I always grow way too much basil. As soon as the weather is hot, these plants grow like weeds. I don’t like to see the leaves turn brown and wither, so I am constantly thinking of ways to use this wonderful scented herb. Of course, there is always basil pesto in my refrigerator or freezer, of which I make plenty. It is wonderful in the winter on spaghetti. But just using basil for pesto all summer gets boring.
Basil is the perfect complement to tomatoes, olives, olive oil, capers, garlic, cheese and summer vegetables. Serve it slivered over thick tomato slices with a drizzle of olive oil or serve it sandwiched between thick slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh tomato with a sprinkling of pine nuts, capers and a drizzle of olive oil.
Here are some of the ways I try to make use of this flavorful herb.
Fresh Tomato and Basil Dressing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Serve this light dressing over a fresh green salad with a slice of warm garlic bread on the side.
- 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Tomato, Watermelon and Basil Appetizer
:6 to 8 servings
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 (4 to 5 pound) watermelon, cut into 32 (1 1/2-inch cubes)
- 32 small basil leaves (or torn larger leaves)
- 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 16 (6-inch) skewers
Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
Starting with the watermelon squares, push the watermelon to the very tip of the skewer, then skewer a basil leaf; then a tomato half. Continue with another watermelon, basil leaf and tomato half. Place the skewer on a serving platter so it stands upright, using the lowest watermelon square as a base. Continue with the remaining skewers.
Drizzle the skewers with the reserved balsamic syrup and the olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve.
Chilled Basil Melon Soup
- 6 cups chopped honeydew
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup lime juice, plus more to taste
Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.
Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Fresh Mozzarella
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 6), chopped
- 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups chopped fresh basil
In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes with the mozzarella, basil, olives, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, add to the tomato mixture and toss.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour the oil over the pasta and toss again. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Brown Rice Salad
This salad makes an excellent side to grilled fish or meat.
- 2 1/2 cups cooked long-grained brown rice
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped seedless cucumber
- 1/2 cup sliced radishes
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup frozen and thawed peas
- 1/2 cup chopped basil
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Shake vigorously.
Put the cooked rice and vegetables into a large serving bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the dressing and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
Steak with Italian Salsa Verde
Serves 4 to 6
You’ll have some salsa verde left over, so enjoy it on chicken, fish or vegetables as well as the beef in this recipe. This is a sauce you will want to have on hand, so I would even double the recipe.
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 anchovy fillet, cut into pieces
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
- 5 cups baby field greens
In a food processor, purée the parsley, basil, garlic, capers and the anchovy fillet. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, pulsing until completely combined. Add lime juice and pepper. Process until blended and the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. The anchovy will contribute salt, so additional salt may not be needed. Set sauce aside.
Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill, broil or pan fry to your liking. Slice it thinly and drizzle with salsa verde. Serve over greens.
Lemon Basil Sherbet
Makes about 1 quart
- 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 8 fresh basil leaves, divided
- 2 cups whole milk
- Juice of 3 lemons, chilled
- Pinch fine sea salt
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar, honey and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add 4 whole basil leaves. Using the back of a large spoon or ladle, bruise the basil leaves against the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steep 15 minutes.
Remove the basil leaves and discard, then whisk in the milk. Place the mixture in an ice-water bath or refrigerate until completely chilled.
Slice the remaining 4 basil leaves in very thin strips. Whisk the lemon juice into the chilled sherbet base, add the sea salt and stir in the sliced basil. Taste for sweetness; adjust by adding an additional tablespoon or two of honey, if needed.
Freeze the sherbet mixture in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. For optimal flavor and texture, freeze the sherbet for a couple of hours before serving.