Cookin’ with basil

This delicious herb is back after a long winter

Basil is finally back at the farmers markets. Other than tomatoes, it’s the summertime produce I most look forward to picking up. I’m growing my own basil, of course, but the plants are still too small to start harvesting leaves.

If you have room in your garden, try growing a few plants. They’re pretty easy to care for; plenty of sunshine, water and good soil are the only real requirements. Last year, mine grew to over three feet. I couldn’t eat it fast enough.

Fresh basil makes so many dishes so much tastier, especially marinara sauces. And you can’t make pesto without basil. I’ve got a staple recipe that I make over and over. I whip it up last minute to take to barbecues, and it’s always a big hit. Everyone seems to ask for the recipe, so I thought I’d share it here, too.

Basil, tomato and bean salad:


1 can red kidney beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small basket of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small bunch of fresh basil (about 12-15 leaves)
pepper (freshly ground)
salt (optional)


Drain and rinse kidney and garbanzo beans. Set them aside in a bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and add to bean mix. Rinse and thoroughly dry the basil leaves. In a small nonstick frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat until warm. Drop the basil into the pan and stir constantly for one or two minutes until the basil turns dark. Don’t let it scorch! Remove from heat and pour the oil and leaves into the bean and tomato mix. Stir gently and add fresh-ground pepper and salt to taste. Eat immediately or chill in the fridge for refreshing side dish.