Northeast Times

Best of Basil

The pos­sib­il­it­ies are end­less: There are many dif­fer­ent basil-based dishes that are easy to cook.

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

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

Dress­ing:

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.  

BASIL-TO­MATO-MOZ­ZARELLA SAND­WICH

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)

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