This is a Basil variety called ‘Pistou.’ It worked really well in my strawberry pot. The plant stays nice and compact, perfect for tight spaces.
If you have a really bright window, or you live in a mild climate like mine, basil can be grown almost year round. Though there are limits. December-February in Southern California doesn’t get very warm (highs in the 60s on a good day), and basil seems to grow really slowly during that time, so I don’t bother. I recently harvested all of my plants from my strawberry pot and will replace them with a really beautiful variety of Spinach. I love edible plants that are as beautiful as ornamental plants.
Anyway, I was really excited to see a somewhat unusual recipe in House Beautiful magazine, basil mashed potatoes. It seemed like the perfect thing to try with some of my basil. Yummy comfort food for the winter with fresh herbs from my garden. And since it came from the Barefoot Contessa herself, you know it’s delish.
Basil Mashed Potatoes
- 2 lbs large Yukon Gold or white boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed*
- 1 cup half and half
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes for 20-25 minutes, until very tender. Drain well, return to the saucepan, and cook over low heat until any remaining water evaporates. Set aside.
Meanwhile, blanch the basil leaves. First, fill a bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a medium saucepan to a rolling boil, add the basil and cook for only 15 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge them into the ice water bath. Drain, and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the half and half and Parmesan and bring to a simmer. Place the basil in a food processor and puree. Add the half and half mixture to the basil and process until smooth.
With a handheld mixture, beat the potatoes until they are broken up. Slowly add the half and half mixture to the potatoes, along with the salt and pepper. Pour into a serving bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
*Judging from the photo in the article, though it doesn’t specify in the recipe, Ina Garten used a large leaf, sweet basil. But I used what I had on hand, which included purple leaf basil. It still tasted wonderful. And looked pretty too!
My thoughts on the recipe: I used the mashed potatoes as a base and served a winter vegetable stew on top of them. It was amazingly tasty and hearty. This recipe is a keeper, even though it is a bit of work.
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