In the Victorian language of flowers, basil signified love or good wishes. In Ancient Greece, it was the "royal" herb. In India, it is sacred and is believed, in the Hindu religion, to protect the dead from evil. It is often planted around temples there. In Italy, it signifies love, and a pot of basil placed on the windowsill of a single woman indicates her willingness to entertain suitors.
"A man taking basil from a woman will love her forever."
Sir Thomas Moore
So goes the famous quotation, and I abide by it wholeheartedly. I put basil in just about everything, and so far, my husband has stuck with me for going-on 15 years.
This hot, hot summer, when my garden scorched early on and never recovered, one crop managed to survive. That crop was basil. It's done remarkably well despite the heat, and we've eaten it in a wide range of recipes from main courses to drinks to desserts. We've added it to sauces, put it on pizzas, made a delicious basil simple syrup to add to lemonade for an interesting twist, tossed it with fresh berries and balsamic vinegar, and made countless caprese salads and sandwiches. This summer, I discovered Thai basil stir-fry, and I've begun adding it to all of my fried rice and stir-fried dishes. If you can cook it, you can add basil to it.
Now that summer's winding down, it's almost time to harvest what remains of it and make one last batch of pesto for the freezer. I freeze the vibrant sauce in ice cube trays and pop them out as needed. Adding a cube or two to your pasta or pizza sauce takes it from delicious to divine. Thawed and tossed with hot pasta, pesto makes a quick and easy meal for a busy night. Used as a sandwich spread, it elevates grilled cheese, turkey, or vegetable sandwiches to "favorite" status. I love basil for its delicious flavor, its preservability (it's a fantastic memory of summer in the middle of winter!), and its versatility. Not to mention its man-catching properties.
A few of my favorite basil recipes:
1 cup basil simple syrup (see below)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups cold water
Mix well and serve over ice, garnished with fresh basil sprigs.
Basil Simple Syrup
Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. Add 1 cup fresh basil leaves; remove from heat. Let cool, then strain leaves out. Add to iced tea or lemonade.
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 TBSP pine nuts, toasted in a skillet until fragrant
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups fresh basil leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste
Whir the garlic and pine nuts in the food processor until minced. Add the basil and cheese. With motor running, add olive oil in a thin stream through the feed tube until desired consistency is reached (should be spreadable but not too thin or it gets too oily). Add salt and pepper to taste. Can be used immediately or frozen in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out of trays and store in freezer in a zip-top bag.
The BBT Sandwich
2 slices whole-grain bread, toasted
Handful of fresh basil leaves
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked
Mayonnaise (the good stuff)
Spread mayonnaise onto bread. Layer tomato, basil, and bacon on top, then top with second slice of bread. Can add lettuce, avocado, cheese, etc., if desired.
Text and images (c) 2010, Lisa Kuebler