Big on basil


Big on basil
Besides being one of our most fragrant summer herbs, basil has become as common as chives in herbal gardens across the country. Here, we’ve used fresh basil abundantly in fast flavourful dishes that will fill your kitchen with spicy aroma.

First published in Chatelaine’s September 1999 issue.
©Rogers Media Publishing Inc.

Spicy basil-shrimp stir-fry

1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 mL) sesame oil, preferably dark
2 tbsp (30 mL) grated fresh ginger
2 large minced garlic cloves
1/2 to 1 tsp (2 to 5 mL) hot red chili flakes
1 lb (500 g) fresh or frozen, cooked or raw peeled shrimp
2 sweet peppers, preferably 1 red and 1 yellow, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded fresh basil

Heat oils in a wide frying pan set over low heat. Add ginger, garlic and chili flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 min. Add shrimp (if using frozen shrimp, rinse with cold water to remove ice crystals) and peppers. Turn heat to high and stir-fry until shrimp are hot and pink, from 3 to 4 min. Stir in basil. Taste and add salt, if needed. Serve on a bed of greens as an appetizer or with rice, pasta or couscous as a main course. Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 entrées

Nutrients per serving
24.6 g protein, 7.1 g fat, 5.6 g carbohydrates, 3.8 mg iron, 62 mg calcium, 256 mg sodium, 1.4 g fibre, 187 calories.

* Excellent source of iron and vitamins A and C

Caesar-basil chicken

2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
2 to 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup (50 mL) creamy caesar dressing
1/4 tsp (1 mL) Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/4 cup (50 mL) coarsely chopped fresh basil
Pinches of salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a wide frying pan set over medium-high heat. When hot, add chicken. Cook until lightly browned, turning once, from 3 to 4 min. per side. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes, dressing and Tabasco. Stir, then cover and simmer, turning chicken once, until chicken is springy and juices run clear, from 10 to 12 min. Stir in basil, salt and pepper to taste. Wonderful with couscous or mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. Serves 2

Nutrients per serving
34.7 g protein, 22.1 g fat, 8.5 g carbohydrates, 1.4 mg iron, 47 mg calcium, 386 mg sodium, 2.3 g fibre, 371 calories.

*Good source of zinc and vitamins A and C

Herb how-tos

  • Refrigerate basil, unwashed and wrapped in a barely damp paper towel in a plastic bag, for up to three days.
  • Wash and cut basil just before using since it blackens quickly after cutting. Wash basil by plunging it in and out of cold water until grit is removed. Dry using a salad spinner or wrap in several changes of paper towel.
  • To freeze basil, wash and dry it well. Remove stems from the leaves. Place leaves flat on a piece of waxed paper that will fit into a resealable plastic bag. Add another piece of basil-covered waxed paper. Top with a piece of waxed paper and freeze. To use, crumble frozen leaves into sauces, soups and ragouts. Once frozen, basil turns black and becomes limp. However, the taste is preserved for several months.

Get Chatelaine in your inbox!

Our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers. Delivered a couple of times a week.