One of mine is fresh basil, also called “sweet basil” and is native to India but is used in the very popular Mediterranean-style dishes that are so good for you and so delicious! Basil is member of the mint family and has a similar highly aromatic quality. The unique array flavonoids found in basil have been shown to provide health benefits. The flavonoids in basil have been shown in studies on human white blood cells to be beneficial; these components of basil have been shown to protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. In addition, basil and the oil of basil have been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. Basil is also a very good source of vitamin A and converts to beta carotene. Free radical damage is a contributing factor in many other conditions as well, including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Basil is also a good source of magnesium. In addition to the health benefits and nutrients described above, basil has been ranked as a very good source of iron, and calcium, and a good source of potassium and vitamin C.
What’s good? Tomatoes and tomato dishes/sauces, pestos, vinegars, rice, eggs, meats such as veal, chicken, duck, salads, and vegetables taste great with fresh basil. Once you’ve tried it, you will be so spoiled! It takes food to the next level! YUM!
Here are some other tips for using fresh basil:
• To one stick of room-temperature butter, add from 1 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped basil for spreading on breads or crackers.
• In scrambled eggs or any chopped egg salad, add between one and three teaspoons minced basil. Or sprinkle over poached eggs. Ooh so good! One of Nicole and my all-time favorites!
• Finely chop the leaves and toss with flour for coating poultry, chops and vegetables. A good ratio is a tablespoon per cup of flour. Add up to two tablespoons chopped fresh basil per cup of batter.
Basil is often called “the tomato herb” and with good reason.
Here are some of our favorite Tomato-Basil combos:
• For baked tomatoes, finely chop basil, add shredded asiago or parmesean cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper and bread crumbs in equal quantities and top surface of the tomato. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
• For tomato soup, add a teaspoon of finely chopped basil 5 minutes before eating.
• For tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, coarsely chop the leaves (1/4 cup for each two cups of tomatoes) and simmer for the last 5-10 minutes before use.
• Make a slurry in a blender with 5 or 6 large basil leaves, a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil and an ounce or two of dry white wine. Brush it on fish or chicken before baking.
• Basil and garlic are great together. In a food processor, add 5 cloves of garlic, a couple ounces of broth and about a 12 large basil leaves until it’s a thin, chunky paste. Brush on lamb, poultry, eggplant, zucchini, or fish filets before roasting.
So if you have given up on fresh herbs – try again. Once you get it, you will never go back! I know I even have an herb garden growing in the back yard this year! We’ll see if I can make them grow!