I look forward to one of my favorite summertime smells, basil. It has a smell that screams freshness and a taste that kicks all recipes up a notch. No, not that dried stuff you've had in your cabinet since you moved out of your parents house in 1995, the real stuff. Beautiful and green, it's easily damaged. Basil is a delicate herb, and oxidizes quickly (turns black when bruised or pureed). Like parsley and dill, basil is best used fresh or added in at the end of the cooking process. Long-term heat will damage both the color and destroy the intensity of its flavor. Other herbs are considered hardy. Herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary are best added in at the beginning of the cooking process and don't taste as good raw.
Are there any health benefits of basil other than its amazing taste? You betcha! Basil is highly antimicrobial, making it great for those with bacterial infections. It's also a powerful anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to protect endothelial cells, the cells lining blood vessels. Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms or a spasming of the heart muscle or a blood vessel. In addition to the health benefits and nutrients described above, basil is also an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, a very good source of copper and vitamin C, and a good source of calcium, iron, folate and omega-3 fatty acids. For more information on basil, click here.
How can you preserve basil? Make pesto! All pesto can be frozen. I highly recommend this! Do it right away. Once the basil has been pureed, it will oxidize quickly, and turn a darker, almost brownish color. As this happens, the benefits of it do lessen. By freezing it or using it right away, you maximize its nutritional benefits and can enjoy the freshness of basil year round! If you have a lot of basil, you can blend it with a little water, and freeze it in ice cube trays. It'll make a perfect addition to soups, sauces, and stews during that season that is always around the corner (its name shall not be mentioned).
Here are a few recipes that use basil:
Nut-Free Pesto (oil-free too!) served on top of spiralized zucchini noodles:
As always, happy eating! Please let me know what you think of these recipes and visit me over on www.gardenfreshfoodie.com for more ideas!