Green Living

How to Cook With Your Basil Plant, According to Rohani Foulkes of FOLK Detroit

exterior of FOLK Restaurant in Corktown, Detroit

Welcome to Test Kitchen — a series dedicated to experimenting with our Edible Garden collection! Each month, we’ll speak with a chef or mixologist about one of our indoor herb or vegetable garden plants. In addition to expert preparation and care instructions, they’ll share an exclusive food or drink recipe that’s as fresh as the ingredients themselves. First up is Rohani Foulkes of Detroit-based restaurant FOLK, who is mixing it up with our Basil plant

As any seasoned chef can attest, the secret to flavorful, full-bodied dishes lies in fresh herbs. From basil to thyme, these tasty sprigs add dimension and complexity to any meal, whether you’re making a three-ingredient salad or a four-course dinner. 

Short of visiting a farmers market, herbs and veggies don’t get any fresher than when they’re grown at home. With that in mind, we launched our Edible Garden collection— a curated assortment of fresh herbs and vegetable plants for your kitchen windowsill. From tomato and pepper plants to fresh rosemary, cilantro, thyme, and basil, our Edible Garden is your one-stop shop for fresh-off-the-vine ingredients. Your edible plants will ship straight to your doorstep complete with plant care instructions and a beautiful new pot. Plus, we’ll send exclusive food and drink recipes from chefs or mixologists straight to your inbox.

As for the actual cooking, we went straight to the experts at FOLK for some advice. This Detroit-based cafe and market serves up locally-sourced, made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch in the city’s historic Corktown district, and has quickly become a beloved neighborhood mainstay. Owner Rohani Foulkes worked as a professional chef for more than 10 years along the East Coast of Australia before moving to Detroit, and has continued to hone her craft in the Motor City.

Rohani Foulkes of FOLK Detroit stands arms crossed in from of a black background

Foulkes was kind enough to share her expertise on one of the most flavorful herbs: basil. A member of our Savory Herbs Collection, basil is at its peak from June to September and is the star ingredient in countless dishes. Below, find everything you need to know about storing, preparing, and cooking with fresh basil leaves, plus a chef-approved basil recipe. 

How to Store Fresh Basil

To get the most out of your basil plant, heed our care instructions and always wash and dry your herbs before storing them in the fridge. “I also wrap them in a linen kitchen towel and place them in an airtight container,” Foulkes suggests. “Remember that basil will brown after cutting, but it keeps well when processed in a blender with an acid, like lemon juice, and a fat, like olive oil.” 

How to Prepare Basil 

As for preparing this herb, Foulkes loves to serve it fresh or blend it with olive oil, a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper. “Place the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Store the mixture in an airtight container,” she instructs. “You can mix this sauce into stews and soups, add it to dressings, toss it with cooked grains, and serve it over fish or chicken.”  

How to Cook With Basil

“Basil is perfect for classic late summer meals — think big bowls of pasta, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, and grilled vegetables,” she shares. “You can even make it into a pistou and slather it on grilled meat hot off the barbecue.”  

More specifically, she thinks basil truly shines when fresh tomatoes are involved. “Tomatoes are my all-time favorite thing to eat. I’ll even eat them warm right off the plant when possible!” she laughs. “And basil is the perfect aromatic companion. I eat fresh basil and tomatoes served on warm bread for breakfast, and panzanella with garden herbs all season long.”  

Below, find Foulkes’ favorite basil-based recipe, and shop our Savory Herbs Collection to make this dish at home. 

Panzanella with Garden Herbs

Courtesy of Rohani Foulkes

Ingredients
  • 2 lbs mixed tomatoes (heirloom beefsteak or brandywine), cut into chunky bite-size pieces
  • ½ English cucumber, cut into chunks
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 6 cups rustic sourdough bread, torn into cubes
  • 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup mixed basil leaves, gently torn (genovese and opal, if possible)
  • ½ cup nasturtium leaves and flowers
  • 4 tablespoons lemon thyme (optional)2 tablespoons preserved lemons (optional)
For garnish
  • Flake salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Creamy feta
Method

Place tomatoes in a large bowl and season with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature and allow to sit for approximately 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and adjust the rack to center position. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 50ml olive oil, crushed garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Combine the preserved lemon juice and olive oil with the tomatoes and toss. Don’t be scared to give them a little squeeze to crush them slightly. Add the bread and combine, but do not crush bread. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes to soak up some of the juices. Add cucumber, herbs and nasturtium leaves and gently toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste, heap onto a platter and top with more herbs, nasturtium flowers, feta, and a drizzle of olive oil. Add seasoning if desired.