Basil

Basil

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

This fragrant, aromatic herb is a member of the mint family and is widely used in Italian cooking. They call it the tomato herb because it goes so well in all dishes containing tomatoes.

It is an annual, so is available fresh only during summer, but keeps well packed in oil for winter cooking. Simply snip leaves from the stems, pack in a jar and cover with olive oil. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator and remove leaves as required.

Use fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips or torn roughly just before using, in all salads, particularly with tomatoes. Add to salad dressings, and blend into butter for sandwiches. Use to add fresh flavour to scrambled eggs and cheese sauces, sprinkle on pizzas before baking and over pasta dishes. Sprinkle lamb chops and liver with chopped basil before cooking, and stir a little into the pan juices after cooking chicken, meat or fish. For a simple but superb Mediterranean-style salad, alternate slices of fresh tomato and baby mozzarella cheese on a serving platter and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and fine ribbons of basil.

Just a word of caution – unlike some herbs, the flavour of fresh basil bears little relation to the dried variety. To enjoy the true aromatic taste, it is necessary to grow your own, or patronise a greengrocer who sells fresh herbs in season.

See also: Pasta sauces.

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