It’s mid-July and the farmers' markets are bursting with this summer's bounty. The colors are vibrant, the aromas heady, and the flavors begging to be appreciated. But the season will come to an end and all this wonder will be just a memory.
Except, that is, if we transform some of this essence into components that will bring summer’s punch into the rest of the year’s fare.
It takes some planning and some forethought, but this is the time to do it.
Over the next few weeks I’ll give you recipes and ways to take advantage of all of these flavors.
Let’s start with BASIL.
The flavor of basil is strong, pungent, and fresh. Basil is a surprisingly versatile herb that can be used to add punch to both savory and sweet foods.
Pesto, is the traditional Italian sauce made with basil. It’s made with basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, pignoli nuts (also known as pine nuts), and Parmesan cheese—it’s delicious.
But I make the French version called pistou. It includes the basil, olive oil, and garlic but omits the pignoli nuts and the Parmesan. The reason I prefer preserving basil this way is that I find that, refrigerated, it lasts much longer.
If you prefer the taste of the classic pesto, there is no reason you can’t add the cheese and nuts to a small amount of pistou. When you’re ready to use it place everything back into the food processor to combine and serve.
4 ½ cups basil leaves
8 cloves garlic
¼ cup or more olive oil
Salt and pepper
Then, whenever you want to add that great flavor of summer to your dish, just add a spoonful of pistou.
Use it as you would pesto—on pasta, pizza, bruschetta, vegetables, in dips, or in vegetable soup as they do in Provence to create soupe au pistou.
As with all great flavors, how you use it is up to your imagination.
"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
— Pablo Picasso
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Having a party again is simply wonderful. Every summer, Mark, my husband, makes a gigantic paella and we invite friends to watch the process (trust me, it is a show) and eat the amazing results. The party always occurs between the 4th of July and the 14th, Bastille Day. Are you wondering why we make a paella to . . .