Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How and When to Use Spices: Basil

Written by Meaghan Maess, Buffalo State College student and communications intern at Catholic Health

Over a three week period, we will be looking at different spices and how they can benefit your health. Last week we covered how and when to use oregano. This week we will be looking at basil.

What is Basil?

Basil is a herb in the mint family that has a mild peppery flavor with hints of mint and clove.

What Basil Can Do for You

  • Provides small doses of iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin K
  • Provides nutrient lutein, which keeps eyes and skin healthy and combats free radicals

How to Buy Basil

When buying fresh basil, make sure the leaves are a vibrant green and do not have any dark spots or signs of decay. Fresh basil can be found in the produce section of grocery stores, or you can buy dried basil from the spice section. You can also grow your own basil.

Basil leaves should be layered with damp paper towels and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It should be used within 4 days. It can also be frozen or dried. You can dry basil by layering it with salt in an airtight container. Dried basil should be used within 6 months.

Cooking with Basil

The stems of basil tend to be bitter, so when cooking with fresh basil only use the leaves. For the most flavor, use fresh basil and wait to add it to your food until you are almost done cooking.

Basil goes well with oregano, rosemary, sage, onion and garlic. Many other herbs and spices overpower the flavor of basil.

Sprinkle Basil On:

  • Tomato dishes (pasta, ravioli, tortellini, tomato soup)
  • Olive dishes
  • Vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, squash and spinach
  • Poultry stuffing
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Pasta

Recipes that Incorporate Basil

Basil Tuna Steaks
Green Bean Salad
Fettuccine with Mushrooms
Caprese Salad
Basil Pesto
Basil Chicken
This article was reviewed and approved by Deborah Richter, a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga.

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