Basil conjures up images of summer; warmth, languor and above all sunshine. It’s one of the tastes I’ve recently started to crave, along with salad greens, cilantro and mint. I love kale, but it’s getting a little monotonous this winter – like the one evergreen tree outside my office window.
I suspect that I am really wishing for the colors of spring and summer greens, at least as much as their flavors.
Basil clearly isn’t synonymous with a Seattle winter – in fact, I’ve never successfully grown it in the Puget Sound, even at the height of summer. I’ve been enjoying the bright winter sunshine here in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, but I miss the nuances of green we have in the Puget Sound. The landscape of Western Washington can easily be described as green on green on green – with a background of grey, much of the year. You’re surrounded the moment you drop beneath the clouds at SeaTac airport, (okay, that’s if you’re lucky) or cross the vegetation line as you climb up the east side of Snoqualmie pass. The color green, in all its variety, will always say ‘home’ to me.
Which is probably why I’ve been thinking of this very green peanut sauce a lot lately. I wasn’t planning to give in and make it – not one of the ingredients: basil, mint, cilantro, green chilies, limes or peanuts are growing in this area, this time of year. And while I’m at best, a half-assed locavore, all of that adds up to a lot of food miles.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the basil – and mint, from Purple Sage Farms at the Boise Co-op last week. Purple Sage is in Middleton, ID, less than 25 miles from Boise, and not only do they harvest their herbs year round, they were one of the original organic farms in this area.
So it turns out that green peanut sauce can sneak onto my winter menu.
I’ve been making this simple recipe for years. As long as you have a food processor, it’s a snap. The combination is based on Ming Tsai‘s Asian Pesto. One of the original Food Network chefs, Tsai now hosts a show on PBS. If I ever get back to Boston, his restaurant, Blue Ginger, is one of the places I’d like to eat.
I’ve used this sauce as a marinade, (as in the original recipe), a dip and even a sandwich spread. The flavors stand out in combination with raw endive, any kind of satay, or in place of chutney with vegetable pakoras. If you are sensitive to cilantro just leave it out and increase the amount of mint and basil. I promise, you’ll still love it.