6 Basil Recipes to Take Your Summer Menu to a New Level

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Basil is perhaps the world’s most versatile herb, with applications ranging from the most savory of entrées to even the sweetest of drinks and desserts. It’s a staple found in recipes of all kinds, across cultures, and serves as a pleasant accent for any summertime menu.

This summer, though, it’s time to take your basil repertoire to a new level. Use one or all of these six recipes to enliven your typical party menu!

1. Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

Bruschetta is an old Italian favorite. Several simple ingredients come together to make a beautiful, refreshing balance of flavors. This recipe from Food makes a great starting dish for any dinner or summertime picnic. Recipe yields four servings and takes about 45 minutes to complete.

Ingredients:

  • 6 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 8 slices Italian bread, cut about 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Directions: Whisk together chopped garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil. When combined slowly drizzle in oil. Add tomatoes and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Next, toast the bread. This can be done either in the toaster (if it has sufficiently wide slots) or under the broiler (watch carefully to prevent burning.) When the bread is toasted rub each piece, on one side, with the whole garlic pieces. Place bread on a cookie sheet and top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle on a little cheese and broil till the cheese melts (you can skip that last broiling bit and it’s equally as wonderful.) Serve immediately and enjoy!

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Pesto

If you’re ever in a jam trying to figure out what’s for dinner, pesto is a great place to start. This easy base flavor adds a new dimension of flavor to everything from pasta to meatballs to hummus — and everything in between. For a simple snack, enjoy this basic pesto with bread or crackers. This recipe from All Recipes yields two cups of pesto and takes about ten minutes to complete.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions: Combine basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend to a smooth paste. Add parsley if desired.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

3. Garlic Basil Shrimp

Basil and seafood are a light and tasty mix, perfect for summertime meals. Pair this dish with a Sauvignon Blanc, a mild summer evening, and a good book, and you’ve got it made! This recipe comes from Food Network, taking about 25 minutes to complete and yielding four servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ pounds large shrimp (20 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shrimp, turning over once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil remaining in skillet and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add wine and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in basil and tomatoes and season the sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Return the shrimp to pan and cook just until heated through.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

4. Thai Chicken With Basil

This dish is a Thai favorite and can be seen cooking freshly at street vendors all across Thailand. Over there, it’s called pad kra pao gai and it continues to be a local staple. Food & Wine recommends the use of holy basil with this recipe, but notes that any type of basil will suffice. Recipe takes about 20 minutes and yields 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1  pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4), cut into 1-by-2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam); see Note
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin slices
  • 3 fresh red chiles, seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices, or ¼ teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed basil leaves

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar. In a large nonstick frying pan or a wok, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the chiles and garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds longer.

Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and add it to the hot pan. Cook until almost done, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the marinade and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the basil. Serve topped with the remaining ½ cup basil.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

5. Peaches Poached With Basil

This recipe won Food 52‘s “Your Best Recipe Using Fresh Basil” contest, and it only takes four ingredients — most of which you might already have in your kitchen! Recipe takes about a half hour to complete and yields six servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil
  • 6 yellow peaches

Directions: Place the wine, 1 ½ cups water and sugar in a wide bottomed saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar slightly. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat, leaving the syrup to simmer gently.

Cut the peaches in half and remove pits gently. Drop half of the basil leaves into the syrup, and then gently place the peach halves cut side down into the syrup. Poach for about 3 minutes and then gently turn over using a slotted spoon. Continue poaching for an additional 3 – 4 minutes, until soft (cooking time will depend on ripeness of peaches.) Carefully prick the cut side of the peaches to check for tenderness. The peels should be wrinkling up as well. You may cook the peaches in two batches if all the halves will not fit in the pan at once.

Remove the peaches to a plate with a slotted spoon. When they are cool enough to handle, gently slide the skins off and discard. Add all but about six basil leaves to the syrup and bring to a boil; boil until reduced by about half. Pour any juices that have collected on the plate with the peaches into the syrup. Leave to cool to room temperature. The peaches can be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for several hours.

When ready to serve, place two peach halves on a plate and drizzle with a little basil syrup. Reserve the remaining syrup for another use. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

6. Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Complete your basil-infused menu with a refreshingly sweet summer drink. This recipe from Closet Cooking takes about ten minutes to complete and serves four. Add gin to kick the party up a notch!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled
  • ¼ cup basil (or mint)
  • 1 cup lemon juice (~4-6 lemons)
  • 1 cup simple syrup
  • 4 cups water
  • Ice to taste

Directions: Purée the strawberries and basil in a food processor or blender and optionally strain through a fine mesh sieve. Mix the strawberry and basil purée, lemon juice, simple syrup, water, and ice and enjoy.

More From Life Cheat Sheet: