Holy Basil! Learn About the King of Herbs

Basil has gained recent attention for its multiple uses in food, medicinal properties, and cosmetic applications. Basil is often touted as the ‘king of herbs’ as it has been used in many myths and legends by the royal family to ward off evil; it literally ‘killed off’ people with its unique smell and properties. Folklore also tells us that this herb was used to seduce, ward off evil, and ensure a pathway to heaven! The term ‘holy basil’ was coined from this very legend.

Today, basil can be used to make the ever-popular pesto, used as an herb in a variety of cooking styles, and also be added to cosmetics for skin absorption and benefits. A member of the mint family, basil grows in primarily tropical climates and is a native plant of Asia. It is a soft, leaf-like plant that can be grown indoors; it is popular among herb enthusiasts and can be started easily in small pots.

Add basil to bread, enhance your meat and vegetables with its enticing aroma, or simply create a homemade pesto by crushing it and mixing with olive oil. Fresh basil is very different in flavor, texture, and consistency compared to the dried version found in most grocery store shelves; opt for fresh basil whenever possible, and use the leaves to marinate meat, add to lettuce, or accent vegetables. The possibilities are endless, as this sweet herb has a low-impact on sensitive tastes and preferences.

A basic pesto sauce is a great way to start learning and appreciating the flavor and opportunities of cooking with basil. A simple recipe for basil pesto:

Homemade Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
�¾ cup olive oil
�½ cup walnuts*
�½ cup pine nuts*
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese
�½ teaspoon salt
�½ teaspoon pepper

*both of these can be removed from the recipe for those with nut allergies; pine nuts can be found at most health food stores and are best stored in the refrigerator to maintain freshness

Chop the basil, garlic, and nuts, until fine; you may use a food processor on a light setting to speed up this process. Add olive oil, cheese, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, as this maximizes the flavor. Store in an airtight container.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto, and is enough to add to a pasta dish, serve as a marinade, or use with mayonnaise to make an addictive sandwich spread! Homemade pesto also freezes very well, and can be stored for at least 3-4 months.

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