Beautiful Basilico (Basil)
If you're new to cooking with fresh herbs let us take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the best ones to start with - Basil! Not only can you produce a homemade Pesto that will WOW friends and family alike - this versatile herb, specifically when used fresh, can add a fine flavour to tomato dishes, salads, and even cocktails!
While this herb is widely used in Italian dishes - spaghetti sauces, pizza sauce and garnish, and the obvious, Pesto sauce - it's also excellent for fish or meat dishes, and combines beautifully with lemon thyme, parsley, chives, and/ or garlic. It can be added to vegetable casseroles and well as sitr-frys.
This fine herb can also stand on it's own as a delicious addition to a salad. Basil vinegars are also a delightful addition as a salad dressing; making a dressing with purple basil results in one that is equal parts colourful and tasty.
At Italian Centre Shop we carry a splendid assortment of fresh culinary herbs, grown and packaged locally at Morinville Greenhouses. Known for their fresh basil, their herbs are grown with out sprays and pests are controlled with biological methods. Available year-round on the Italian Centre Shop shelves - NOW is the time to give cooking (or cocktail mixing) with fresh Basil a try!
Here are some great ways to explore using this beautiful herb in you kitchen
Fresh Basil Salad Dressing
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Add everything except olive oil to a blender and puree. Slowly add the olive oil to the basil mixture so it will emulsify and blend thoroughly.
- Store in refrigerator.
- You can use red wine vinegar in place of the white balsamic but we found it a bit acidic and had to add a teaspoon of honey. The white balsamic is the perfect blend for us — just a touch of sweetness and less acidic.
100g pine nuts
2 large bunches fresh basil
100g good parmesan like Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated (available at ICS)
300ml extra virgin olive oil.
4 garlic cloves.
Salt and Pepper
Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan on low heat until golden brown.
Put the pine nuts and rest of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Yes, it’s that easy. Pour in a jar and cover with a little extra olive oil. Should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Tomato Basil Pizza Sauce
1tablespoon olive oil
2cloves garlic, minced
1(14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1⁄8teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2tablespoons fresh basil, coarsely chopped or 2 teaspoons dried basil
Heat oil in medium saucepan over a medium heat until hot.
Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 8-10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring and mashing tomatoes with potato masher until crushed.
Stir in basil.
Place in small bowl; cool to room temperature This sauce may be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated or up to 2 months ahead and frozen.
Herb syrups make refreshing drinks for summer, so try this Basil Lime Cooler with your favourite spirit.
Bring water, maple syrup to the boil, lower heat, add basil leaves and simmer for ten minutes. Strain and cool. Makes enough for 8 cocktails and keeps in the fridge for a week.
Grow your own basil at home. Inside or out!
Plant seed outdoors when frosts are over and the ground is warm, start indoors in individual pots, or buy bedding plants. Plant in full sun, in well-drained soil enriched with compost, aged manure, or other organic materials. Basil needs ample water. Mulch your basil plants to retain moisture after the soil has warmed. Pinch plants frequently to encourage bushy growth, and pinch off flower heads regularly so plants put their energy into foliage production.
Grow a few basil plants in containers so you can bring them indoors before fall frost. Or make a second sowing outdoors in June in order to have small plants to pot up and bring indoors for winter. As frost nears, you can also cut off some end shoots of the plants in the garden and root them in water, to be potted later.
Begin using the leaves as soon as the plant is large enough to spare some. Collect from the tops of the branches, cutting off several inches. Handle basil delicately so as not to bruise and blacken the leaves.
You can air-dry basil in small, loose bunches, but it keeps most flavorful when frozen. To freeze basil, puree washed leaves in a blender or food processor, adding water as needed to make a thick but pourable puree. Pour the puree into ice-cube trays and freeze, then pop them out and store them in labeled freezer bags to use as needed in sauces, soups, and pesto.