Basil is in its peak season locally from July until September. There is nothing like the aroma of fresh basil in the summer, am I right? I like to use fresh basil in pizzas. Further, it's a versatile sauce condiment. I suggest using it in the form of pesto to finish pastas, spread on grilled sourdough bread, or served along with grilled fish and meat. In addition, basil adds an extra pop of nutrients like Vitamins A, K, and C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.
In the steamy summer heat I also like to use fresh basil in smoothies. Ripe pineapple, fresh basil along with ice cubes make a tasty, refreshing concoction.
Pineapple & Basil Smoothie
(recipe makes 16 ounces)
1 cup peeled pineapple, chopped
4 large basil leaves
1 1/2 cups of ice cubes
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1) Put all ingredients in a blender and process for 1 minute.
In terms of pesto, where old and new comes together is with a mix-in like avocado—trust me, it’s a revelation.
(recipe yields 1 cup)
1 ounce fresh basil leaves
1 cup walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 black pepper grindings
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
1) In a kitchen processor add walnuts and process. Turn processor on and off several times in 5-second intervals or use the pulse button.
2) Add oil, water, basil, salt, and pepper. Process mixture for 1 minute.
3) Add avocado and process for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the blender cup and process for 15 seconds.
Traditionally, pesto often has cheese on the ingredient list; it adds an additional dimension. That flavor is known as umami flavor. I keep the pesto relatively light by not adding any cheese. Instead, I like to add two tablespoons nutritional yeast, which adds a cheesy flavor without the heaviness.
You might have heard of holy basil, which has a more peppery, clove-like taste than its familiar Western counterpart, sweet basil. For sure, the two are closely related. It's the secret weapon against various ailments in Ayurvedic cooking. Similar to sweet basil, it can be used to flavor all types of savory dishes. I like to think of it more along the lines of spicy stir-frys and soups than Italian pasta sauces.