Basil is a popular herb in Italian cooking, particularly in pesto. Delicious and fragrant, basil is rich in vitamin K and is a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A and magnesium. It has a natural anti-bacterial component that helps to protect your digestive tract, and contains flavonoids, which can protect your cells from the destruction caused by radiation. If you think that you’re not exposed to radiation, think again. Its summertime and the sun is the biggest source of radiation around.
Vitamin K in basil is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood and plays a vital role in the bone strengthening function.
Vitamin A helps to prevent damage to the cells by free radicals. Vitamin A also prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream, preventing the cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels.
Magnesium is also present in basil. This essential mineral helps the heart and blood vessels to relax, improving blood flow.
The farmers' markets are full of fresh basil right now. Always bear in mind that when it comes to nutrition, freshness is most important. The vegetable that was picked yesterday is not nearly as nutritious as the one picked today, and the one picked last week isn't nearly as good for you as the one picked yesterday. If you buy fresh basil, try to use it within a day or two. To hold off wilting, I put fresh cut herbs in a jar of water on my kitchen counter as I would fresh flowers. Snip the ends every day and they will last for a week or more.
If you want to make pesto but don't know how, here's a simple recipe. For every cup of basil leaves, use a half cup of olive oil, a third of a cup of Parmesan cheese, one clove of garlic, and a handful of pine nuts. Add some black pepper to taste. Use a blender or food processor to puree. Toast your pine nuts and then stir them into the pesto. It shouldn't take more than ten minutes to get it together. Serve it over your favorite pasta.
The fresh, spicy flavor and scent of basil will wake up any boring salad or soup. Use fresh basil whole, or shredded to add a burst of flavor to your dinner. If you are using fresh basil in a cooked dish, add it towards the end of cooking, so that the volatile oils will not be dissipated by the heat.
Ever thought of using your basil for dessert? The first time I saw this recipe I was really excited. Lemon and Basil are two of my favorite flavors, but together?! I wasn't convinced...until I made them. These are now one of my favorites. Enjoy~
Tomato Basil Pasta
8 Ounces Pasta
1 Large Tomato
1/2 Cup Raw Cashews
2 Sun Dried Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Salt (more to taste)
3 Tablespoons Red wine or Water
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Large Handful Fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped
- Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook pasta while preparing sauce.
- Core the tomato, roughly chop it. Add it to your blender, seeds, skin and all. Add cashews, tomato paste and ¼ cup water. Blend until very smooth.
- Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, about a minute. Add sauce from the blender into pan and simmer. Add salt and let cook for 4-5 minutes, stir occasionally. Add wine to thin out the sauce if needed. Taste and season more if necessary.
- Add pasta to the pan with chopped basil leaves. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Carol DiPirro has been passionate about cooking, nutrition and healthy eating since she was a child, baking her first eggless cake from scratch at 8 yrs old. Growing up in an Italian family, clean healthy eating was the furthest thing from her dinner table. She has enjoyed years of re-creating her family’s favorite meals in a lighter, healthier way. She is currently studying towards a degree in Nutrition. Join Carol's Facebook Fan page: Chilly Peppers.