How To Choose and Use Basil

Pick of the Week: Basil

From the

Zone Diet

Summer is here, and that means that soon there will be bushels of basil, cheap and plentiful in stores - why not add fresh basil to your favorite dishes and maximize their flavor? Here are some tips for buying and enjoying this versatile green:

Choose a bushy, dark-green bunch, avoiding leaves that have black spots, lacy-looking holes (caused by insects), or buds.

Basil perishes quickly in the fridge when stored damp, so immerse the ends in water, as if it were a bouquet of flowers, and store it upright on a fridge shelf instead. If you prefer to keep basil on the countertop, place it out of direct sunlight. Wash leaves thoroughly right before you plan to use them.

Ribbon-like strands of basil used as a garnish are called a chiffonade. To create: Cut off stems, then tightly roll the leaves, starting at the tip, all the way down to the stem end. With a small, sharp knife, start at one end of your roll and slice off ribbons, which will unfurl as you cut them. Discard the spines of the leaves.

Italian cooking often involves simply tossing roughly torn leaves into salads and sauces. You can also grip a basil bunch by the stems, positioning the leaves over the pot or dish, and then use scissors to create a rough chop.

Try fresh basil in this Zone-friendly Mediterranean classic:

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad


3 ounces skim-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
5 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup chickpeas, rinsed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Dessert: 1 cup of blueberries or strawberries


Place lettuce on a serving plate. In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, parsley, oil, vinegar, basil, garlic, and chili powder. Alternate slices of tomato and shredded mozzarella on the lettuce bed. Pour chickpea dressing over tomatoes and serve. Eat fruit for dessert.

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