Around The Table: Holy Basil, Batman!
Back to school, back to work, back to back demands of the day…. sometimes I just need a little something different to help me get a fresh perspective or to relax and take a break so that I may continue on, don’t you? Sometimes that comes with finding a new use for something I thought I already understood how to use. (Like finding an article on 10 different uses for those little plastic adhesive hooks or 101 crafts for cardboard rolls from toilet paper or paper towels.) Now, I am learning a new appreciation for basil!
Our family enjoys basil in our spaghetti sauce, but I don’t think we stopped to really appreciate its many uses and benefits before. Our neighbors use it to make pesto. We have found that adding basil and garlic to the water flavors pasta as it boils or chicken as it cooks. Mmmm!
More recently, I’ve begun picking a few leaves of basil and boiling them into a refreshing tea for a change of pace. That raised my curiosity as to just how healthy this plant might be. Come to find out, not all plants by the name of basil are exactly the same, but most seem to have the same general nutritional benefits of providing Vitamins A, C, K, and some folate. They contain small amounts of the minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Naturally, they have no cholesterol, caffeine, nor salt. They have at least four times the amount of Omega 3s than Omega 6s, which is good news for those with inflammatory issues, like arthritis.
In the Lamaiceae family with the mint plants and chia seeds/plants, basils are designated Ocimum species and there are more than a few of them. Sweet basil seems to be used more in Italian recipes. Thia basil is found in Thia/Siamese, Vietnamese recipes. Holy basil is used more in Indian and Nepalese recipes. Lemon basil is used in Indonesian, Loas, and Malaysian recipes. Uses of the various types of basil for normalizing blood pressure, blood glucose, stress and other medical conditions by Eastern medicine are now being researched by Western medicine scientists. There are abstracts and articles available online for those who want to learn more.
Here are a couple of our easy recipes using basil (fresh from the garden or the grocery store or dry in a jar) to share:
Flavor to savor tender chicken breast:
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic (more if desired)
1/2 to 1 tsp chopped basil (or basil and oregano)
2 pieces of raw chicken breast (whole or chopped)
1/4 tsp ginger (dry powder or fresh grated) optional for Asian flavor
Combine first 4 ingredients (and ginger if desired) in skillet and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium. Add chicken and cover with lid. Cook chicken for about 3 minutes then remove lid and turn chicken to cook chicken on other side. Cut pieces in center (or thickest part) to check if done all the way through. Serve hot or cold. It’s delicious and juicy served as a main entree or may be chopped and added to a stir fry, chicken salad, sandwich, on a pizza, or added to a green salad.
Refreshing Basil Tea (for drinking or for cooking)
A generous handful of basil leaves and stems (collected in the morning ensures more flavor in the leaves)
2-3 cups water (filtered water provides a purer flavor)
Bring to a boil, then let rest or steep. Pour into a cup and enjoy as a tea or use to flavor soups, stews, homemade pastas. Sweeten with honey, agave, stevia, or sugar (cane or beet), if you wish.
Super Salad Dressing
1/4 cup oil of choice (olive, avocado, rice bran, canola)
1/8-1/4 cup water (filtered if possible, so it doesn’t change the taste of the other ingredients)
1 tsp or more of lime juice or cranberry juice or vinegar (apple cider or rice vinegar)
1/4 tsp dry basil or 1/8-1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/8 tsp powdered ginger (optional)
1/8 tsp powdered garlic or 1/4 tsp minced garlic (optional)
1 tablespoon honey or agave (optional, if sweetness desired)
1 small avocado (optional, for creaminess) peeled and chopped
salt/pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Whisk well. (I prefer to use a blender or food processor when including avocado, just to thoroughly blend the ingredients.)
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 quart jar of filtered water
2-3 large leaves of basil (more if small leaves)
Combine and let sit in refrigerator overnight.
Enjoy as a refreshing drink (cleansing the palate and the body) especially after mowing the yard or doing other “hot” work.
Please share your recipes and ideas with our dear editor and let’s all enjoy the flavor!
Best of health to you all!
This article is not meant to diagnose nor recommend treatments for allergies or illnesses. As always, check with your health care provider to be sure that you are eating foods that are beneficial to you and your family, especially when there are certain dietary needs in your family.