Basil is a popular herb in Italian cooking, particularly in pesto. This fragrant and flavorful herb, a relative of peppermint, is an excellent, nutritious addition to your pasta sauce, soup, or salad.
An array of flavonoids exist in basil, which help to protect cells and chromosomes from damage. Studies have shown that two of these flavonoids in particular, orientin and vicenin, are useful in protecting cell structures and chromosomes from damage by radiation and oxygen.
Essential oil of basil has been shown to inhibit the growth of several types of bacteria, many of which have become resistant to antibiotics. This essential oil has been found to inhibit growth of the widespread staphylococcus, enterococcus, pseudomonas, and e. coli bacteria, among others. Adding basil to your vinaigrette will both enhance the flavor, and ensure that the fresh salad greens are safe to eat.
Eugenol, which is found in essential oil of basil, provides an anti-inflammatory effect, by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. Aspirin and Ibuprofen work by blocking this same enzyme. So, basil can have healing benefits, and provide relief from the symptoms of inflammatory problems, like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions.
Basil is also a good source of vitamin A, which helps to prevent damage to the cells by free radicals. Vitamin A also prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream, preventing the cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels.
Magnesium is also present in basil. This essential mineral helps the heart and blood vessels to relax, improving blood flow. Other nutrients found in basil include iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
The fresh, spicy flavor and scent of basil will wake up any boring salad or soup. Use fresh basil whole, or shredded to add a burst of flavor to your dinner. If you are using fresh basil in a cooked dish, add it towards the end of cooking, so that the volatile oils will not be dissipated by the heat.
Insalata Caprese is a simple salad, utilizing tomatoes, fresh mozzerella cheese, basil, and olive oil.
1/2 pound, fresh mozzerella, sliced 1/4 inch thick.
2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick.
1 cup fresh basil leaves.
salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
On a serving plate, arrange the mozzerella and tomato around the edge, alternating mozzerella and tomato slices.
Tear up the basil leaves, and sprinkle them on top of the tomatoes and mozerella cheese.
Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Just before serving, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the salad.