“A man taking basil from a woman will love her always” according to Sir Thomas Moore, both a Renaissance man and a saint — and he may actually have something here. And did he know that in ancient Rome, basil symbolized love? Here in the New World, basil has become a staple in our herb gardens and is featured on menus everywhere.
No longer some fancy herb used solely to make pesto, ultra-fragrant basil is a forgotten aphrodisiac, now making a comeback and found in everything from pancakes to ice cream and martinis, side by side with oysters and chocolate, both also libido boosters.
Southeastern Asian cuisine would not be complete without basil used in curries, phos and stir fries. By adding fresh basil toward the end of the cooking stage of the dish, the aroma and flavor remain intact; the longer basil is exposed to heat, the less potent it becomes.
Grow a few basil plants in containers so you can bring them indoors before fall frost.
RECIPES BY CARRIE HIRSCH
To jazz up grilled vegetables, seafood, poultry and steak, keep basil butter on hand.
INGREDIENTS (makes ó cup)
½ handful basil leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick salted butter, slightly softened, cut into pieces
PREP: Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor, pulse until smooth. Transfer to a ramekin, cover and refrigerate.
Caprese on a Skewer
BY CARRIE HIRSCH
Mozzarella “pearls,” fresh mozzarella balls the size of miniature marshmallows found in the refrigerated cheese case in the deli section of supermarkets, are a bit light on flavor on their own, but paired with a few simple ingredients, they really make a tasty appetizer. This recipe can be prepared a few hours in advance, refrigerated and kept covered until ready to serve.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 10-12 as an appetizer)
1 (8-ounce) packaged mozzarella pearls (about 80)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (about 40)
1 handful basil leaves, cut into ½” strips
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
10-inch wooden skewers
PREP: Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated. Press a strip of basil across the cut side of each tomato, then insert a mozzarella pearl over it and into the cavity (ends of the basil strip will stick out on each side, making it look like a bird, and the pearl will be secure inside the tomato.) Place 6-8 on each wooden skewer. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.