounty of basil is the backbone of summer dishes.

More than a garnish…


Use basil in a poolside cocktail with fresh strawberries or watermelon. Muddle basil leaves with raw sugar and lemon juice. Puree fresh strawberries and combine with a simple syrup. Strain basil juice into a rocks glass with ice, add 1 ½ oz. vodka, 1 oz. strawberry puree, and club soda.


Whether you are making a light pasta dish with olive oil or creamy garlic shrimp, basil adds a brightness that makes the meal look and taste even better. Chop it and combine the fresh herbs with the sauce or use a fresh pesto to punch it up.

International Flair

Add it to Thai dishes, curries, and bean dishes. Try sautéing garbanzo beans in olive oil, garlic, coconut milk, and chopped basil for refined flavor.


Best Basic Pesto


½ c. pine nuts

¾ c. Parmesan, grated

2 garlic cloves, finely grated

6 c. basil leaves; about 3 bunches

¾ c. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once halfway through, until golden brown. Transfer to a food processor and let cool. Add the cheese and garlic, and pulse until finely ground. Add basil and place the top back on. With the motor running, add oil in a slow and steady stream until smooth, about one minute.

Pesto Caprese Pasta


8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved

12 oz. dried pasta such as spaghetti

2 tbsp. Calivirgin Basil Olive Oil

bucca mozzarella

3-4 tbsp. Best Basic Pesto

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ c. basil, leaves, chiffonade

½ c. parmesan, finely grated


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast cherry tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, dried basil, and oregano for 5 to 7 minutes. Boil pasta in salted water for 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Drain pasta, reserving a half a cup of pasta water. Place our Best Basic Pesto in a large bowl with two tablespoons butter, add pasta and pasta liquid until well coated. Season with salt. Add tomatoes, Parmesan, and garnish with freshly chopped basil.

Pesto Chicken Panini


1 large Ciabatta or Pugliese Loaf

1/2 c. mayonnaise

1 jar of Roasted red peppers (Suggested: piquillo peppers)

2-3 pesto chicken breasts, or rotisserie chicken

1 tbsp. pesto

1 c. spinach or arugula

I package of pre-sliced fresh mozzarella

[HOW MUCH] An additional cheese of your choice (Brie, goat, pepper jack)

6 slices of Coppa or Soppressata


Use 3/4 of the roasted red peppers and purée with mayo in a small food processor. Slice bread horizontally and scoop out some of the excess bread. Brush or spoon the red pepper mayonnaise onto one side. Spread pesto on the other side. Add a few of the leftover roasted red peppers and spinach to roasted red pepper half. Layer chicken (sliced), mozzarella, soppressata, remaining cheese, and basil.

Put the two sides together and drizzle the outside of the bread generously with olive oil. Place on the panini grill until melted through and bread is golden brown.

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