I received a concerned look from a woman at the grocery store the other day. OK, maybe it was more of an odd look, but for the sake of this story, I’m going to say concerned.
In hindsight, I can’t really blame her. We were in the produce aisle. I had picked up a potted basil plant and was inhaling. Deeply.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you OK?”
I looked over the leaves I had my nose buried in, realizing what a sight I must be. I put the basil in my grocery cart and smiled.
“I’m fine,” I told her. “I just love the smell of basil, don’t you?”
She sort of nodded and hurried away. I grabbed another basil pot, took a second sniff (but I made less of a scene this time), added it to my cart, and finished shopping.
I wasn’t lying. I do love the smell of basil. Rosemary used to be my favorite fragrance in the kitchen, but basil’s scent is so clean and light. It’s spring and summer, and at a time of year when we have dark skies by 5 p.m., I can use all the spring and summer I can get — even if it’s just a small potted plant by my kitchen sink.
Of course, basil is a wonderful ingredient that should be used for more than battling the winter blues. I love pesto, and have found many variations of Caprese salad in which the classic tomato, mozzarella and basil combination can be anything from a side dish to a main meal.
Unfortunately, our tomatoes aren’t as fresh as they were a few months ago, which is why I was thrilled to find the following recipe for Fresh Basil-Wrapped Cheese Balls.
This fancy, yet simple, dish can be served as an appetizer at your next dinner party, added to the buffet line at your New Year open house or, if you’re like me, whipped up quickly to make use of the basil you buy in bulk.
Fresh Basil-Wrapped Cheese Balls
Makes 24 appetizers
Mix cheeses and pepper until blended. Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes until firm enough to shape into balls.
Shape 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese mixture into a ball. Roll slightly to form an oval, about 1 inch long. Place on wide end of basil leaf; roll up. Roll leaf and cheese between fingers to form an oval. Repeat with remaining cheese mixture and basil leaves.
Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving, but no longer than 2 hours.
Source: “Betty Crocker Celebrate!: A Year-Round Guide to Holiday Food and Fun” by Betty Crocker Editors (Betty Crocker; Aug. 20, 2004)