Though known for its aesthetic value as a garnish, basil also offers a ton of nutritional benefits. According to doctor of natural medicine Josh Axe, basil "is known to be an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and powerful adaptogen." For those unfamiliar with the term, adaptogenic herbs help maintain the body's equilibrium so that you can fight off diseases, respond well to stress, and make sure your metabolism is working efficiently, each of which keeps your immune system strong. The great and natural neutralizers, if you will.
But with or without these adaptogenic qualities, I'd still liberally sprinkle fresh basil on all my food. In fact, I'd scarf down a salad composed entirely of basil leaves. So I decided to spotlight eight dishes that incorporate this aromatic herb for a summer full of deliciously refreshing eating. Scroll through to find out how to use fresh basil in all of your meals, from eggs to salad, pasta, cocktails, and yes, even ice cream.
The Breakfast of Champs:
This sweet potato hash with basil vinaigrette from Spoon Fork Bacon is the perfect way to start your day. Made with shallots, a whole clove of garlic, lemon juice, and a bunch of basil, it has a sauce you'll probably want to replicate for all your meals. Since this is a hardier recipe, the invigorating basil vinaigrette balances it out.
The Light Vegan Lunch:
As mentioned earlier, basil will add a refreshing taste to any salad. This recipe from The First Mess is the perfect summer lunch to cool you off, calling for a juicy watermelon base and topped with avocado, crunchy cucumber noodles, pumpkin seeds, and a zesty chili lime and basil dressing. Aside from their tastiness, these fresh ingredients are also light enough to prevent you from experiencing a midday food coma.
The Afternoon Pick-Me-Up:
If you get hungry between meals, spring rolls are a great afternoon snack to hold you over. And how good do these look? From I Am a Food Blog, this recipe yields succulent grilled shrimp, crunchy veggies, and of course basil. The rolls are also super easy to eat while you're on the go.
The Winner Dinner:
Consider this chicken cordon bleu recipe from Half Baked Harvest a fresh, modern twist on the classic comfort dish. The creamy, rich flavors are balanced out by the aroma of basil, and it's all baked to perfection for a slightly crispy texture on the outside.
The Side Dish:
This honey raspberry and brie crostini dish topped with basil oil and fresh leaves would seriously impress some dinner guests. From Half Baked Harvest, this recipe is sure to look as good as it tastes. Make it as a side dish with a salad for dinner or serve it on a cheese plate for appetizers if you're entertaining.
The Vegetarian Dinner:
If you're a vegetarian or simply want to use more basil at the dinner table, give this pasta recipe from Mitzy at Home a try. With a lemon ricotta cream sauce, plenty of zucchini, and basil leaves mixed in, this is officially our ultimate summer comfort meal.
The Happiest Hour:
If you want to enjoy basil in your cocktail, too, we suggest making this blackberry basil mojito brought to us by Minimalist Baker. Sip it while you eat alfresco, and we promise you won't be sorry (it's basically a dessert)!
The Real Happiest Hour:
Just when we thought we knew our favorite flavor of ice cream (mint chocolate chip, of course), we found this upgraded take from Brooklyn Supper. Made with both basil and mint, it's the best way to cool off and end a day of basil-themed eating on a sweet note.
How do you use fresh basil leaves at home? Share your cooking tips in the comment section below.