Basil is sometimes called “Kiss-Me-Nicholas” in various parts of Italy where it is considered a token of love. A girl wearing a sprig of basil suggest her beau need not keep distance. In Romania if a boy accepts basil from a girl it means he’s engaged. Basil is an annual plant of the mint family and native to India, Africa and Asia. It is one of the oldest herbs known to man; considered sacred in India. It has a floral anise- and clove-like flavor and aroma, basic to every herb garden. Decorative pots of basil often adorn the café tables of Italy and France as it supposedly keeps flies away.
Basil is most often associated with Mediterranean foods like pesto and tomato sauce. It pairs naturally with tomatoes in Italy, with fish in England and is a must in fresh salads. It enhances eggplant, green beans, peas and cucumbers.
Basil supports health on many levels. Its volatile oils have been utilized as a health-promoting essential oil for centuries, and it makes a flavorful infused tea, in addition to its nutritional and flavor-enhancing properties when used as food. In fact, this unassuming herb has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties while stimulating digestion. Just goes to show you can’t underestimate the power of “simple” foods and herbs. When you think you are merely enjoying the sweet, pungent flavor basil adds to your dish, this herb goes to work giving your body extraordinary support for its health and well being.
Now is the time to plant your patio basil, available at Donahoe Farms in Nazareth.
Here is a recipe perfect for today with asparagus being in abundance right now:
Pasta with Asparagus, Basil, and Balsamic Glaze
1 pound pasta (campanelli, fusilli or any)
¾ cup balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths 1 medium red onion, sliced ⅛-inch thick (about 1½ cups)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes Salt to taste
1 cup chopped fresh basil
Juice of 1/2 lemon 1 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Cook pasta in salted water. Drain and return to pot. While pasta is cooking, bring balsamic vinegar to boil in 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer slowly until syrupy and reduced to ¼ cup, 15 to 20 minutes. While pasta is cooking and balsamic is reducing, heat grapeseed oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until beginning to smoke.
Add asparagus, onion, black pepper, pepper flakes, and salt and stir to combine; cook, without stirring, until asparagus begins to brown, about 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 4 minutes longer.
Add asparagus mixture, basil, lemon juice, ½ cup cheese, and olive oil to pasta in stockpot; toss to combine.
Serve immediately, drizzling 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic glaze over individual servings and passing remaining ½ cup cheese separately.