Pestos, Pastas & Aromatherapy: Sweet Basil

Ingredient Spotlight

Sweet summer basil is the Don Juan of herbs. It woos the unsuspecting market shopper with a flip of emerald green leaf while its sensuous licorice-like aroma makes even the most hardened cook smile with pleasure. This is an herb that promises good things to come.

During the summer months, I highly recommend keeping a pot of basil on a sunny windowsill or a glass of cut sprigs on your counter. Not only will its heady aroma keep you company as you cook, but basil has a way of sneaking itself into just about any summer dishes.

I love slicing thin ribbons of basil and scattering them over potato salads and creamy egg dishes. The larger leaves make excellent cups for bite-sized appetizers, like Eggplant Caviar. Anything involving ripe summer tomatoes should also involve basil. This herb also pairs surprisingly well with sweet fruits. And let's not forget the glory that is pesto — in pastas, sandwiches, salad dressings, pizzas, or practically anything else.

For all its robust aroma and powerful flavor, basil is actually a fairly delicate herb. It can't stand up to long cooking, turning sickly green and losing its oomph. It's best to add a handful of basil ribbons to warm dishes in the last few seconds of cooking or even sprinkle the basil over top just before serving. The residual heat of the dish will activate the oils in the basil, making the whole dish aromatic and mouth-watering.

Here are a few favorite basil-icious recipes to tempt and tantalize:

Last Chance Basil Pesto
Mixed New Potato Salad with Sweet Basil and Shallots
Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil
Flatbreads with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Basil
Strawberry-Basil Margaritas
Basil Sorbet

What are your favorite ways to use basil?

Related: Flowers on Your Basil? Pinch Them Off!

(Image: Julia Mihatsch/Shutterstock)

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