Ramona Werst has a love for growing and cooking with basil. Currently, she mas more than 30 varieties in her collection, and she is adding to it all the time. She creates basil-infused and would love to teach you how to Love Your Basil! Visit her blog (www.ramonasbasilgarden.com) to download her free e-book, Love Your Basil.
There are hundreds of different basil varieties. I have come to love the common Ocimum basilicum 'Sweet' as well as the exotic and incredibly useful Ocimum basilicum 'Lang', which is only grown in the Lang area of Vietnam. Most basils can be used in the kitchen, medicinally, as a pest repellent and as your garden's plant companions. Other basils are known for their beautiful flowers and their multi-colored leaves. In the late summer, Ocimum basilicum 'Thai' bares beautiful red or deep purple blooms.
Photo by bourgeoisbee/Courtesy Flickr
'Thai' is one basil that is a little fussy to grow. It doesn’t like to be too wet and it will wilt quickly if it gets too dry. When it's planted from seed it takes approximately 5 to 7 days to sprout, depending on how warm the soil is. It can be started indoors and transplanted into gardens or into container pots. When I harvest mine, I wash it, pinch the leaves from the stems, chop it, place it in labeled zip lock bags and freeze. Anytime I want to use fresh 'Thai', all I have to do is reach into my freezer to cook with it any time of the year.
Photo by David Werst
Here in Real Texas, we like our food just a little spicy; 'Thai' adds a little kick when you cook with it. 'Thai', which is also used in Asian cooking, is an herb of many names, depending on which culture is using it. There is 'Siam Thai', 'Queen of Sheba Thai', 'Red Stem Thai', and the list goes on. It has a licorice flavor and is actually used more by the Vietnamese and in India with their Curry dishes, than in Thai cuisine.
I use 'Thai' in a lot of different recipes, from my Real Texas Recipes to my Cooking Vietnamese Food recipes.
• 1/8 cup fresh 'Thai' basil leaves, chopped
• 1/8 cup fresh 'Lettuce Leaf' basil leaves, chopped (you can also use Ocimum basilicum 'Sweet' leaves)
• 1 to 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
• 3 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
• 4 chicken legs, quartered, or 2 chicken breasts
• 2 small garlic cloves, minced
• 1 to 2 fresh jalapenos, minced (if you are using hot jalapenos, only use one)
• 1 small bunch of scallions or little green onions, sliced into rings (using white and some of the green part)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
• 1 can Cream of Celery Soup
• 1 package small butter tortillas, sliced or torn into 1/2-inch thick strips (you may not use the whole package, depends on how thick you want the mixture to be)
1. Rinse the freshly gathered herbs with cool water; it will help liven up the leaves a bit. Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel.
2. Peel off the leaves from the branches and chop them with kitchen utility scissors. Make sure you are not adding any stems to the recipe; the stem is coarse and always has a stronger flavor than the leaves. Separate the herbs into separate bowls.
3. Place the chicken legs in a large pot and cover with water and bring to a boil. Make sure that that the chicken pieces are completely covered by water.
4. Add the minced garlic, jalapenos, herbs and scallions to the chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Allow the tasty broth to come to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the chicken becomes real tender.
6. When the chicken is completely cooked, take it out and cut it up into smaller pieces. Strain the chicken broth, then put it back in the pot. Add the cans of chicken and celery soup to the broth and bring it back to a boil.
7. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the sliced tortilla pieces (one at a time) to the mixture. The more tortillas you add; the thicker it will be, so add the tortillas accordingly.
8. Now add the chicken pieces back in to the broth again. Taste the chicken broth to see if you need to add more salt and pepper. Cook the mixture so that it thickens up.
9. This easy and tasty chicken and dumplings with basil is now ready to be enjoyed. Be prepared to overeat. This recipe is a family favorite.