With frost imminent and the backyard garden season coming to a close, the time's ripe to pull the last of the basil from its bed and put it to use. Most people turn the leafy, slightly bitter herb into Italian-style pesto, but the French opt for pistou. Unlike pesto, pistou contains no cheese or pinenuts, but like its counterpart it makes an excellent final addition to soups, stews or cooked fresh fettuccine.
This recipe for classic pistou, from Patricia Wells's insightful At Home In Provence (Fireside), uses the mortar-and-pestle method (although it can be made in a food processor). Place 4 large peeled and minced fresh garlic cloves in a mortar and mash them with a pestle to form a paste. Measure 2 cups of loosely packed fresh basil leaves and flower tops and add to the mortar bit by bit, pounding and turning the pestle with a grinding motion until the basil becomes part of the paste. Slowly add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, drop by drop, all the while grinding with the pestle, until all the oil is used and the paste is homogenous. Add fine sea salt to taste. At table, pistou is served as a condiment. Freeze it for up to six months.