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Seasonal Produce: Basil

Whether blended into glistening pesto or tucked between tomato and mozzarella slices, fresh basil is a must-have flavor for summer. This annual herb is used in Mediterranean and Asian cooking and pairs well with tomatoes, beans, pasta, poultry and seafood. Although a member of the mint family, basil tastes subtly of licorice and cloves. In Thailand and Vietnam, it’s often used with mint in stir-fries and salads.

Fresh basil is in supermarkets year-round, but is a better value at farmers’ markets where large, just-picked bunches are often sold. It’s also easy to grow in the garden. Expand your basil horizons by trying more than the sweet, green variety. Try purple opal, lemon, Thai and cinnamon basils, too!

Purchasing

  • Select basil bunches that are brightly colored with fresh, fragrant leaves and firm stems.
  • Avoid bunches with wilted, yellowed or blackened leaves.
  • Like most fresh herbs, basil is very perishable. For short-term storage, refrigerate in a sealed resealable plastic bag with 2 to 3 layers of paper towels for several days.
  • For longer storage, place the basil bunch in a container of water like a bouquet. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag. Refrigerate for up to a week, changing the water in the container every 2 days.

Preparing

  • Wash basil just before using and blot dry with paper towels.
  • When chopping or slicing basil, make sure the leaves are thoroughly dry to prevent them from sticking to the knife. To chop, use a chef’s knife on a cutting board.
  • To thinly slice fresh basil, stack several leaves. Roll stack lengthwise into cylinder. Cut cylinder crosswise at close intervals with sharp knife to form thin strips.
  • Like many fresh herbs, basil tastes best when added near the end of cooking as it loses flavor when exposed to prolonged heat.
  • To substitute fresh herbs for dried, the general rule of thumb is a 3:1 ratio—use 3 times more fresh than dried.
    Example: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil equals 1 teaspoon dried.

Nutrition

  • Good source of vitamins A and C.
  • Naturally fat and sodium free.

Serving

  • Tuck a few basil leaves inside summer sandwiches—such as BLT’s—for a hint of herbal flavor.
  • Sprinkle thinly sliced basil over pizza or bruschetta for a burst of color and Italian flair.
  • Whip up a batch of homemade pesto in the blender or food processor and toss with pasta and tomatoes for a cool and easy weeknight meal.
  • Bump up the taste and eye appeal of side dishes—such as vegetable salads and rice—by blending in a handful of chopped basil.
  • Toss basil leaves into green salads and top with your favorite KRAFT Italian Dressing or KRAFT Special Collection Greek Vinaigrette Dressing.
  • Blend chopped basil with KRAFT Mayo Real Mayonnaise or GREY POUPON Dijon Mustard for a delicious herb-flavored sandwich spread.
  • Substitute fresh basil for dried in creamy dips for fresh summer flavor. Use 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil for each teaspoon dried basil.
Basil
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