Basil is an easy-to-grow herb that thrives in Hawaii’s warm weather. It doesn’t like cold, for growing or for storing, so when you get a bunch, the best way to keep it is in a glass of water on the counter, just like a bouquet of flowers. Pick off the leaves as you need them.
There are two main types of basil: Sweet (or Italian) basil, which has broad, bright green leaves, and Thai basil, which is often a darker shade of green, with narrower leaves and purple stems and flower buds, and has an anise (licorice) scent. Sweet basil is the type you’ll encounter in pestos and, as the name suggests, Italian dishes, whereas Thai basil is used in Southeast Asian dishes where the anise scent complements the flavors.
Basil has to be harvested frequently in order to keep the plants healthy and productive, so that means you’ll see it in abundance at farmers’ markets, and if you grow it yourself, you may find you have a hard time keeping up! Here are some ideas for what you can do with basil:
Herbs are generally tender and should be added to dishes just before serving. They lend themselves nicely to adding a nice kick of contrasting bright flavor against a creamy sauce.
Of course we think that Chef Emily’s Simple Mushroom Raviolis with Basil Cream Sauce are just divine. This cream sauce is even light enough for a summer lunch.
And if you’d like to double up on the mushroom action, these Grilled Cremini Mushrooms Stuffed with Basil Parmesan Mayo sound like a decadent appetizer. Or, you could just make the Basil Parmesan Mayo and spread it on anything and everything. We’re thinking simple tomato sandwiches on rustic bread. Yum!
Herb salads are just delightful. They pack so much flavor, all you need is a little touch of olive oil and salt, rather than heaping on a lot of fatty dressing. Not that we’re against a good, delish dressing. In fact, the one in this New York Times Soft Herb Salad recipe sounds fantastic!
If the idea of a plate primarily consisting of herbs is too intense for you, this refreshing Heart of Palm Salad by Oahu chef Eric Leterc of The Pacific Club, from The Hawaii Farmers Market Cookbook: Vol. 2, makes use of whole basil leaves scattered in with crisp heart of palm, juicy tomatoes and grapefruit and creamy avocado. What a great mix of textures!
Cold soup. Hear us out—some people shudder at the thought (and a hot soup gone cold is a sad thing, indeed), but a soup meant to be served cold, like a gazpacho or vichyssoise, is a refreshing summer dish. A cold soup, some crusty bread, grilled vegetables and perhaps some nice charcuterie, grilled shrimp or a rotisserie chicken makes for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. This Green Gazpacho from Sugar + Shake foregoes the usual tomatoes and instead uses cucumbers, green grapes (for a touch of tart-sweetness) and lots of fresh herbs.
Here’s your chance to make a 100% local drink! Mint’s very common in drinks, but basil comes from the same family, and makes a nice change. This Honey Basil Lemonade swaps the bracing, invigorating scent of mint for the sweet herbaceousness of basil. A little shot of gin or vodka (you could still stay local with this one!) turns this into a great summer party drink.