The key to beautiful, bright green ribbons of basil on your dishes is a sharp knife and a simple technique.
Chiffonade is a very pretty word for the very simple process of slicing basil or any other delicate herb into very thin ribbons. The word sounds as light and airy as the spirals of basil themselves. A chiffonade of basil is also an easy way to add a bright touch of green — and the fresh taste of basil — to your spring and summer dishes. If this is technique is unfamiliar to you, this guide will take you through each step.
Here's all you need to know about making a chiffonade of basil: stack, roll, slice. Stack the leaves on top of each other, gently roll them into a cigar, and then use a sharp knife to slice them into thin ribbons. Nothing more than that!
When working with fresh basil in this manner, there are two things to keep in mind that will make your dishes both beautiful and flavorful:
Use a Sharp Knife
Basil bruises very easily. If your knife is dull, you tend to bruise the basil leaves and crush the edges rather than slice them cleanly. It's also harder to make the very thin ribbons of a chiffonade without a very sharp knife. So for beautiful, bright green ribbons of basil on your plate, definitely make sure your knife is sharp.
Add Fresh Basil to Finished Dishes
The oils that make basil leaves so deliciously aromatic are also very delicate. For this reason, it's almost always best to chiffonade the basil just before using it and then add basil at the very end of cooking — even waiting to sprinkle it over each plate just before serving. Basil is delicious raw and the residual heat from the dish is will wake up that wonderful basil aroma.
How to Chiffonade Fresh Basil Leaves
What You Need
Fresh basil leaves, any amount
- Pick basil leaves: Pinch the stem of an individual leaf close to wear it joins to the main stem of the basil plant, which is healthier for the plant. You can trim the long stems off the leaves or leave them attached, as you prefer. Pick as many leaves as you need for your recipe.
- Stack the leaves: Stack the basil leaves on top of each other. Stack them so the top of the leaf is down and the underside is facing up, so the leaves cup each other.
- Roll the leaves into a cigar: Gently roll the leaves into a cigar. Hold the roll closed against the cutting board with your fingers curved.
- Thinly slice the rolled basil leaves: Starting at one end of the roll of basil leaves, thinly slice the roll crosswise to create thin ribbons. If you're using a chef knife, it's easiest to leave the tip of the knife against the cutting board and slice the basil with a rocking motion, moving incrementally down the roll.
- Continue slicing the entire roll: Continue slicing until the entire roll has been sliced into thin ribbons. Sprinkle the ribbons over finished dishes just before serving.
- This technique can be used to slice thin ribbons of any delicate green, like mint, sage, or arugula.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)