Boost flavor in your dishes with basil

This aromatic herb turns ho-hum into yummy – yummy!

Refreshing and fragrant, basil is a natural when it comes to seasoning Italian dishes.

However, don’t stop there with just basil — this herb with its great flavor offers lots of appeal to salads, sandwiches and many other various dishes.

If you have more luck than me and have a green thumb, you may grow your own fresh basil in your back yard or even a little pot. If not, you can find it in most grocery stores in the produce department all year round.

Dried basil is a must for your spice rack.

Below are dishes that all contain basil and hopefully you will try them and they will become one of your favorite dishes.

Until next week!


Artichoke-Basil Pasta Sauce

1 6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup water

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

hot cooked pasta

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade; set artichokes aside. In a large saucepan, saute the onion, mushrooms and garlic in reserved marinade for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the artichokes, tomatoes, water, tomato paste, basil, sugar and salt if desired. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes or until heated through. Serve over pasta.


Pan-Glazed Chicken

1 6-ounce package instant long grain and wild rice mix

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons dried basil

Prepare rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each sie or until juices run clear. Combine the vinegar, honey and basil; pour over chicken. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until sauce is heated through. Serve with rice.


Lemon Basil Cookies

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 18 1/4 ounce package lemon cake mix

1/4 cup flaked coconut

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and lemon juice. Gradually add cake mix. Stir in the coconut, pecans, basil and lemon peel. Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.


Creamy Tomato Fettucine

1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh basil

4 cups hot cooked fettucine

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring tomatoes to a boil. Reduce heat. Stir in the cream, parsley and basil; heat through. Toss with fettucine; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Italian Veggie Skillet

1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, divided

2 tablespoons sliced green onion

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, saute squash and mushrooms in oil for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add the tomatoes, salt and garlic. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes.

Stir in the parsley, rosemary, thyme and 1 1/2 teaspoons basil; cook 1-2 minutes longer or until heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with onion and remaining basil; lightly toss. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Basil Red Pepper Sandwiches

1 loaf unsliced Italian bread

1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese

4 large pieces roasted sweet red pepper, patted dry

12 fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives

Cut the top half off the loaf of bread; carefully hollow out top and bottom, leaving a 3/4-inch shell. In a small bowl, combine lemon peel and 2 tablespoons oil. Spread over the cut side of bread top. Drizzle remaining oil inside bread bottom; layer with cheese, red pepper, basil and olives. Replace bread top. Wrap in foil. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted. Slice before serving.


BLT Salad

1 pound sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup butter, cubed

4 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3-5 tablespoons minced fresh basil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

6 cups torn romaine

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels, drain, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings. Set aside. In another skillet, melt butter. Add bread crumbs; cook until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove to paper towels. For dressing, whisk the mayonnaise, basil, vinegar, pepper and garlic and drippings. In a large bowl, combine romaine, tomatoes and bacon. Drizzle with dressing and toss. Top with croutons.

Kiki Angelos is a food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.