What can I do with anise basil?

squirrel_girlSeptember 22, 2008

I tried anise basil this season, and it flourished. I have no idea how to use it now. Anyone have any good ideas? I don't really know how to use regular basil in cooking, so the idea of anise basil is far beyond me. I would love a good recipe or three.

Thank you

Squirrel girl

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Squirrel: What you call regular basil has a very pronounced anise or licorice flavor to me, so I'm not sure what anise basil is. I love basil. It pairs very well with tomatoes, so fresh leaves shredded over sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper makes a great salad platter. Cherry tomatoes and little mozzarella chunks (or those bite size balls if you can find them) on a skewer or toothpick with basil leaves alternating in between make a fancy nibble to offer guests before dinner. Or a big tray of them are great for a pot luck.

Of course, a generous handful of basil leaves chopped up and tossed into your simmering tomato sauce is heavenly.

It makes its own pasta sauce called pesto, which is basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and usually pine nuts (but you can sub walnuts or leave the nuts out), ground up in a processor or blender. Don't use like red sauce -- 1/3 cup of pesto might be enough for 1 pound of pasta. Seriously, a little goes a long way.

Pesto can also be used as a sandwich spread with Italian cold cuts, roasted red peppers, cheeses. Or maybe a turkey, Provolone, bacon and tomato sandwich. I don't freeze it with the cheese or nuts because it gets grainy and chewy.

To freeze just the basil, wash and dry the leaves, blend in a processor or blender with enough oil to make a paste. Freeze in small zip bags, maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup per bag. Throw a bag into minestrone soup or a pot of ratatouille, thaw and add to a meatloaf, thaw and add Parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and more oil to make pesto in the dead of winter.

I hope you pinched off all the flowers to keep the leaves big and plump. And I've never found a use for the stems, too bitter. Just compost them.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 5:33PM
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Giftree, thank you for the advice to cut the flowers off. I just noticed some buds forming today, so tomorrow, they get the axe.

Oh, I am so happy about all the ideas you have given me. I have some new dietary restrictions (Celiac Disease), and am desperately in need of new fresh ideas. I will be trying your first idea tomorrow with lunch. Ratatouille is a great idea that fits in perfectly with my new diet. My husband will love the pesto on his sandwiches. The rest (if there is any) will get frozen with oil like you suggest.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 9:45PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Squirrel girl, anise basil is the Thai basil? Siam queen? if so, I am also growing this kind. I use the regular sweet basil with tomatoes, in pizza, salads, pesto....the Thai basil with the stronger anise i find better in Thai dishes. here is how I used the last bunch I collected:

Thai Butternut Squash and Green Beans

1 medium butternut squash, split in half and baked at 350C until done
(pierce with a fork to test)
1 can regular coconut milk (15 oz or so)
2 cups fresh cut green beans (frozen works too)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
3 leaves from a kaffir lime
1 small bunch of fresh thai basil AKA Siam queen (regular sweet basil
will also work)
1 small bunch chopped scallions
1 sliced hot pepper (I used cayenne and thai red peppers, leave in
slices so they can be removed if desired  green hot peppers will also
work here)
Salt to taste

Bake butternut squash. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and cut
into 1 inch chunks.
Open can of coconut milk. Use some of the solids on top (the oil) to
sauté garlic, kaffir lime leaves, sugar, salt and hot peppers for just
a few minutes (do not burn the garlic). Add green beans and squash cubes and stir. Add the rest of the coconut milk can and cook for 10-15 minutes until green beans are done. Taste, adjust seasonings and sprinkle top with chopped scallions.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 4:03PM
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Now I'm not sure what kind of basil I have. It was from a mixed basil pack. It smelled moderately of anise, so I assumed it was the anise basil. The rest just have a nice herby fragrance. I'll have to try it Italian and Thai style. Cabrita, thank you for the squash recipe. I LOVE squash and that sounds like a fun way to try it.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 8:33PM
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