The “King of Herbs” to culinarians the world over, basil brings a burst of summer flavor to a wide array of vegetable, meat, fish and egg dishes. Aromatic, with both a sweet and savory, slightly peppery taste, basil often appears as an unexpected ingredient in cakes, pies, sorbets – even cookies – like the Lemon-Basil Blueberry Muffin Top Cookies featured here, from Jey at thejeyofcooking.com. In addition, basil is also one of the flavoring ingredients for Chartreuse liqueur.
Common varieties of basil include Sweet Basil, Dark Opal Basil, Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil and Thai Basil, with pesto, made via a fusion of sweet basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese, being the most venerable vehicle for fresh basil of all. Karen G. Sorkin’s seductive pesto recipe is brilliant and so well- balanced, that no other seasoning is required when it is used as a sauce for pasta, a dressing for salads or a medium for binding ingredients in which the taste of basil is essential. If you’ve not yet tried swirling a bit of pesto into a bowl of soup, especially those that are tomato-based, now’s the ideal time to indulge.
As an herbal treatment for an expansive list of ailments, including depression, some embrace basil as being an effective remedy. I know I feel good when I eat it, so maybe there’s something to the concept.
If you aren’t growing your own fresh basil and you purchase it from your grocer or farmers’ market, look for leaves that are bright green, with no blemishes or signs of decay. A half-ounce of fresh basil will yield one cup of chopped fresh basil and when cooking with it, add it towards the end of the cooking process to minimize the dissipation of flavor.