Basil is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum, of the family Lamiaceae, sometimes known as Saint Joseph's Wort in some English-speaking countries. Ask most Moroccans about basil and they will tell you that it is grown to deter mosquitos. Few of them use it as a flavouring herb. That is such a pity as the flavour is exquisite.
|Pot-grown Basil in Fez with leaves up to 12 cm in length!|
Basil is considered a valuable antioxidant and also used for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India and Siddha medicine, a traditional Tamil system of medicine.
|A Moroccan variety of small-leaf basil|
All of that aside, its use in salad or pesto shows its flavours off superbly and with such prolific growth this season in Fez, it is time to start enjoying it.
While one can give pesto a slightly Moroccan flavour by substituting coriander for basil, genuine pesto can be given a Moroccan twist by the inclusion of a small amount of preserved lemon.
Fresh Basil Pesto with Moroccan Twist
(Great with fried chicken pieces on pasta)
Prep time: 10 minutes
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
4-5 thin strips of preserved lemon rind (rinsed)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Special equipment needed: A food processor
1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic and preserved lemon strips, pulse a few times more.
2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.
Yield: Makes 1 cup.