My basil was out of control.
Growing bushy and tall, it was overtaking some of the other herbs nearby. It is known as the “King of herbs.” But it was conquering my parsley and rosemary and thyme, which needed space, too. I grow an equal opportunity garden. Clearly, it’s time for some basil dishes.
Fresh sweet basil, prolific in the summertime in Philly, should be enjoyed while in season. Handle basil leaves gently. They bruise easily. Basil is not a great “keeper” herb, so pinch it and use it, or store it as a bouquet of flowers in a glass with a little water in the refrigerator. To retain basil’s flavor, it’s best to add it near the end of cooking.
I pinched off several stems to use, knowing the plant will send out new shoots and rise again before summer is past. It is possible to wash, quick-freeze, and put whole basil sprigs in a plastic bag in freezer for use in cooler weather. Basil leaves offer a healthy dose of vitamin K and also vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Basil is a heart-healthy herb, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
The following recipes will help use your basil.
BASIL-PEANUT BUTTER SALAD
8 cups Boston, red leaf or mixed baby greens – washed and torn into bite-size pieces
3 scallions, trimmed of most green, sliced thin
¼ cup peeled, pitted, ripe mango or peach
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. water.
½ cup basil leaves
- In a blender or food processor, combine mango or peach, peanut butter, sugar. Process.
- Add vinegar, water and basil. Process to blend.
- Tomato and basil – their marriage has always been perfect together. Enjoy the following tomato-basil recipes. Serve soup or sandwich or both with your salad.
1 small loaf French or Italian bread
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup red onion, minced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thick
Fresh basil leaves (about 20)
- Cut open loaf but do not separate.
- Drizzle or brush top and bottom of loaf with oil.
- Sprinkle garlic and onion evenly over bottom of bread.
- Place basil leaves to cover the garlic and onion
- Place mozzarella slices over basil leaves.
- Place tomato slices over mozzarella
- Salt and pepper to taste.
TOMATO BASIL SOUP
2 cans plum tomatoes, broken up (28 oz. each)
1 can chicken broth (14½ oz.)
4 tsp. brown sugar
¼ cup butter
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
20 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
- Add tomatoes (break up somewhat with kitchen scissors), broth and sugar to a large saucepan or soup pot and bring to boil.
- Reduce heat, stir, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low. Stir in butter, evaporated milk and basil.
- Cook on low just until butter is melted, and milk is incorporated.
If you still have some basil to use, try the following muffins. These muffins use a handful of blueberries, which are also plentiful at this time. With just a little sugar, low-fat milk, applesauce and egg whites, you could eat two muffins and not feel guilty. Just mix muffins with a spoon. No need to overbeat.
BASIL BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
1 cup uncooked oats
½ cup skim milk
1¼ cups whole-wheat flour
2½ tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. canola oil
½ cup orange juice
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup blueberries
½ cup basil, minced
½ tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Grease a 12-cup muffin tray or spray tray generously with oil spray.
- In a small bowl, combine oats and milk. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and brown sugar.
- Make a space in the center of the flour mixture and add oil, orange juice, applesauce and egg whites. Stir lightly.
- Stir in oat mixture.
- Add vanilla, blueberries, basil and cinnamon.
- Stir just until mixed.
- Fill the muffin cups about half full, divided evenly.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 3412 Progress Drive, Suite C, Bensalem, PA 19020)