“I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me.” Marcus Samuelsson
Two weekends ago, I cooked my mom and my sister, a gourmet garlic bread with the everyday ingredients in my sister’s fridge. First, I whipped ½ cup of butter with minced garlic, garlic powder, finely chopped parsley leaves, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I spread the garlic butter on thin slices of hard dough bread, and topped each slice with mozzarella cheese. I also added slices of tomatoes seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. After that, I placed them in the oven to toast. As the bread was toasting in the oven, I began preparing some extra toppings: a red wine vinegar and syrup mixture to boil, and chopped basil. Yummy, right? My mom thought so, just by the fragrant smell of the basil alone.
(these are my daughter’s hands…)
Ingredients like thyme, peppermint, scallion, coconut milk, scotch bonnet pepper, and pimento, are essentials in my mom’s kitchen. But I learned this day that basil, a regular item in mine, had never been bought or used by my mom – my inspiration – the protector I stalked non stop in the kitchen growing up. This is actually not surprising though, as thyme reigns king of the herbs in her kitchen. After chuckling to myself at my ‘newbie-to-basil’ mom, I was inspired to write this post; shed a spotlight on this member of the widespread mint family, that is frequently used in my cooking. I was also inspired to buy a book to learn more about herbs in general.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, basil is a key ingredient in the turkey and vegetables stir-fry recipe that you’ll also see here today.
Basil, a classic culinary herb, is a member of the widespread mint family. It is a main ingredient in pesto, along with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, or, nutritional yeast if making the vegan version. It only takes a few leaves to transform an entire dish.
Basil is originally native to India, where it has been cultivated for five thousand years, and remains a symbol of hospitality.
During the Middle Ages, judges and dignitaries in the Mediterranean would carry this prized herb to ward off unpleasant odours.
In Portugal and Italy, basil was once considered a symbol of love. A young man would present his beloved with a pot of dwarf basil, along with a pom-pom, on the feast days of St. John and St Anthony. This is fitting as today we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in Canada. There will be a feast, only I will present basil in a stir-fry. No pom-poms involved.
Fresh basil should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen in ice cube trays for later use in recipes. Far from just cooking with basil however, there’s a lot more to learn. The many different types of basil, its traditional healing properties and nutritional value, are just a few examples of information that would be worth your while looking into. Basil offers healthy doses of vitamin K (which aids in blood clotting) and vitamin A. It also contains manganese and magnesium. Try it out!
Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I’ve so far visited three separate homes over the last three days, and have enjoyed three Thanksgiving dinners all with one thing in common: a whole, stuffed turkey on the table. I grew up in Jamaica eating delicious turkey neck like you would oxtail, but never any other part of the turkey. To this day I’ve yet to roast a whole one (blasphemy, I know), but love cooking dishes like this healthy turkey stir-fry, with bell peppers, zucchini, and of course our star herb of the day, basil.
Turkey and Vegetables Stir-Fry with Basil
A healthy turkey stir-fry with bell peppers, zucchini, and basil.
- 2 turkey breasts, sliced
- 1 zucchini
- 3 bell peppers, sliced
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar (white wine vinegar also works)
- 2 tablespoons honey, or syrup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh basil, cut leaves into fine strips
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 chili peppers, sliced (optional)
- 2 – 3 tablespoons toasted peanuts, crushed
DirectionsCombine red wine vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Slice the turkey breasts into strips. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Slice the bell peppers, zucchini and chili peppers. Cut the basil leaves into fine strips. Crush the peanuts.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the garlic. Let sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the turkey strips. Sear for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in 2 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar and honey mixture. Continue cooking the turkey for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the bell peppers, zucchini, and the remainder of the red wine vinegar and honey mixture to the skillet. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes more, stirring often. Remove from heat. Stir in the basil, chili peppers, peanuts and enjoy!
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