I’ve always said I would take a bouquet of basil over flowers any day of the week. I’m so excited to finally spotlight my favorite herb! It’s most well known in Italian cuisine, but you’ll also find it in Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, as well.
There are two general types of basil: sweet, which is most common, and lime & lemon, which has a citrus flavor. It is a part of the mint family and resembles a peppermint leaf. It has an intoxicating aroma when the leaves are chopped or torn, complementing many dishes.
How Basil Earned the Title of King
Basil derived from the Greek word “basileus” which, In English, translates to the word King. But that’s not the only reason it’s the king of herbs. It’s rich in antioxidants and loaded with nutrients. Studies suggest basil can reduce inflammation and swelling, offering relief to people with arthritis. It has been shown to kill harmful molecules to prevent any damage from free radicals in the brain, heart and liver. It also inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
Cooking with Basil
Fresh basil is preferred over dried because it packs so much more flavor. Summer is the perfect time of year to find or grow fresh plants. Look for basil with vibrant leaves that are a nice green color. Stay away from plants that have dark spots or yellowing.
Store fresh basil in the refrigerator, with a somewhat damp paper towel wrapped around it. You can also freeze it in an airtight container or combine the basil with water or stock to use in future recipes.
If fresh basil is not available, choosing a spice store over what’s available in the supermarket tends to give you higher quality, more flavorful options (I use Spices for Less). Be sure it’s kept in a cool, dry place and it will stay fresh for about six months.
When cooking with basil, be sure to add it towards the end of the cooking time so you get the most flavor from it.
Basil’s most popular dish is pesto. Standard pesto can be a bit high in fat, so I’ve made a low-fat version that you’ll absolutely love!
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