It is basil season! Woah! It was all over the market last weekend & will continue for the next few weeks I’d imagine. I love basil season.
What I’m currently learning more about are the different varieties of basil. I knew there was a lemon basil, Thai basil, a purple basil, and sweet basil – but I didn’t know about the holy basil variety. Holy cow that smells different! At times, it might be a bit overwhelming. Our local farmer introduced me to this variety. It is VERY different. We have tried it a few different ways this week.
As usual, some background from wikipedia…
- basil is from the mint family (Lamiacae)
- basil was originally discovered in India & other tropical areas of Asia
- basil has been cultivated for more than 5000 years
- most varieties of basil are annuals
- Sweet Basil is typically found in Italian food
- Thai, holy, and others are typically found in Asian food
In my head, basil was mostly linked directly to a nice caprese salad. I also thought of it a lot in red pasta/pizza sauce. I also knew sweet basil was a primary ingredient in most pesto sauces. As I have cooked more, I started to use Thai basil more in my cooking. I actually assumed Thai basil and Sweet basil were totally unrelated. Go figure!
I’m sure there are a million versions of pesto recipe’s. A basic one includes a big bunch of cleaned basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan (optional) – all blended together in a food processor. Change the ratio around to taste. Variants include blanching the basil leaves first, toasting the pine nuts, using pecans or other nuts, or adding other herbs (cilantro!). Please feel free to post your favorite pesto recipe in the comments.
It is also super easy to freeze pesto. Make your pesto then put it ice cube trays in the freezer. After a few hours, it should be solid. Then transfer the pesto to a large plastic bag. Label the bag and store it in your freezer. Whenever you need pesto, just grab one of the chunks!
We make pizza somewhat frequently. Fresh basil on a pizza can be wonderful. A very simple pizza can include a light dusting of red sauce, some whole basil leaves, fresh sliced tomatoes, and slices of fresh mozzarella. Another option is to put the basil pesto on the pizza as your sauce instead of a red sauce. We LOVE this. It creates quite an amazing base to your pizza. Try pesto, caramelized onions, and anchovies – if you want to try a family favorite.
A favorite of mine! Slice some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and some basil on top. Be sure to sprinkle some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some salt & pepper to taste. This is a lovely salad is quick and easy. Try to find some heirloom tomatoes at your local market and experiment with the different tastes. That can really enhance the flavor profile of your salad!
Basil Lemon sorbet:
Our farmer friend was really trying to encourage us to try something creative with the Holy basil. There was a sale on lemons at the store. We used google. We found this great recipe on the Oh My Veges blog. Unfortunately we do not have Meyer lemons around- but, normal lemons worked well. The Holy basil added a HUGE flavor punch to the sorbet.
Basil in your Omelet/eggs:
We regularly make scrambled eggs with herbs. Cutting up some fresh basil and mixing it into your eggs (while you scramble them) along with some salt & pepper can add some great flavor to your breakfast.
Basil with various other dishes:
Adding basil to sautéed seasonal vegetables can be great. We were cooking summer squash the other day with some left over garlic scapes we found buried in a friend’s fridge the other day – added some chopped basil and it was great!
You could also add some fresh chopped basil to baked fish.
Basil as a primary ingredient in a soup stock would be lovely too. You could freeze that easily for use in the colder months.
With all of these great ideas for basil you might want to have basil around throughout more of the year. Basil is easy to store. You can wash the leaves, dry them, then put them flat in a large freezer bag in the freezer. We do this with basil and cilantro.
Lots of great ideas for basil here. Wondering what are some of your favorite uses? Please leave a comment!