Picking the Taste of Summer

Put fresh basil to delicious use in appetizers and pasta salads.

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Basil Leaves Release Distinctive Fragrance

Stephen J. Lee calls himself "The Herb Meister."

He had come from his home in Louisville, Ky., to Honey Rock Herb Farm in Louisville, Tenn., to conduct one of his cooking classes for owners D. and Jim Brown in a barn-turned-classroom.

Lee has a degree in culinary arts from the University of Kentucky and studied under a former student of French chef Auguste Escoffier. He formerly operated the Cookbook Cottage, a bookstore and cooking school in Louisville. He is president of the Southeastern chapter of the International Herb Association.

 Here he offers two recipes using basil.

Caramelized Onion and Fresh Basil Spread

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, yellow Spanish, diced small
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
one 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. basil leaves, fresh, shredded fine
dash hot pepper sauce

Preparation:

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is transparent and just beginning to brown. Add the balsamic vinegar; stir well and continue to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool and "age."

Place cooked onion, cream cheese and basil in a bowl and combine well. Season with hot pepper sauce. Serve with plain crackers or toasted bread slices.

About 8 servings.

Pasta Salad With Basil

D. Brown shares this recipe for a summer salad using fresh basil. Basil plants need to be pinched back, she stresses, so use the basil in salads, pesto and with tomatoes.

Ingredients:

8-ounce package of pasta
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
6 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/8 cup parsley, chopped fine
one 7-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
basil leaves, for garnish

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and put in a bowl. Stir in next eight ingredients gently. Top with walnuts. Cool to room temperature. Garnish with additional basil leaves, if desired, and serve.

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