Basil

Ocimum basilicum

Common Names: Sweet Basil, Garden Basil, and Common Basil. Native to India, widely cultivated elsewhere. Not to be confused with holy basil (tulsi), an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine.

There's nothing like fresh basil to add an incredible kick to just about anything you're cooking. But did you know that in other countries this wonderful spice is also used for its medicinal properties? It contains six different compounds that reduce blood pressure and ease the symptoms of emphysema and bronchitis. Basil also makes a good insect repellent. So next time you're in the garden and the bugs start biting, grab a few sprigs and rub them on.

 

Paper or plastic—or basil?
Scientists are using antimicrobial extracts from the herb basil to develop a plastic wrap for meats and cheeses that will better protect them from contamination.

 

Basil's extracts extend foods' shelf life by killing off bacteria such as E. coli and listeria, which can cause food poisoning. Tests indicate that the basil wrap can keep bacteria away from Cheddar cheese for a week longer than traditional packaging.


Two chemicals from basil--an ether called methyl chavicol and the alcohol linalool--are used in the wrap. The compounds are active against eight different types of bacteria.

 

We wonder: Will they use it to package basil?

 

Source: Better Nutrition, October 2003

 

Basil Risotto

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 50 minutes
NOTES: Roasted red peppers are wonderful with this dish; serve them whole, on the side, or minced, on top.
MAKES: 6 servings

 

About 6 1/2 cups low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1  cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2  cloves garlic, peeled
1  tablespoon olive oil
1  cup shredded parmesan cheese
3  tablespoons butter
3  shallots (about 2 1/2 oz. total), peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio or other short-or medium-grain white rice
3/4 cup dry white wine

 

1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring 6 1/2 cups broth to a simmer; cover and reduce heat to maintain simmer.

2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, whirl basil, garlic, and 1 teaspoon olive oil until coarsely chopped. Add cheese and whirl until finely ground.

3. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the butter to a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat; when hot (mixture will be foamy), add shallots and stir often until limp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add rice and stir often until beginning to turn opaque, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Add wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 6 cups broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until almost absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes total. Stir in basil mixture and cook, stirring often, until rice is barely tender to bite and mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes longer. If risotto is thicker than desired, stir in a little more broth.

5. Ladle risotto into wide, shallow bowls, and serve immediately.

 

Per serving: 316 cal., 37% (117 cal.) from fat; 13 g protein; 13 g fat (6.4 g sat.); 38 g carbo (4.5 g fiber); 932 mg sodium; 26 mg chol.

 

 

Basil Shrimp Scampi

 

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 40 minutes
NOTES: To sliver the basil, stack about six leaves at a time; starting at tip ends, roll up tightly, then thinly slice rolls crosswise. If desired, serve scampi with grated parmesan cheese to add to taste.
MAKES: 4 servings

 

1 pound dried linguine
1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds shrimp (35 to 40 per lb.), peeled (tails left on), deveined, and rinsed
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon hot chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, slivered (see notes)

 

1. In a 6- to 8-quart pan over high beat, bring about 4 quarts water to a boil; add linguine and cook, stirring occasionally, just until tender to bite, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/3 cup cooking liquid; return pasta to pan.

2. Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, melt butter with olive oil. Add shrimp, garlic, chili flakes, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir for 2 minutes. Add wine; stir often until shrimp are opaque but still moist-looking in center of thickest part (cut to test), 3 to 4 minutes longer. Stir in basil.

3. Pour shrimp mixture into pan with cooked pasta; mix gently If mixture is too dry, add reserved pasta-cooking liquid. Divide evenly among four wide, shallow bowls. Add salt to taste.

 

Per serving: 795 cal., 26% (207 cal.) from fat; 45 g protein; 23 g fat (8.8 g sat.); 91 g carbo (5.4 g fiber); 479 mg sodium; 242 mg chol.

 

Recipe Source:  Sunset, July 2002

 

 

For certified organic basil, visit the Organic Herbs & Spices Page.