Considered a sacred herb in its native India, basil is traditionally found in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cooking. But its mildly peppery flavor with hints of mint and clove lends itself to many cooking styles.
It's an ideal complement to tomatoes, as well as eggplant, squash, spinach, zucchini and other mild vegetables. Basil also enhances poultry stuffing, salads, soups and pasta sauces…and is a star ingredient in pesto.
Store dried basil in a cool dark place. Bunches of fresh basil may be frozen in plastic bags. Just break off a few frozen leaves when you need them.
Cutting Fresh Basil
Homegrown basil is a wonderful addition to recipes and can be used as a pretty garnish, too. But chopping one leaf at a time can be tedious. To quickly chop a lot of basil and end up with attractive results, create basil chiffonade, which is just a fancy term for thin shredded strips.
Before cutting basil chiffonade, sprinkle a few drops of vegetable oil on the leaves and gently rub to evenly coat the leaves. This will prevent them from darkening.
Stack several basil leaves and roll them into a tight tube. Slice the leaves widthwise into narrow pieces to create long thin strips. If you'd like smaller pieces, simply chop the strips.
This cutting method works well with other leafy herbs, such as sage, to quickly enhance the appearance of your dishes.
Well-Seasoned Basil Recipes
Fresh basil is a standout in this easy-to-make Stir-Fried Basil Chicken (pictured at left) from Mildred Sherrer, a field editor in Fort Worth, Texas.
A dash of red pepper puts zip in Pesto Shrimp Pasta (pictured above) from Gloria Jones Grenga of Newnan, Georgia.
Field editor Rachel Garcia of Honolulu, Hawaii shared the recipe for this Garden-Fresh Bruschetta (pictured above). Serve this easy-to-fix bruschetta as an appetizer or as a colorful side dish.