Thursday, July 12, 2018

Basil and summer are meant to be together.

Nearly 10 years ago, a publisher approached me about a book and asked for one (very small) chapter to take to the Book Fair in Germany to see if it would fly. It didn't. Today I was searching for something, and found the file from that writing sample, and thought I'd share some of it with you.
The mouth-watering aroma and taste in Italian dishes is usually what we associate with basil, but the popular round-leaved, emerald-hued "sweet" basil is just the beginning.  Green Lettuce Leaf or purple "Ruffles" can be mixed into salads with delicious results.

Purple, Opal, or Cinnamon basils make a tasty ruby-red vinegar easily by simply filling a jar loosely with their leaves, and covering for a week with rice wine vinegar.  Strain and bottle for use all during the year.  Lemon and Lime basils are divine with chicken or fish, and the spicy Globe basil is a pleasure for indoor gardeners, growing well on sunny windowsills.  Greek Columnar basil is carefree to grow, as it never bolts or flowers. Thai basil, African Blue basil, Licorice, Holy basil... there are so many to love!

The name of this herb may be derived from the mythical reptilian creature, the basilisk, that was capable of striking one dead with a mere glance.  In superstitious medieval times, it was spurned and dreaded because it was believed that basil plants drew scorpions with their scent and the act of smelling basil would draw the creatures right into the brain. It's not all bad, though! In Italy, basil symbolizes love, and a man may present a would-be lover with a sprig. In the Greek language, basilus means "royal", and is considered by many to be "the king of herbs".  In the language of flowers, basil means "best wishes".  Nowadays, it is one of the most popular herbs in the world.

PESTO is one of the simplest and most elegant of summer meals and the recipe is very forgiving, allowing one to use handfuls to measure.  While the pasta cooks, gather a good handful of fresh basil leaves.  Toss them together with a clove of crushed garlic, a handful of good Parmesan cheese, another handful of walnuts or pine nuts, and enough olive oil to moisten well.  Process to a slightly chunky, green paste.  Serve over piping hot pasta, alone or with shrimp or chicken.  Some crusty bread, a little white wine, and in 15 minutes, you have a luscious culinary masterpiece.  Be sure to make plenty of pesto during the summer and freeze it in meal-sized portions for a delicious green reminder of summer gardens in the dark months of winter.

A cup of basil tea after dinner can be relaxing and beneficial to digestion, relieving bloating and gas.  To each cup, add 2 or 3 basil leaves and cover with boiling water.  Allow to steep 3 to 5 minutes.

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