Basil is an herb, the
green leaves of which are used extensively in Italian
cuisine. It is the basis of pesto sauce, and is also
widely used as a garnish.
Basil is best used fresh
and can usually be bought either as a potted plant, or
harvested leaves. The leaves on the potted plant will
remain fresh provided the plant itself is well cared for.
Harvested leaves will keep only for 1 or 2 days and are
best used on the day of purchase, or frozen. The leaves
can then be used from frozen in recipes. Basil can also be
bought dried and stored in a jar, which is best kept in a
cool dark place.
Chopping Basil is an
inefficient way to release the flavors from its cellular
structure. To maximize flavor from chopped Basil, first
place it in a ziploc bag, and then pound it with the flat
of cleaver or a meat tenderizer. Pound until the leaves
appear wet, and then proceed to chopping.
Other types of basil
Thai cuisine uses a
different type of basil called Thai basil. It tastes more
like mint or anise than basil, so it is noninterchangeable
with Italian basil.
Holy basil (or
krapow) is also used in Thai cooking, and has a disinctive,
hot flavor, quite different from both regular basil and
Lemon basil is
used in Indonesian cooking, eaten raw (often along with
with raw vegetables: cabbage, cucumber and long beans) as
an accompaniment to fried fish or duck.