The season's most versatile herb enlivens dishes from classic (pesto) to contemporary (sorbet?!). Use it with abandon.
There are more than 60 types of basil, all members of the mint family. Here are three you’re most likely to see at gourmet
groceries, farmers’ markets, and nurseries.
Purple basil's mildly spicy flavors―think clove, licorice, mint, and cinnamon―adds a layer of complexity to this super-easy
lemonade. For best results, crush the basil with sugar in a mortar and pestle to release its fragrant oils. Or, if you don't
have a set, process the basil, sugar, and about 1/4 cup of the water in a food processor or blender.
Works best with: Purple basil
View Recipe: Purple Basil Lemonade
The toughest thing about this simple summer snack? Toasting the pita chips (bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until perfectly
crispy). The rest is a snap: process fresh basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, lemon juice and sour cream with a touch of salt
Works best with: Sweet Italian or lemon basil
View Recipe: Basil Parmesan Dip with Pita Chips
Pesto may seem like the most obvious use for basil, but this version has a Sicilian twist. In Sicily, the locals spice things
up with crushed red pepper and chopped tomatoes. We bet you'll love their saucier version.
View Recipe: Sicilian Pesto
Frozen phyllo dough provides an interesting alternative to thin-crust pizza, with a feather-light crunch that makes this dish
heavenly. Make it as a summery appetizer with a glass of wine, or pair it with a salad for a light supper.
Wine note: A good wine for this dish won't overwhelm the delicate phyllo but will stand up to the salty cheeses and fresh basil. Try Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva from the Casablanca Valley of Chile. (The 2008 is $11.)
View Recipe: Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes
This easy, cool summer treat ends any meal with a clean, refreshing, citrusy note. You only need four ingredients: limes (about
15), light corn syrup, sugar, and basil leaves. Tip: A traditional salt and ice electric freezer works best for this sorbet, as opposed to a tabletop freezer, which won’t freeze
the mixture firmly enough.
Works best with: Sweet Italian or lemon basil
View Recipe: Lime Basil Sorbet
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and purple basil provide a fresh twist on buttery biscuits. Tender-biscuit tip: Make sure to use chilled butter, and stop cutting the butter into the dough when the mixture has pea-size nuggets.
Works best with: Purple or sweet Italian basil
View Recipe: Purple Basil Parmesan Biscuits
If regular Italian–or Genovese–basil is all you can find, it'll work fine. However, it's worth searching out a few varieties,
such as purple, Thai, or lemon basil. Using a mix of varieties improves the salad by adding visual interest and nuanced flavors.
If you can't find hanger steak, substitute flank instead.
View Recipe: Spicy Basil-Beef Salad
This flavorful pesto recipe is made from the freshest ingredients garlic, pine nuts, and basil. Classic pesto goes well pasta,
pizza, bruschetta, and can be added to soups or omelets. Make extra batches so you'll have enough to last awhile.
View Recipe: Classic Pesto
Marinated tofu slices acquire a golden crust when grilled; the olive-garlic mayonnaise on the sandwich adds a Mediterranean
flavor. Serve with grilled asparagus.
View Recipe: Grilled Lemon-Basil Tofu Burgers
Lettuce wraps make for a fresh burst of crunch and flavor, or spoon the stir-fry over rice. Look for fish sauce in your grocery
store's Asian foods section.
View Recipe: Spicy Thai Basil Chicken
Fresh basil pairs wonderfully with the sweet-tart citrus and deep cherry flavors in this elegant sorbet. Garnish the scoops
with small basil leaves, if you like.
View Recipe: Cherry-Grapefruit Basil Sorbet
Substitute lima beans if field peas aren't available. We love the contrast of deep purple basil, but you can use any fresh
basil with delicious results.
View Recipe: Field Pea and Purple Basil Succotash
If you don't have lime basil, substitute any fresh basil plus 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind. Plums will also work in place
View Recipe: Apricot, Cucumber, Pluot, and Lime Basil Salad
Use neutral vodka for more basil flavor.
View Recipe: Sweet Basil Martini with Blue Cheese Tomatoes
A mix of Thai basil and sweet basil makes for a satisfying aromatic salad with no lettuce "filler." Cucumber and shallots
offer a bit of crunch. If you can't find Thai basil, use whichever variety you can find. Look for explosively hot Thai chiles
at Asian markets, or use serranos.
View Recipe: Grilled Chicken Thighs with Thai Basil Salad