Who Loves Ya, Basil Baby?
Although still in a Sunday morning fog, I grabbed my market bags off the hook and stumbled out the front door for the few blocks to my neighborhood farmer's market.
On my short walk, I began formulating my mental shopping list for the week, not paying attention to the fact that I was nearing the white canopies of the market. Suddenly, I was greeted with an alluring perfume, a mix of anise and flowers that immediately lifted me out of my somnambulistic state. "Wow," I said to myself out loud, "what smells so good?"
One more step led me underneath a vegetable seller's canopy where the mystery was solved. Of course. It was the basil making all that aromatherapeutic magic.
She was everywhere I looked, on display at nearly every vendor and graciously infusing the atmosphere -- allowing us to ignore the fumes of traffic if only for a few hours.
With plenty in my backyard, I refrained from buying, but on whiff alone, the basil filled me with inspiration. Should I get tomatoes to go with and make a salad? Wait. No. Basil isn't just for tomatoes anymore.
In addition to its classic tomato partner, basil plays nice with several other (and overlooked) garden pals.
For starters, consider the watermelon. A few leaves of shredded basil placed on top of watermelon chunks imparts magical flavor and aroma, transforming simple summer melon into some kind of wonderful. (Try it with cantaloupe, too.)
Sliced peaches also love partnering up with basil, in a salad or salsa -- or better still, try it in peach cobbler or peach pie! Wowee. Everyone will try to figure out the magic ingredient and won't believe it when you reveal the mystery.
Corn is another suitable dance partner -- on or off the cob. Imagine a corn kernel salad with basil, red onion, chopped cherry tomatoes, red onion and a small amount of curry powder. You'll see how the basil ties everything together, calling all ingredients into action. Corn on the cob is a whole new dish when topped with a slab of compound butter of basil, cayenne and lime zest.
Other basil-friendly contenders: Grilled eggplant, with a mix of mint and garlic, and when in season, mango, sliced, served over rice, topped with - you got it - shredded basil.
What are you favorite ways to use fresh basil? Share in the comments area below.
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