I love fresh basil- and per our recent Facebook questionnaire on your favorite herb, you do to! Here are some facts on your favorite herb and of course some tips for incorporating basil into your summer meals.
The most commonly grown species of basil is “sweet basil”and is super simple to grow on your own (it is easily grown indoors or outdoors), and equally as simple to find at your local farmers market or grocery store. Not only does it have a healthy nutrition profile, but it’s also a great herb to have around the house since it can be used in a variety of cuisines, including Italian, Thai, and Greek, which means it will never go to waste!
When possible, choose fresh basil over dried—this way you will get all of the beautiful aromatics from the natural oils in the basil plant. The leaves should be vibrant, deep green and free from spots or yellowing.Store your fresh basil in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. It can also be frozen in airtight containers for later use.
Basil adds a serious flavor boost so don’t be afraid to get creative with it! Here are 10 uses:
- Pesto. This is the most obvious and quite possibly the most delicious way to use up extra basil! Combine fresh basil with arugula or spinach, olive oil, lemon, garlic and walnuts.
- Leafy green salad. Roll a few basil leaves and toss with other salad greens for a burst of flavor.
- Heirloom tomato and basil salad.Check out your local farmers market for a variety of beautiful heirlooms.Slice, add basil leaves and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Basil vinaigrette. Make a healthy and aromatic dressing for your salad or roasted veggies. Combine basil, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar, crushed red pepper and black pepper.
- Homemade tomato sauce. Ditch the store-bought stuff, which typically is loaded with salt and sugar, and opt to make your own with fresh ingredients. Make sure to add basil at the end of the cooking process to preserve its flavor and aroma.
- Stir-fries. Consider getting creative with a Thai-basil veggie stir fry.
- Fruit and basil salad. Slice your favorite summer fruits and toss with lemon juice and fresh basil for a refreshing snack or dessert.
- Basil tea. Boil water with basil leaves and lemon zest for a soothing and earthy homemade tea.
- Basil and strawberry infused water. Combine water, sliced fresh strawberries and basil in a pitcher with ice to jazz up your water.
- Smoothies. Make a watermelon and basil smoothie. Combine watermelon, raspberries, fresh basil leaves and ice in a blender until mixed thoroughly.
Basil is considered to be a symbol of love in Italy, so make sure to sprinkle basil good-ness wherever you can!
-Danielle Rosenfeld MS, RD