Monday, September 27, 2010

Basil - The King Of Herbs

Basil is a very fragrant herb that is related to mint. It is thought to have originated in India, Asia and Africa and has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. It has a slight flavor of anise and is used in Italian, Greek, and Asian cuisine. Its name comes from the Greek word for king. There are over 60 varieties of basil including those with purple leafs, ruffled leaves, large or lettuce leafed basils and oriental types. Genovese basil is the type used for the popular pesto sauce of Italian cuisine. There are also lemon and cinnamon flavored basils. The flavor of basil can be easily lost by cooking it too much, so it is most often added towards the end of cooking.

Basil is a very healthful herb, as it provides the body protection from bacteria at a cellular level. It also has anti-inflammatory properties plus is rich in vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron.

Basil is best used fresh. It is very easy to grow, and should be sown directly into the garden in a spot that gets full sun and is well-drained. The soil should not be too rich, as basil does very well in poor soils. It is very sensitive to cold, and much prefers a lot of heat. Harvest when it starts to bloom for the best flavor. It also does well as a potted plant.

Pesto sauce is the showcase recipe for this herb and is easily made:

2 cups Genovese or sweet basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Place basil leaves, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. Chop these ingredients by pulsing the processor until they are all roughly chopped. Remove contents from food processor and place in a bowl. Add olive oil and cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Pesto can be put over any freshly cooked pasta, a baked potato, a slice of pizza, even spread on a piece of toasted Italian or French bread.

My Zimbio