What To Do With Lemon Basil

Lemon basil, it smelled divine so I bought a big bunch at the market. So now what do I do with it? The Splendid Table gives you some ideas.
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By Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Host, The Splendid Table®, American Public Media's national food show and co-author of The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories and Opinions, and the new How to Eat Weekends. Ask questions and find Lynne, recipes, and station listings at splendidtable.org, or 800-537-5252.

Copyright 2012 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Dear Lynne,

Lemon basil, it smelled divine so I bought a big bunch at the market. So now what do I do with it?


Dear Nan,

This is an easy herb to fall for with that fragrance of sweet lemon. For those who've maybe overlooked it at farmers markets and Asian groceries, the leaves are bright green, narrow, pointed ovals and the fragrance is distinctly lemon with a lot of sweetness in the background. Once it's chilled for a day or two the lemon aroma starts fading away.

Laos uses this basil a lot in curries, soups and stir fries. It seems to be added at the end of cooking, probably to protect that fresh, but fragile flavor and aroma. Thai and Indonesian cooks use it in similar ways.

Along with lemon basil, there's the anise-scented Thai basil with purple stems and pink flowers,

To Do with Lemon Basil:

• Stir Fry with Lemon Basil

Try adding a big handful of the whole leaves to a favorite stir-fry just before you take it out of the pan. The basil sets off spicy dishes, pork, seafood, and most vegetables.

• Lemon-Basil Infused Grilled Chicken

Butterfly a chicken, rub it all over with crushed garlic, ginger and oil if you'd like. Then cover the bottom of a shallow dish with half of your big bunch of lemon basil. Spread the chicken over it and cover the bird with more basil, saving about 1 cup of leaves for the chicken glaze. Rub the chicken's basil into the bird's surface. Lightly cover and refrigerate overnight. To cook, slow roast on the grill or in the oven.

During the last 30 minutes glaze the chicken by brushing with a puree of the 1-cup basil leaves, 3 tablespoons sugar, a seeded and minced Thai chile, the juice of a lemon and 1/3 cup canola oil.

• Lemon Basil Snap Beans

All through the summer and fall we eat these with our fingers with drinks. The simplicity is belying; the beans showcase the basil brilliantly.

Boil yellow "green" beans in salted water until tender (just beyond tender crisp). Drain and rinse with cold water to stop their cooking.

Turn the beans into bowl and keep them at room temperature up to 3 hours. When you're ready to eat, toss the beans with a generous amount of coarse salt and 1 cup of lemon basil leaves for every ½ pound of beans. Enjoy them at room temperature.

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