I am renewing my relationship with basil. I tend to forget about the delicate, leafy herb in fall and winter. (Unlike my mother, I don’t keep a basil plant on my windowsill year-round, so when my garden plants start to shrivel each fall, I give up on basil until the next year.) But about a month ago I planted two sweet basil and one Thai plant in my garden and now that they are flourishing, I enjoy the fruits of their labor on a near-daily basis.
As an herb, basil is loved for its sweet, faintly licorice flavor, but as an aphrodisiac, its attributes are many. In fact, in Ancient Rome, the mere sight of basil was symbolic of love! Its thin, flat, green leaves not only contribute color and taste to your diet but they’re packed with libido-boosting nutrients including vitamin A, potassium and magnesium as well as a hit of vitamin C. In recent years, it has also been discovered that basil’s flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties. Best, of all, basil is a nearly calorie-free flavoring with the power to seduce even the most jaded of palates.
There are over 50 known varieties of basil grown around the world for culinary (and seductive!) purposes. The most common in America is the sweet basil used in Italian-inspired dishes, with its thin, vibrant green leaves. Some varieties have a spicy flavor and others have the freshness of a lemon. All can be used fresh or dried cooked into a dish or sprinkled raw on top.
I’ve included basil in many of my recipes over the years but one of my favorite uses for this sweet, summer herb is the Feta & Basil Stuffed Mushrooms in my new book, The Love Diet www.lovedietcookbook.com, which comes out this month. Here's the recipe.