Pretty, shiny things

I’m going to be preoccupied with basil for a while. Take a peak:

Allow me to introduce you, dear friends, to my buddy, my kitchen cohort-du-jour, Basil. It’s that time of year again, when Trader Joe’s is the proprietor of fresh, potted basil, a plant that will feed my culinary imaginings for weeks to come. Brian picked it up for me on Mother’s Day, rather than flowers (does this man know me or what?) and I’ve been admiring it all week. I’m enamored of its gracious leafiness, of its silky sheen that convinces any who look upon it that I more or less know what I’m doing.

Fresh herbs are my ace in the hole, my sure thing. My raison d’être, even, because if it weren’t for fresh herbs, I may not be here at all, culinarily speaking. My cooking got a whole lot better once I learned that if you throw in some chopped of this and a few leaves of that – at the right times and in all the right places – you effect that sensation we know as flavor.

One of the items on my life list is to grow an herb garden, and I swear I’ll do it, some future day (just trying to keep it real, to project myself through a dreamy portal just east of pragmatic – an herb garden being a far more realistic goal for me to achieve than, say, growing summer squash or green beans). I’ve made a number of efforts to sprout things in pots, and it always comes down to a severe talent deficit, an almost unjust lack of intuition. That, and I’m hard pressed to find appropriate light in my house, and the poor shoots, when I get any, whither and fade if I place them outside in our miserable heat, even in the early morning. But as I understand it, basil is supposed to enjoy heat, leaving me to conclude, then, that the problem can only be me.

If anyone out there (anyone? anyone?) would care to enlighten me, to instruct me somewhat in the care and growing of herbs, I’d be grateful. And in the meantime, I’ll share my favorite hot weather things to do with basil. What are yours?

  • Chopped and mixed in a cold salad of just-tender peas, crumbled chèvre and mint
  •  Scattered over a pasta salad with lemon zest and shrimp
  •  Stirred into couscous just before serving
  •  Whole leaves in panini with fat slices of tomato and buffalo mozzarella
  •  Sprinkled into a frittata
  •  Boiled in a simple syrup and swirled into lemonade
  •  Sliced, chiffonade-style, and then spread over a grilled pizza topped with roasted corn and tomatoes
  •  In a vinaigrette with orange zest, orange and lemon juices and walnut oil (this was last night’s concoction, drizzled over sautéed scallops atop baby greens, avocado and orange segments)

7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Maddie said,

    From what I just read, basil is a neccessity. I lkie how you listed the different ways you like to use basil.

  2. 2

    tiff said,

    MMM, basil! I’ll have to try your basil concoctions (sp). Also, loved Maddie’s comment, spot on, so cute! And I’m going to buy the white whole wheat, thanks for the wheat 101!

  3. 3

    parsnipsaplenty said,

    I love basil and goat cheese beaten in with scrambled eggs. Heaven, I tell you! Also – I am a fellow consumer of that salt you’ve got in the picture there. I stocked up when I worked at a health food store and got a discount.

  4. 4

    Trisha said,

    Lauren: Glad to find a fellow fan of the Lima salt. It’s so unique — I even use it on popcorn! They used to have it on the tables at one of our favorite eateries, and when I finally happened upon it at Whole Foods, I was thrilled! Funny how these things make us happy…

  5. 5

    Brittney said,

    Cool! I just started growing basil and cilantro in my garden out back last month or so. I’ve been using it like crazy now!

  6. 6

    Food Lover said,

    Fresh basil does add that extra something you always seem to be looking for. BTW Great photos.

  7. 7

    Chef Tell said,

    It’s always nice to have fresh herbs in the house. Its even better when you know what to do with them like you obviously do.

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