Who doesn't love basil??? From the Greek word basileus, meaning "king", basil is rightly known as "the king of herbs" or "l'herbe royale" in the culinary world. With its pungent, fresh smell and zippy taste, basil adds incredible flavor to just about any dish! I didn't have much exposure to basil growing up on Indian food, as the Indian experience with basil tends to be generally limted to tulsi, or holy basil, which is regularly used in Hindu ceremonies and rituals rather than for culinary purposes. However, once I had my first taste of Italian pesto and Thai curries finished with fresh basil, I was hooked!
Like most herbs and spices, basil doesn't just taste great. Scientific research has confirmed that certain compounds found in the oils of the basil plant contain antioxidant, antiviral and anti-microbial properties. In India, tulsi has been used as an Ayurvedic relief of stress, asthma and diabetes. From a cultural perspective, basil is a symbol of love in Italy and Portugal (particularly on the religious holidays of São João and Santo Antão). It is used for religious purposes both in Hinduism as mentioned above as well as several of the Orthodox Churches.
|Basil plants to offer to loved ones during Portugal's "festas dos santos populares"|
Beyond the usual dishes, basil can turn up in some unexpected places! During a recent dinner at Chez Plumeau, a little jewel of a restaurant hidden off of the horrendously touristy Place du Tertre in Montmartre, we were surprised to savor some lime-basil sorbet perched upon a beet carpaccio as a starter. On a hot summer's night, the tang of the lime and the zip of the basil proved to make for an amazing combination in the cool sorbet. In the days that followed, I was determined to make a dessert version with the amazing Domo ice cream maker that we recently received as a wedding present. A quick Internet search revealed a ton of recipes, but the one I used was adapted from All Recipes. It can be made with or without an ice cream maker.
|Beet carpaccio with lime-basil sorbet at Chez Plumeau in Montmartre|
Adapted from All Recipes
1 cup sugar1 cup water
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
handful of fresh basil leaves (about 20), minced
1. Make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Allow to boil 1 minute and then remove from heat.
2. Combine the syrup, lime juice, and basil in a blender and puree. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Done!
If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a container and cover. Store in freezer until completely frozen, about 2 hours. Break the frozen mixture into pieces and place in the blender, blending until smooth. Return to the container and cover. Store in freezer until ready to serve.