Basil is one of those herbs that I simply cannot live without. I started adding it to my homemade spaghetti sauce a few years ago and I was hooked. I don't know what I like better, the taste of it in my food, or the lovely aromas it brings into my kitchen! When we plant our organic vegetable garden this spring, I think we will try to grow basil this year - because there is nothing better than fresh basil, (sorry McCormick)!
Although basil has the Greek meaning of"King", it actually originates from India and parts of Asia, as it was often featured as a part of Indian and Chinese cuisine, as well as was used as a part of Indian medicine. Basil dates back over five thousand years and is most known for its pungent smell, which can sometimes be strong enough to resemble anise, which is a strong licorice flavor. Sweet basil is the most common basil used by chefs today, as it is the plant used in Italian cooking.
Basil is an annual plant, however it typically does best in warmer clients. It is most commonly used as the finishing touch on a fresh or organic meal, as overcooking it tends to eliminate the flavor. Once picked, it can be packaged in an air-tight or ziploc container for fresh keeping, typically up to a week and possibly longer.
My favorite use for basil is creating a pesto sauce, which consists of plenty of fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic, which creates an herb sauce that is most often used on bread, sandwiches and dips. I have just recently become overly obsessed with a chicken panini sandwich at our local deli, which features ingredients similar to bruschetta, but with chicken added. The sandwich features fresh organic tomatoes, a ton of spinach, chicken, a thin layer of mozzarella and a hearty spread of fresh pesto. Throw all these together between two fresh pieces of bread inside a panini press and you've got one amazing organic sandwich!
Bev Cooks features a very similar recipe for a chicken pesto panini that looks simply mouth-watering. It features a freshly made pesto, asparagus, French baguettes, roasted red peppers and shredded mozzarella...healthy, full of organic ingredients, beautiful AND delicious!
Get creative and come up with your own daily excuse to use basil, just as we do!