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Potato Basil Puree

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At summer's end, our garden has a lot of basil to be used. Making pesto is a no-brainer. But, this recipe is a great way to enjoy the flavor of fresh basil, by blanching it and then pureeing it with half and half and Parmesan cheese. The color is lovely, and is a terrific side dish to most any kind of meal. Thanks, Ina Garten, for such a great way to enjoy summer basil!


2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 pounds large Yukon Gold or white boiling potatoes
1 cup half-and-half
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic (optional)
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Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Add the basil leaves to the boiling water and cook for exactly 15 seconds. Remove the basil with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge the leaves into the ice water to set the bright green color. Drain and set aside. Peel* the potatoes and cut them in quarters. Add the potatoes to the same pot of boiling water and return to a boil. Cook the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender**. Drain well, return to the saucepan, and steam over low heat until any remaining water evaporates. *NOTE: I didn't peel the potatoes, but scrubbed them well. **My tried and true method of cooking potatoes is to cook them right in the milk! I then drained milk and set it aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the half-and-half and Parmesan cheese until the cream simmers***. ***NOTE: At this point, I put half of the cream into a small pot and added the Parmesan. Place the basil in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Add the hot cream mixture** and process until smooth. **NOTE: I added the hot cream/Parmesan mixture in with the processed basil. With a handheld mixer with the beater attachment, beat the hot potatoes in the pot until they are broken up. NOTE: Instead of using a mixer, I used my OXO food mill. This actually removed most of the skins (clever, eh?) and then I slowly added the hot cream/basil mixture. *The reserved cream mixture can be kept warm and used to reheat the potatoes, or to adjust the creaminess to your liking. Slowly add the hot basil cream, the salt, and pepper and beat until smooth. If the potatoes need to be reheated, cover and cook gently over low heat for a few minutes*. Pour into a serving bowl, sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, season to taste, and serve hot.

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