How to Add More Basil into Your Life

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Original Image by Amanda Slater via Flickr

Need more reasons to incorporate basil into your diet?

Basil, the herb in all those Italian dishes, is the perfect adornment for your kitchen’s windowsill.  Have no room for a backyard garden, but enough of a base to sit something on the corner window? Tell me, were you thinking day lilies, daisies, etc…? Guess what else? This herb in all those Italian dishes, is the perfect adornment for your kitchen’s windowsill.

Now, about Basil… It originates in Thai, Indian and Asian regions of the globe. They use it in meat dishes. Learn more about this topic from Edible Allegheny.

There is more than one kind of basil, too. While you may be most familiar with the Thai or sweet basil, the green plant variety shown above, there are more muted flavors from the purple basil (aka Opal Basil), lemon basil or the raw plant. This last one is commonly used in desserts and cocktails, providing a licorice like flavor.  Basil is the ultimate complement to tomatoes, pine nuts, onions, garlic and olives. It’s often used in both Italian and Thai dishes. Learn more about these in Food and Homecooking.

Now, a little about pairing…When mixed with many spices this herb’s taste becomes overpowered. However, when paired with oregano, thyme or sage, the blend is superb. To intensify the flavor, add it near the end of the cooking process. If heated for too long the leaves lose their flavor according to Homecooking.

Here are some cooking and serving tips to follow when using basil as a substitute:

  • Pesto~ check out this video:

  • Use in salads of arugula, baby kale, spinach, and other garden greens.
  • Skewer basil leaves, grape tomatoes and mini-bocconcini (mozzarella balls) cheese on toothpicks.
  • Place it in ice cube trays.
  • Make pesto with basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil. Spread on sandwiches, potato salad, grilled fish, wraps and use in pasta. Check these out in The Kitchn. Make a whole batch, freezing some if needed.
  • Pair with summer fruit (i.e. strawberries, blueberries and mango)
  • Strawberry Basil Margaritas 

    Original Image by Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr
    Original Image by Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr
  • Infuse it into olive oil: can be drizzled on chicken and/or salads
  • Smoothies: blend kiwis, basil, banana, grapefruit juice and ice cubes together
  • Add to stir frys, such as Thai Chicken with Basil or Chicken Mango Basil Stir Fry.
  • Pizza: this spice can be used to make a delectable homemade pizza sauce or placed on the pizza as a topping. After trying Allrecipe’s Exquisite Pizza Sauce, you won’t be able to use jarred sauce ever again!
  • How about sorbet: with lime or strawberry or even blackberries
  • Fresh vs Dried substitutions: 1 tsp dried basil = 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil = 1 tbsp chopped fresh summer savory; 1 tsp dried basil = start with 1/2 tsp marjoram, oregano, thyme or tarragon then add more if necessary. When substituting fresh for dried basil, triple the amount. This statement comes from Homecooking.

Need more reasons to incorporate herb into your diet? Basil has many health benefits. It cleanses the liver, restores nerves, and reduces rheumatic joint and muscle pain. It can be stored easily too. Wrap it in damp paper towels and put it in a plastic bag for up to 4 days. Alternatively, place the basil, stem facing down, in a glass of water with plastic wrapped over the leaves, for about a week changing water regularly. Dried herbs can be stored for up to 6 months in a cool dark place. This statement comes from Edible Allegheny and Food.

To get started growing your basil plant it’s best to begin in the cooler, earlier days of summer. Preserving the herb for later use in the more frigid months via air or oven drying can provide a splendid supply of basil all year round!

What’re you waiting for? Whether it’s a pot on your windowsill or you’re already planning ahead for next year’s harvest, make sure to add basil to your must have list!

About Nies, MS, RD, LD

Nikki recently moved to Dallas, TX and is currently working at Christian Care Center, an elder care community, providing nutrition assessments and evaluations to all residents. In her free time, Nikki enjoys biking or challenging herself to a chess game!

About Nies, MS, RD, LD 111 Articles
Nikki recently moved to Dallas, TX and is currently working at Christian Care Center, an elder care community, providing nutrition assessments and evaluations to all residents. In her free time, Nikki enjoys biking or challenging herself to a chess game!

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