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Bouquets of Basil

May 30, 2008

From the Piasecki\'s Garden

Most little girls begin planning their wedding from the moment they are able to comprehend the final scene of Cinderella. My sister, for example, was one such girl. By the time she was two years old, she had picked out her “off-the-shoulders” dress, most importantly the guy, and had even gone so far as to ask my mother if it was too soon to send out invitations, after, of course, she had already invited our first grade teacher.

I, on the other hand, hardly gave weddings a second thought. I was far too busy trying to live up to my tomboy image. When I was forced to think about matrimony, I told my mother 1) I wanted to go barefoot (I avoided shoes at all costs during the summer), and 2) I wanted to carry a bouquet of basil. Even at an elementary-school age, I had a mature appreciation and love for basil.

For years, my mother would begin growing basil in small pots in our windowsills before transplanting them outside in the vegetable garden. I loved the fragrant smell of the basil that engulfed the kitchen. Even with other smells competing for attention, like baking bread or stuffed shells, the basil was the first smell I would notice upon entering the kitchen. If we didn’t have basil growing in the kitchen, there would often be a glass or vase with basil hastily set inside with a low level of water to keep it fresh until my mother either used it for dinner or chopped it up to freeze for later use.

My love of basil continued into college as I took my mother’s lessons with me. I loved going to the farmers’ market or even the nearby organic produce store to pick out the perfect bouquet of basil. The fresh basil walked with me through the various rows, seeing what else could be purchased as a treat. So as not to let any of the basil go to waste, I would divide the bunch, putting one-quarter aside for immediate use and the rest to be frozen. The aroma of the basil being cut up and mixed with a little olive oil would lure my roommates from their studious seclusion, as they recognized that smell usually meant a steaming plate of homemade pasta was soon to follow. Some would laugh, thinking I was crazy, as they watched me put the basil-olive oil mixture into an ice cube tray, cover it, and put it in the freezer for the next time I craved a plate of spaghetti al pesto. But all of them were ready with forks by the time the pasta was al dente, the Parmesan cheese was grated, and the sauce was ready to be poured on top of the spaghetti.

I know a lot of people like to add pine nuts on top or even chopped into the pesto sauce, but really, can’t the basil hold its own in the sauce with only the accompaniment of a little freshly grated Parmigiano (if you even choose that!)? Also, adding a little bit of freshly chopped basil to minestrone provides just enough kick to the soup that you’ll go back for seconds!

Adding basil is one of my favorite things to do to an Italian dish. Below, you will find two of my standby recipes. And one day, maybe I will be one of the few, if not the only woman to use basil for her wedding bouquet.


Serving size: 4
Time: 10 minute preparation

4 fresh, organically grown tomatoes (these taste so much better than tomatoes grown in a hothouse)
2 balls fresh mozzarella
several fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

Cut the tomatoes into slices about a quarter of an inch thick and arrange on a plate. Slice the fresh mozzarella and place on top of the tomato slices. Separate basil leaves from stem and place one basil leaf atop the mozzarella. Flavor with a pinch of salt and pepper, before drizzling olive oil on top of the caprese. Serve and enjoy!

Pesto Sauce

Serving Size: 4-6
Time: 10-15 minutes cooking time

1/4 cup butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cube basil

Melt butter over low heat, stir in flour. Add cream, stirring constantly. When incorporated, add salt, pepper, and garlic salt, then basil. Pour over pasta immediately. Serve and enjoy!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2008 6:48 pm

    I agree about adding basil to everything (love it!) and those caprese tomatoes look delicious!!

    • January 7, 2015 5:42 am

      You’ve got to be kidding me-it’s so trnneparsatly clear now!


  1. My Bouquet of Basil « Tomatoes and Basil
  2. Mille Foglie « Tomatoes and Basil

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