A delicious condiment bursting with the summery flavors of fresh basil and lemon. Use this Lemon Basil Oil for dipping crusty bread or drizzle it over tomatoes, salads, grilled chicken, shrimp, veggies…
“You need to figure out something to do with all this basil!”, Scott exclaimed a few days ago when he came in from the garden. I’ve been making Sweet Basil Vinaigrette, Chimichurri Sauce and pesto, as well as adding the delicious leaves to salads, sandwiches and pizzas. But it seems the more I cut, the more prolifically the leaves reappear. What a wonderful problem to have! I began to brainstorm ways to utilize our bumper crop of basil. Grabbing my kitchen shears, I cut a huge bouquet to have at my fingertips in the kitchen. Sniffing the deliciously aromatic herb got my imagination rolling, and before long, an idea for Lemon Basil Oil was swirling through my mind.
It’s funny, all fall, winter and spring, my wildest dream would be to have too much basil. It seems like there’s never quite enough, and I savor each little sprig of the beloved herb that I purchase at my local market. Then suddenly, summer arrives in all it’s green glory and I have an ever-evolving supply of beautiful, fresh basil that won’t stop.
I use it with great abandon and it seems the more I cut it, the faster it grows. In fact these pictures were shortly after I gave it a pretty severe haircut!
If your basil’s growing like a weed right now or you’ve got access to it from a neighbor or your local farmer’s market, you’ll want to take the time to make a batch of this delicious Lemon Basil Oil. It doesn’t take long (about 30 minutes total) and you can freeze it in small containers to enjoy all year long when this beloved herb is scarce and expensive.
The technique is pretty simple. The basil is quickly (15 seconds) blanched, then rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking process. Why blanch it? The brief blanching not only kills the enzymes which cause the basil leaves to turn brown it actually enhances the green hue, making it more vibrant. And you won’t believe how the volume of the basil is reduced, check it out!
Once the basil is blanched, it’s important to remove as much water as possible. I just squeeze it in my hand right over the kitchen sink. To remove the last remaining liquid, I roll the little wad of basil in a paper towel and squeeze again. This is important because any water that remains will dilute the delicious flavor and cause separation in the finished oil.
After the basil is blanched and dried, into the blender it goes with lots of fresh lemon zest and a splash sunflower (or other neutral-flavored) oil. Give it a whirl till everything is well blended, then add olive oil and pour the whole works into a small sauce pan. One minute over high heat (this seems to brighten and “set” the color) and you’re done! Strain the green mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Voila! Beautiful Lemon Basil Oil!
What to do with Lemon Basil Oil?
- Use it as a dipping oil. Just warm up a loaf of crusty French bread and dip to your heart’s content! Just pour some on a plate or into a little bowl. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and wait for the oohs and aahs.
- Drizzle it over grilled chicken, shrimp or veggies.
- Add fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper and use as a salad dressing.
- Drizzle on soups for a pretty and delicious garnish.
- It’s fantastic drizzled on fresh summer tomatoes and corn on the cob.
- For a delightful, quick appetizer, pour a pool of Lemon Basil Oil on a pretty serving plate. Add a log of goat cheese and top with finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, tiny basil leaves and more Lemon Basil Oil. Serve with warm crostini.
- Serve with this wonderful Green Bean and Tomato Salad Caprese with Lemon Basil Oil. Recipe coming up on Wednesday!
Café Tips on making Lemon Basil Oil
- Once the basil is blanched, it will look like there’s not much left (see picture above). Don’t worry, there will be lots of delicious basil flavor in your finished oil.
- Be sure to use a fine-mesh strainer when straining your oil. You might need to do it in two batches if the mesh is really fine. Just strain half of the oil, then discard the green residue that’s left in the strainer and repeat with the second half.
- If you don’t have a fine-mesh strainer, just use a regular strainer lined with cheese cloth or a piece of 100% cotton fabric.
- Don’t try to use 100% olive oil as it has a strong flavor and will overpower the basil.
- Wait to add the olive oil until after blending the basil and sunflower oil. Olive oil can take on a bitter taste when blended or processed. Cooks Illustrated explains this phenomenon better than I could: Testing Olive Oil’s Bitter End.
- You can freeze the oil in small glass jars or storage containers. Just imagine the delightful taste of fresh basil in the middle of winter! Make sure to leave space (about 1/2 inch) for expansion in the freezer at the top of your containers.
What I used to make this Lemon Basil Oil…
- 2 cups fresh basil tightly packed
- finely grated zest from 3 medium lemons
- 1 cup sunflower oil or other neutral flavored oil
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil. Add basil leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Quickly drain basil and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.
- Wring as much water as you can out of the basil by squeezing it in your hand, then wrap basil in several thickness of paper towels and squeeze again.
- Add basil, lemon zest and sunflower oil to a blender container and blend for 1 minute until mixture is finely pureed.
- Pour mixture into a small saucepan and add olive oil. Heat on medium high heat for 1-2 minutes, just until mixture begins to bubble slightly at the edges. Do not boil!
- Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (the finer, the better) into a jar or storage container.
- Store in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks or freeze in small containers for 3-4 months.