Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Basil Season

Late August brings about many harvests, tomatoes, eggplants  and of course basil,It's one of the most prolific plants with each plant sprouting hundreds of leaves. What's great about it, is that basil is so easy and addictive to use.It can add punch and flavor to everything from pizzas to pastas.

Basil is one of the most ancient herbs, originating in India over 5,000 years ago.It was the Greeks, however to name it,,from basilius, the king and has been associated with the Feast of The Cross,in the Greek Orthodox religion.It refers to St Helena's Emperor Constantine's mother's pilgrimage to Jerusalem,According to some, it could have been used to perfume ancient royal oils and baths. Many chefs  consider the king of herbs.The plant is a staple in Italian cooking but also is popular in Southeastern Asian cuisine too,Italians use the sweet or Genovese kind while Thais, Laotians and Vietnamese cook with Thai basil.The last has a spicier taste, perfect for rounding out  red and green curries along with drunken noodles.The herb's benefits are bountiful.It's high in Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, along with Vitamin A and beta carotene. The leaves are also loaded in such minerals as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese Vitamin C and potassium,It's volatile oils such as estagole and myrcene give it antibacterial qualities too, which are important in restricting the growth of harmful bacteria.It's best to use freshly picked leaves to take advantage of all it has to give.

Basil gives so much flavor to various dishes . One of the most famous is pesto sauce, originating in the Northern Italian seaport of Genoa. The basic recipe is two cups of fresh leaves pureed with Parmigiano or Romano cheese ,extra virgin olive oil, and pine nuts. Garlic cloves and fresh ground pepper are also added to round out the sauce. It works well with any kind of pasta, but it great served with ravioli or tortellini, It can also be used on toasted Italian bread as alternative to garlic bread or even as a green pizza. Basil does have a strong, herbal taste that may be too overwhelming at first.You may just want to use it sparingly at first. Try chiffonading the leaves. You can do it with one individual leaf  or a pile of stacked (I prefer individual). Tightly roll the leaves - think little cigars., and then using a sharp kitchen knife.slice the roll into four pieces . The result is pretty bright green ribbons that go well in a tomato salad or addg oomph to a Margherita style pizza. Basil gives a fresh "green" flavor to tomato sauces, whether salsa crudo or a mellowed one that's been on the stove for an hour.  Basil can be easily frozen too.It's just snipping off the stems , then washing and drying them before putting them in freezer bags.They can last up to a year, hile stile maintaining their distinctive flavor.

Take advantage of the basil harvest right now. The leaves are great to use in fresh or cooked dishes, adding color and flavor. Celebrate this royal plant in a number of ways.

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