“Pounding fragrant things — particularly garlic, basil, parsley — is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chilli pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being — from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated. Virgil’s appetite was probably improved equally by pounding garlic as by eating it.”
The late Patience Gray, co-author of Plats du Jour and author of Honey From a Weed
A staple in Thai cuisine and other Asian dishes, Thai basil has beautiful reddish purple stems with deep green leaves which exude an anise fragrance and flavor. When left to bloom, delicate purple pink flowers appear and make lovely herbal flower arrangements. For culinary use, it is recommended that you cut off the flowers as the energy expended producing buds depletes the flavor of the leaves.
Thai basil, a member of the mint family is an easy to grow herb that loves the sunlight and with its strong stems stands up well against wind and rain. Water daily in the heat, but take care not to overwater this herb as the leaves will yellow. Fertilize with a fish emulsion and seaweed solution. Thai basil and rosemary are companion plants and grow well together and prefer the same well-drained soil and fertilizer.
When harvesting Thai basil, begin early in the day when the leaves are more flavorful. Water the plant well first, then harvest the leaves. The leaves are short lived and should be used within a few days. To preserve the leaves, freeze in ice cube trays filled with water, then transfer when frozen solid
to a freezer-proof plastic bags.
Although used more often for pesto, a few sprigs of Thai basil steeped in white wine vinegar will perk up a vinaigrette dressing. Medicinally, Thai basil is used as an antidepressant and has many antiseptic uses. Oils from the leaves rubbed on the skin repel mosquitoes and other insects. Thai basil oil is an ingredient in many massage oils which are said to aid in depression.
Adding chopped Thai basil at the end of cooking this easy Thai Chicken and Coconut Curry Soup adds a fresh licorice like herbal flavor to the finished product. Serve in soup bowl with hot cooked Basmati or Jasmine rice. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over and garnish with slivered fresh green onions, slivered red bell pepper and a Thai basil sprig.Although not traditional, chopped fresh mango adds a sweet flavor to this mildly picante soup.
Thai Chicken and Coconut Curry Soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1-14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-1/2 chunks
4 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 lime, juiced
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Thai basil
Red bell pepper, sliced thin
Green onion, julienned or chopped
Mango, peeled and chopped
Sprig of Thai basil
Cooked Basmati or Jasmine rice
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the oil. When heated, add garlic, carrot and fresh diced ginger. Cook for 5 minutes, taking care not to brown garlic. Mix in 1/4 can coconut milk, stirring constantly and bring to a boil. Mix in the curry paste. Add chicken pieces, stir to coat well.
Reduce heat to medium low and add chicken stock. When mixture is heated, add remainder of coconut milk, brown sugar and green onions. Cook over medium low heat until chicken has cooked thoroughly. Stir in chopped Thai basil.
To serve: In a deep bowl, ladle soup over 1/2 cup cooked rice.Squeeze a lime wedge over soup. Garnish with red bell pepper, green onion, mango and sprig of Thai basil. Serves 4 generously.
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