Basil counts among the few herb with a deeper flavor when cooked.
Basil combines well with oregano, as used in Italian cuisine. Consider it a perfect match for tomato sauce.
Basil is one of the most popular herbs today, present in every kitchen. It probably originated in India, where it was considered a sacred herb, although it was not used in cooking. Basil is mostly associated with Mediterranean cooking, especially the south of France and Italy.
How to identify basil
The plant can grow up to eighteen inches (45 cm) in warm climates. The leaves have a bright green color and a sharp licorice taste when they are fresh. Basil varies in quality; it has sweet scented fragrance and a very distinctive flavor when it grows in sunny climates. The varieties grown in northern regions may not be as sweet; they become harsher and more pungent.
Sweet basil - tender green leaves and a flavor reminiscent of cloves.
Fresh opal basil - milder flavor than sweet basil, purple color.
Purple ruffle basil - milder flavor, purple color and serrated leaves.
Thai basil - it tastes more like anise than sweet basil does.
Lemon basil - very much like sweet basil but with a lemon aroma.
Holy basil - also in the lemon aroma group.
Cinnamon basil - basil with a cinnamon taste.
How to use and store basil
Basil can be dried, but it is much better fresh. Dried basil does not look or taste the same as the fresh herb; its aroma is a combination of lemon, anise and resin. Basil freezes well; otherwise, it can be preserved in oil.
Basil is usually one of the herbs of Provence. It is a main ingredient in the Italian green pesto sauce, served with pasta. A simple tomato and mozzarella salad can be made grand by adding a little basil; this also applies to many sauces, particularly tomato sauce. Basil goes particularly well with sweet peppers and eggplant. It can be used in egg, meat and fish dishes.
Cooking with basil
On a low heat, simmer some pork chops covered with minced onions and cider. Sprinkle chopped basil over. When the chops are ready, mix a touch of heavy cream with the sauce and pour on top of the meat. Serve.
Basil is also used in this baked salmon with fresh herbs.
Basil substitution - if a recipe calls for fresh basil and you don't have it, substitute 1 Tbs chopped fresh basil leaves with:
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 Tbs fresh oregano - varies the flavor
- 1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley or coriander - for pesto type sauces
- 1 Tbs mint leaves - good in Thai dishes
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme - thyme flavor
Try using half a cup of finely chopped basil leaves as stuffing for roasted duck. Add sweet basil leaves to a pork casserole.
Add basil to your breadcrumbs, for extra flavor, before usin them to coat veal scallopini. Basil combines well with marjoram and oregano for breadcrumbs.