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The Basils

Not without reason called l'herbe royale, these versatile herbs have a great affinity for tomatoes, fish and egg dishes, but are good in almost all savory dishes.

They darken quickly after cutting.

Serve them as they do in Italy -- where basil is very popular -- in a bouquet of sprigs set in water in a small vase.

Ocinum basilicum grows to 2 feet, dries poorly and should never be dried in heat above 110 degrees.

It roots in a few days in water. Make cuttings and pot up before frost in rich soil.

It is worth keeping at least one plant over the winter. Ocinum minimum, dwarg bush basil, less than one foot tall, is the sweetest and mildest in flavor and the best for indoor culture.


Basil Pesto

This uncooked seasoning can be made in advance. Use on pasta or on a baked potato, about 2 Tablespoons to a portion, mixed with equal parts of butter. If you add a Tablespoon or more per portion to Minestrone, as is often done, you arrive at a result close to the Provencial version called Soupe au Pistou.

Pound in a mortar about:
1-1/2 Cups fresh basil leaves.

Add and pound:
2 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts

Add, until the mixture forms a thick puree:
About 3/4 cup parmesan cheese

When the mixture is really thick, add very slowly, stirring constantly: About 3/4 cup olive oil until it has the consistency of creamed butter.

Put a film of olive oil over the top. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.

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