Please share ideas for how best to preserve fresh basil without it turning black. Do I puree it with minimal oil? Freeze it?
If you pull it from the stem and flash blanch it, you can puree with some olive oil and a little salt. This freezes really well and is perfect to "stir" into some hot pasta and a pat of butter in the middle of winter when all the basil is gone. Freezing it in ice cube trays works great.
I second davidhurt. My son has a peanut allergy and we preserve our basil thusly: blanch four cups basil leaves and one fat clove garlic (or two, depending on how much you like garlic), plunge in ice water and drain, then chop the garlic and puree with the basil leaves along with one-half cup olive oil and some salt. Freezing it ice-cube trays yields neat two tablespoon portions, you can also pop them out of the ice tray and freeze them in ziplock bags.
Thanks. Just out of curiosity, why does it need to be blanched first? What will happen to the basil if it is not blanched?
I think you can essentially make a pesto sans nuts (same for the cheese if that too is a concern), and this would not require blanching the basil.
Some people think that blanching basil helps it keep its green color. But it's not all that effective, plus you lose a lot of the aromatics. And a better way of preserving color is to remove the stems and the stem-ends of the leaves before you puree.
Thanks everyone. I'll take the route w/ less work and make nut-free pesto w/o blanching.
Try it both ways and let us know what you think!
basil can be frozen straight from the garden - a man from Sicily who owns a nearby pizza place gave me this tip. It works great.