As a child, I never understood the importance of herbs. They all seemed like weeds to me and I found their flavors to be somewhat, well, gaggy. However, I also hated salad and coffee growing up – two of my now loves – so that doesn’t say much about how mature my palette was at the time.
But now, as a full-fledged 26-year-old adult, I adore herbs; and especially, basil.
While basil and I first tip-toed into our relationship via the world of margherita pizza and classic pasta sauces, we’ve now taken it to the next level. As in, I eat it plain, straight from the earth by the handfuls. Needless to say, things have gotten serious.
And with this matured relationship has come exploring and lots of it. Below are just a few ways you too can branch out and experience more of what this vibrant herb has to offer.
Put in on a sandwich. This may sound like an out-there concept, but trust me; I tried it recently and it was one of the most flavorful and delicious sandwiches I’ve ever had. The idea is simple: Just take two slices of lightly toasted baguette or sandwich bread, smear on some good quality peanut butter and top it with a generous handful of fresh basil and a drizzle of honey. The result is a refreshing, complex sandwich that’s both healthy and indulgent. Move over PB&J, PB&Basil is the new mainstay.
Use it to top your burgers. Don’t just top your pasta and pizza with basil, top your burger with it, too. This healthy recipe for Italian Olive Burgers features basil in a simple relish in place of the overdone ketchup, mustard and pickle option. Try this easy swap and your palette will thank you for it.
Put in in your dessert. While most cooks find such common uses for basil as topping their savory Italian or Thai dishes with a few sprigs, I say put it in your dessert. Two examples of this are a Peanut Butter Basil Milkshake from Minimalist Baker, and a Chocolate Cake with Basil Buttercream from Vanilla Bean Blog. Both demonstrate how basil can be elegantly used as an unexpected addition to your sweetest dishes.
Add it to a panini. Simply put, if you haven’t added basil to your panini, you’re missing out. As demonstrated by How Sweet It Is, layer basil, blackberries and fontina cheese on a rustic baguette, press and grill, and wa-la: you have lunchtime magic.
Put it in your cocktail. Basil, much like mint, has such a bold and refreshing flavor that it only makes sense to add it to beverages as well as food. Our favorite examples of this are a Thai Basil Bliss Cocktail and this Red Bell Cocktail from Cookie and Kate, both of which feature basil as a star ingredient. Using this lively herb is a simple way to take your happy hour to a whole new level.
I think we’ve only just begun this spirited discussion on the complexity of basil, as it’s too beautiful of an herb not to be used diversely. And wouldn’t you know, now is the perfect time to start experimenting with basil as it’s in season and wildly abundant at most farmers markets. So what are you waiting for? Your milkshake, panini and cocktail are just waiting to see what you’ll do with this fantastic herb.
July 25th, 2012