When the markets are overflowing with fresh bunches of basil, make the most of it with these creative ideas.
Basil for desserts
Basil in fruit salad:
Toss melon balls, strawberries, and blueberries with lemon juice and finely chopped basil leaves. Start with one or two chopped leaves and add more for stronger basil flavor.
Basil fruit sorbet: Good combinations include lime-basil, strawberry-basil and blackberry-basil. Start with 3 cups of your favorite fruit or berry juice. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, 1 cup of water, and the freshly-squeezed juice of 1 lemon. Blend well in blender and chill the liquid for at least an hour. Pour into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions.
Basil-infused olive oil
You can use basil oil in a vinaigrette for green salad, but it’s also divine drizzled on chicken or roasted eggplant. For optimum flavor, use within a week.
For each cup of olive oil, use two tightly packed cups of basil leaves. Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add basil, making sure leaves are submerged; blanch for five seconds. Drain in a strainer and immediately plunge basil into a bowl of ice water. Drain well and squeeze dry. Puree in a blender with the olive oil; strain first through a fine-mesh strainer and again through four layers of cheesecloth. Pour into a sterilized glass bottle, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
Flavored (aka compound) butters are a sophisticated way to enrich a recipe, especially when made with heady fresh herbs like basil.
Soften a stick of butter at room temperature and then blend with chopped fresh basil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place butter on a sheet plastic wrap and form into a log, wrapping tightly with the plastic. Refrigerate until firm. Cut the log crosswise and use pats of butter to garnish baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, crusty bread, or roasted fish.
Sweet basil jelly
Try this delicious condiment with roast chicken or on a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.
Rinse, drain, and coarsely tear enough unblemished basil leaves to make 1 1/2 cups lightly packed. Chop basil in a food processor, put in a large saucepan, and crush it well using the bottom of a glass or bottle. Add 2 cups of water and bring slowly to a boil; boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain 1 1/2 cups of the basil liquid through a sieve into a saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar, a pinch of salt and 3 1/2 cups sugar and bring to a hard boil, stirring. When the boil can’t be stirred down, add 3 ounces liquid pectin. Return to a hard boil and boil for exactly 1 minute, then remove from heat. Skim off the foam and pour jelly into hot, sterilized jelly glasses, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom. Seal at once with melted paraffin or sterilized two-piece lids. Makes four 8-ounce glasses.
Flavored vinegars are practically effortless to create. Fill a fancy bottle with them and they make excellent housewarming gifts, too.
Pour two cups of white-wine vinegar into a large mason jar, add 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, two cloves of garlic, and sliced peel from an orange. Place the jar in a dark, cool place for two weeks to allow flavors to develop. To use, strain vinegar through a sieve and store in a cruet or a clean mason jar. Use for salad dressings, marinades, or to drizzle lightly on vegetables, chicken, and fish.
Fix yourself this creamy, green, non-dairy smoothie with the aroma of sweet basil; it’s a snap to make. Serves one.
In a blender, add 3 frozen peeled-and-cubed kiwis, 1 frozen banana, juice from a pink grapefruit (about 3/4 cup), a handful of fresh basil leaves, and a few ice cubes. Blend until smooth, pour into a tall glass, and garnish with a basil leaf.
Basil is a member of the mint family, and basil tea can be served after meals as a digestive. And it couldn’t be easier!
To make fresh basil tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped basil. Steep for 5 minutes. Sweeten with raw honey to taste.
Who needs store-bought soda? The basil-mint infused simple syrup keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.
5 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
In a medium saucepan, simmer 2 cups water with 2 cups sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add 2 cups basil and 2 cups mint leaves and let steep for 1 hour. Strain and discard the herbs. Let the syrup cool completely, then add 1/2 cup fresh lime juice to the syrup. Fill a tall glass with ice, add a small amount of the basil-mint syrup to taste and fill with plain seltzer or club soda. Mix well and garnish with a sprig of mint or basil.