Basil, a member of the mint family, was known as the “king of herbs” by ancient Greeks.
Cultivated for over 5,000 years, basil (rahan) has a long tradition in Armenian cooking and in the Armenian Church.
St. Helena (Soorp Heghine to Armenians) is believed to have discovered the True Cross in Jerusalem under a pile of debris covered with a flourishing crop of basil. During the Exaltation of the Holy Cross each September, the processional cross is adorned with blessed basil leaves. This is one of the five major feasts of the Church, and the most important of the four feasts of the Holy Cross.
My mother recalls that, in her youth, anyone who had a basil plant growing in their summer garden would pick a bunch for each guest who visited, and throughout the evening they would sniff the basil’s sweet aroma.
Not only do I love the taste of basil, I love the scent even more. I often said, if they made basil perfume, I’d wear it. My husband took this to heart and bought me the closest thing he could find — basil-scented hand soap and lotion at Williams-Sonoma — and presented it to me for Christmas!
Here’s a vegetable recipe with a lot of wonderful flavors.
2 medium-sized eggplants, diced
2 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup flat Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup basil, chopped (divided)
¼ cup olive oil
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 small can stewed tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Pour and spread 4 oz. of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 13”x9” baking pan.
3. To the pan add the eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion, garlic, parsley, and HALF of the basil. Season with a little salt and pepper. Toss together.
4. Add the oil , stewed tomatoes, and the rest of the tomato sauce to the vegetables. Toss again, coating all of the vegetables.
5. Cover the pan with foil, and bake in the preheated oven for one hour.
6. Uncover, and bake 30 minutes more.
7. This can be served hot or at room temperature.
8. Before serving, add the remaining chopped fresh basil.