Basil: One of Our Favorite Fresh Herbs

If you are a gardener, chances are you have planted a variety of herbs, among them basil. Basil says summer when used to make Pesto to lightly dress fettuccini, or as a punch of flavor on a Caprese Salad. You can sprinkle it on locally grown green beans for a fresh touch, or add it to omelets along with sundried tomatoes and shredded Parmigianno Reggiano. A cross between licorice and cloves, the pungent flavor of basil is a key herb in Mediterranean cooking.

Whether you grow your own or purchase it by the bunch in the Produce Department, basil is a versatile herb that provides more than twice the daily requirement of vitamin A, is a good source of calcium and vitamin C, and imparts a ton of flavor with practically no calories!

  • BasilSweet basil is the most common, but many other varieties are worth exploring.
  • Thai basil is often used in Southeast Asian dishes and can be distinguished by its purple stem and mint-citrus flavor.
  • Opal basil has shiny purple leaves with a more complex flavor that makes it perfect for salads.
  • Try lemon basil, cinnamon basil, anise basil or clove basil to impart flavors that match their respective names.
  • Choose evenly colored leaves with no sign of wilting. Basil should be refrigerated, wrapped in barely damp paper towels and then in a plastic bag for up to four days. A bunch of basil keeps well in a glass of water, stems down, with a plastic bag over the leaves. If you change the water every two days it will keep for up to a week.
  • Since the stems of basil are soft, use them as you would the leaves. Just chop and measure them all together; there's no need to remove the stems. We find that a very sharp pizza wheel works great for quickly chopping basil. Our recipes for Caprese Salad and Caprese Panini Sandwiches are great uses for fresh basil shreds.
  • If you have an abundance of basil, you might want to make pesto from our Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe and freeze it in ice cube trays for later use. You'll be glad you did!

Featured Recipes

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta
Caprese Panini Sandwiches
Caprese Salad

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