Because I was late putting in our little herb garden, the basil is only just now full enough for the first batch of pesto. But clipping the tips back to make it fuller has given nice little handfuls for stirring into things like pasta with zucchini or filling in for lettuce in a BLT.
The best, however, is always when it's torn or slivered and scattered over this favorite simple summer salad of tomatoes and sweet onion.
Tomato Salad with Onion and Basil
Since I'm not growing my own tomatoes this year, we had to wait until we could get good ones from our local farmers' market. They were ripe enough to eat straight away, but a couple of days on a sunny window ledge really made them sweet.
This is the only way my spouse will eat raw tomatoes, and with good crusty bread to accompany it, we've been known to make a meal of it.
About ½ medium-sized Vidalia sweet onion, trimmed and peeled
2 large or 3 medium ripe tomatoes
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
6-8 large basil leaves or a dozen small ones, plus sprigs for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Thinly slice the onion and if it's strong, put it in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover it with ice water, and add a couple of lumps of ice. Let it soak at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, core the tomatoes (cut out the tough flesh at the stem end), then slice them fairly thick. If the skin is thick and tough (or if you just prefer them peeled) you may remove the skin by slipping a sharp paring knife just under the skin of each slice and taking it carefully around. Spread the tomatoes on a plate or small platter in one layer. You can make the salad to this point up to an hour ahead.
2. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper, and a very little vinegar. If you've soaked the onion, drain and squeeze it dry. Scatter it over the tomatoes. Season again with salt, pepper, and sprinkle with a little more vinegar. Tear the basil into small pieces or cut it into julienne with a sharp knife (a ceramic one will keep it from discoloring) and scatter it over the salad. Drizzle it generously with olive oil, garnish it with whole basil sprigs, and serve immediately.