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Mix basil, lemon peel and pepper on shallow plate until well blended. Place cream cheese in basil mixture; turn to evenly coat all sides, pressing basil mixture into cream cheese to secure.
Cut cream cheese block horizontally in half; place one half on serving dish basil mixture side down. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese onto cut-side of cream cheese. Top with ham and second half of cream cheese. Serve at room temperature or microwave on high 45 seconds or until warm. Serve as a spread with crackers.
By Robin from Washington, IA
If you grow your own herbs, make up a large batch of pesto and freeze it for future use. This is a guide about make frozen pesto from home grown basil.
With knife parallel to cutting board, cut slit along one side of each chicken breast to form pocket. Place 4 whole basil leaves in each pocket; press each breast closed.
In small bowl, combine broth, chopped basil, lemon juice, pepper and garlic; set aside.
In medium nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken; brown on both sides. Pour broth mixture over chicken; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 7-8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center.
Note: Do not substitute dried basil in this recipe. Fresh basil can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores.
By Robin from Washington, IA
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Please advise me of ideas on using fresh basil. Thank you.
I am a basil addict and have lots growing on my windowsill. I add it to every dish I make except for desserts.
One example - sausages, the expensive sort, not the type with lots of fat, and cook them with peeled chunks of cooking apples and basil. It may be an acquired taste, but I really like it.
I also really love basil, so I'll weigh in here, too. There are different varieties of basil, but my suggestion works with any of them. My favorite summer meal is this:
1. Put water on to boil for your favorite pasta.
2. Cut up any seasonal veggies on hand to bite-size or smaller slices. Eggplant and summer squashes work well, but anything you'd like to see later on your plate is fair game. (Save back tomatoes for later.)
3. Saute the veggies in olive oil with a bit of minced fresh garlic. I use about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per serving, but adjust to your taste. That might be way to garlicky for some people, or not enough for others. Use just a little extra olive oil.
4. When your water boils, put the pasta in to cook.
5. While the rest is cooking, dice a small to medium tomato for each meal-sized portion you plan to serve. Pluck fresh basil leaves--enough for at least a teaspoonful or so per person--and shred if necessary to make small bits.
6. When the pasta is done, drain it and put about 1/2 to 3/4 of a usual meal-sized serving on a dinner plate or in a large bowl. (Adjust the amount to leave room for veggies.)
(Note: If you like, you can cover your plate to retain heat after this and each of the next steps, but it usually goes so fast from here that covering is not necessary.)
7. As soon as the veggies are done, turn them out onto the pasta. Toss the basil leaves into the remaining oil on the pan, and set back on the heat on the stove. (If your oil's gone, add a little more and heat it first. Eggplant especially can suck up your oil.) Mix the basil leaves around as needed so they crisp up in the oil.
8. As soon as the basil leaves get a little crispy, turn them out onto the pasta. Toss the tomato pieces into the pan, but turn the heat off.
9. The remaining heat from the pan will just barely soften the tomatoes. When they're done to your liking, turn them out onto the pasta.
10. Sprinkle with a little sea salt (to taste, again), and then stir very well. You want to get everything mixed together. The flavored oil, basil, and tomatoes end up as a sauce for your pasta and veggies.
I use this basic idea all summer long, with many variations. I've added slivered nuts, sunflower seeds, or tofu if I've wanted protein in it. (Remember to use extra seasonings if you add tofu, as it has no real flavor of its own.) Everyone who's had it loves it and asks for it again, so I must not be the only one who likes it!
It's also very healthy--lots of fresh veggies, and the only fat is olive oil or what's in any seeds or tofu you add.
I love sweet basil. I put it in soups, on potatoes & in vegetables, like carrots. It adds such a great flavor. When I grow it, the plants always produce too much. So any extra, I dry. I cut the leaves & trim what I want to dry. When it' dry, I grind it up in a spice grinder & freeze in seal a meal bags. It lasts a really long time. When they're not growing anymore, then use the frozen.
My fav way is just to use the leaves like lettuce on tomato sandwiches. I also like to put sliced tomatoes on a plate, add some chopped basil and splash on some olive oil. Simple salad and so good. Anything wiith tomato is good with basil. I use it in stir fires too. I always throw a little in stews, dumplings, dressings as in turkey dressing, and even in my omelets. You can't go worng with basil.