Watching Iron Chef on the Food Network (Chanel 56 in Toronto - part of basic cable) is really like having a lesson on food. The hosts fill you in on the secret ingredient and once the battle is over you really feel like you have learned something new about the ingredient. For me, this week it was basil. The traditional basil that is often used is called sweet basil, but there are variety of different basil's out there. Thai basil, lemon basil, and African blue basil are the most popular other varieties, and most commonly used in cooking. Basil was first cultivated over 5,000 years ago and is native to Iran, India and tropical regions of Asia. In India, basil is said to have healing powers and is used as a treatment for stress, asthma and diabeties.
African Blue Basil
Here is one of my favourite and SIMPLE recipes which really showcases the freshness of sweet basil.This recipe is best in the summer, a great accompaniment to any summer meal.
Fresh Tomatoes with Basil, Feta and Balsamic
4 medium sized tomatoes (any type will do, whatever you prefer)
7 large sweet basil leaves
1/4 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
good extra virgin olive oil
good balsamic vinegar
- Slice tomatoes (usually for a medium tomato you get about four slices)
- Layer on a serving plate either in rows or in a circle
- Season with a liberal amount of salt and pepper
- Roll basil leaves into a tight cigar shape and slice finely
- Break feta into small pieces and crumble over tomatoes
- Sprinkle basil on top of tomatoes and feta
- Drizzle olive oil and balsamic over plate (You don't want the tomatoes to be swimming in the dressing, just enough to flavour the feta and tomatoes)
- Serve and enjoy!