Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Featuring: Thai Basil and Purple Basil

Some of you may have noticed that we are growing some unusual types of basil. We decided to grow more Thai and purple basil this season because last season, our green basil incepted downy mildew, a destructive disease first seen in the United States in 2008. This disease has been prevalent in Europe since 2001, and has reoccurred commonly each year since then, sparking concerns that it will be similarly widespread in the United States.

Green basil, the most common and popular type of basil, is most susceptible to downy mildew. Thai basil has proven to be quite resistant to the disease in several tests, and purple basil has shown moderate resistance. We decided to hedge out bets and plant more of the resistant varieties so that we would still be able to provide basil even if we got the disease again.

Luckily, Thai and purple basil are delicious! Thai basil has a light anise flavor. Purple basil tastes similar to green basil. Both can be used to make pesto, a staple of basil-lovers, or can be used in place of green basil in any recipe. Here are some specific used for both:

Tofu Stir-fried with Thai Basil

Firm tofu or deep-fried tofu - about 3.5 oz
(Asian groceries will sell you deep-fried tofu if you can't make your own)
Garlic - 3 cloves
Hot green chillies (preferably Thai bird chillies) - 4-6 (adjust this to your taste please; I like mine hot)
Shallots - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Light soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Dark soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Stock or water - 1/4 cup (about 4 tbsp)
Sugar - 1 tsp
Peanut oil - about 1 tbsp (adjust as required)
White pepper - 2 pinches
Thai basil leaves - large handful

Mince the garlic cloves and chop the chilis finely. Cut the tofu into bite-sized chunks.
If you have the time, pound the garlic, chilis, shallots, and salt together into a paste. This makes the flavors blend better. If you're in a hurry, let it be.
Heat a wok until hot. Add the peanut oil.
When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the pounded paste. If you haven't pounded them together, add the chillies, garlic, shallots, and salt to the oil. Stir-fry on medium heat for about 10-15 seconds, taking care to make sure that the garlic doesn't burn.
Add the cut tofu and stir-fry again for another minute. Then add the light and dark soy sauces, the sugar, white pepper, and stock or water.
Stir-fry for one more minute to allow the sauce to thicken a bit and coat the tofu. Then tear the basil leaves with your hands and add them to the wok.
Stir it around till the basil wilts. Check quickly for any adjustments to seasoning. Take it off the heat.
Preparation time is about 3-5 minutes and cooking time is about 3 minutes. Serve this dish with white steamed rice or noodles or fried rice or anything else that's not too assertive.

Purple Basil Lemonade
Yield: 4 servings

- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
-1/2 cup loosely packed purple basil leaves (about 1/4 ounce)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 4 cups ice
- 4 purple basil sprigs

Combine 4 cups water and juice in a large bowl. Place 1/2 cup basil and sugar in a mortar; pound with pestle until a paste forms. Add sugar mixture to juice mixture; stir until sugar dissolves. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Place 1 cup ice in each of 4 glasses. Pour about 1 cup lemonade into each glass; garnish each serving with 1 basil sprig.


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