Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ocimum basilicum compendium

The way I see it, why not put basil in everything? I've got two huge pots with about 15 strong, seed-grown plants each and I simply cannot pick leaves off faster than new ones appear. This is not for lack of trying either - even before I start cooking an inkling of a dinner I'll step out to the porch and cavalierly yank a big handful of leaves, figuring that whatever dish I decide to make there'll be a soft spot in its heart for a whole lotta fresh basil. Partly, this indulgence is due to the herbs own baffling deliciousness which I keep expecting to (but never does) diminish with gluttonous overuse; and partly it is due to the whirling calculator in my head that delights in noting how much money I would be spending on all this basil were I to buy it at the grocery store (probably in the hundreds of dollars so far for this season) but instead am lasciviously enjoying for the paltry price of a packet of seeds and a little potting soil.
More than many deserving and competing flavors, this one has become, for me, the taste of summer. It can sometimes be finicky to grow in the Pacific Northwest, generally preferring the hot dry weather that exists for about 3 days out of the year here in Seattle, but this Summers' long heat waves has made our home a thriving basil paradise. So, once again, why not put it in everything? (OK, so I can name one bad decision a few years ago whereby I ended up with a big bowl of basil ice cream. This was, at first bite, intriguing; at second, strange; at third, queasy; and finally, just abandoned for fear of ruining the herb forever, to be added to my "Never again" list with Peppermint Schnapps and steamed celery.)
Here are some suggestions (to give credit where credit is due, some of these inspirations belong to my girlfriend); first, for the uninitiated try basil on:

*Pizza (never cook the basil though, always add fresh right before you eat!)
*Sandwiches (try to stick to the savory sandwiches, peanut butter is only so-so)
*Caprese salad
*Almost any breakfast dish (omelettes, breakfast wraps, scrambles etc.)
*Greek "Pizza" (this one is a proprietary creation of my girlfriend and I, and a mainstay of our menu consisting of miscellaneous greekish ingredients thrown on top of a pita bread with hummus, you can try it, but then you owe us royalties.)
*Spring rolls (Oh my god, I want a spring roll right now)
*Homemade pesto
*Pho (basil is pretty much the only easy part of making Pho from scratch)
*Mojito, instead of or in addition to mint

If you're feeling more brave try some of these basil-applications (or don't)

*Huffing the leaves
*Basil Soda
*Toss into a trail mix or granola
*Basil Jello
*Basil Jello shooters
*Basil float (combine the aforementioned basil ice cream with the aforementioned basil soda)
*On your breakfast cereal, instead of bananas
*Use basil instead of post-it notes in the office
*Wrap leaves into a resonant tube to make a soulful basil flute
*As a hair accessory
*As a bribery tool
*Substitute basil leaves for your favorite deck of playing cards and watch the faces light up at your next poker night
*Basil lingerie, for those sultry Summer nights
*Next time you're feeling down, pull up a chair next to your basil plant and give it a piece of your troubled mind

That should get you started, anyway. Now, you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy a delicious cup of fresh basil coffee and a basil danish to start this day off right.


  1. mmmm.....more basil...

    -Cucumber salad (calls for dried, but when you have fresh...use it)