Recipe Day: Basil with Benefits

Filed in Gather Food Essential by on September 18, 2011 0 Comments


I was off and running do to volunteer work at Beth Israel Hospital (I will be working in the emergency room and on another unit as a “Pastoral Care” volunteer), and ran right through the Union Square farmer’s market when I remembered my promise (a few days ago) to share some wonderful basil recipes with you. The market was abundant with piles of sweet corn and juicy peaches unwittingly waiting for an unexpected partner:  Ocimum basilicum. Below you will find a recipe for “green corn” — in which boiled sweet corn gets rubbed with a fist full of fresh basil leaves and coarse salt, and a recipe for the quickest dessert imaginable, based on ripe peaches and a basil chiffonade. Both are adapted from Radically Simple and truly are.

Not only does basil have a unique flavor profile (which most of us adore), it also has distinctive medicinal properties — both anti-microbial and anti-fungal.  As Hippocrates once said, “Let food be our medicine, and medicine be our food,” we are continually blessed, protected, cleansed, bolstered, buoyed and emboldened with inadvertent health benefits from the food we eat.  Basil’s health-promoting factors are due mostly to their flavonoids and volatile oils which protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. Basil is remarkably high in Vitamin K which is essential for bone building, heart protection, and in aiding blood clotting. Its vibrant essential oils make it an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. All that, and its wondrous contribution to pesto!, may make this one of the world’s most desirable herbs.

There are over 60 varieties of basil to choose from. But you can just begin with one. I grow it in my window box that hangs off my sunny kitchen window — a fistful at a time.

“Green Corn”
Rub steamy ears of fresh corn with fresh basil and you’ll inhale a perfume that screams “Summer!”

6 large ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
fistful of large fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, in small pieces
1 lime

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the corn, return to a boil, and cook 3 minutes.  Wash the basil and dry very well.  Sprinkle with kosher salt. Transfer the corn to a platter.  Rub each ear with salted basil leaves.  Dot with butter; squeeze lime juice on top.   Serves 6

Peaches with Sweet Basil

This is a winning, and unexpected, combination of flavors.  Enjoy.

4 very ripe large peaches
1/2 cup peach schnapps, chilled
2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil

Wash and dry the peaches.  Cut into thin wedges and place in a bowl.  Stir together the schnapps, honey, half the basil, and 1/4 cup ice water.  Pour over the peaches and stir.  Transfer to 4 wine glasses.  Scatter with the remaining basil.

About the Author ()

Renowned chef, author and international food and restaurant consultant, began my career at age 23 as first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch. I am a four-time winner of the prestigious James Beard Award and winner of the IACP/Julia Child Cookbook Award. My

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