When gifted with basil, what to do


I was picking some greens at the CT4MB garden when Mike, of next-door Colonial Nursery NJ, came over with a bunch of freshly cut, eager-to-please basil. With his engaging smile and an offering I could hardly refuse, it looked to me a bouquet of flowers. Simple pleasures.


So back to the question – when gifted with basil, what to do? The first thing that comes to mind is presto! pesto – an easy way out to an elaborate preparation of a meal which I almost always am inclined to do these days.


With pasta. On summer-grilled, fresh corn – finger-lickin’. On flatbread – fantastic! On your next chicken sandwich – divine.

That’s it. Here goes -

No-fail basil pesto

Prep time: 30 minutes Yield: Makes 1 cup


4 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed

1/2 cup pine nuts

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese

Salt/black pepper


Rinse basil leaves in water, pat dry with paper towel and chop coarsely.

In a food processor or blender, combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, and pulse a few times.

Add cheese and pulse some more.

Pour olive oil in a steady stream while the blender is on. If too thick, add more olive oil.

Salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Store in an airtight glass jar for a week in the refrigerator or freeze for three months. (Note: add a thin layer of olive oil on top to maintain its color.)

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Eggs en cocotte 3

The Weekend. Eggs en cocotte and toast

Looking forward to a long, lazy weekend, a simmering one at that. I’m feeling … breakfast, slow, leisurely, and satiating. What comes to mind? Les oeufs en cocotte. Simple and easy. Very much a French dish, coddled eggs baked in ramekins.


Eggs en cocotte and toast

Time: 30 minutes. Serves: 4



2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs

4 teaspoons heavy cream

Gruyère cheese, shredded

Sea salt

Black pepper

Herbs – your choice of freshly minced rosemary, dill, sage, thyme, or parsley

Buttered toast



Preheat oven to 375°F.

Crack an egg into each buttered ramekin, careful not to break the yolk.

Sprinkle evenly with gruyère, and mixed herbs.

Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle cream on top of egg.

Repeat with the rest of the ramekins.


Eggs en cocotte 1


Arrange the ramekins in a deep baking pan and pour boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins as in a bain-marie.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake until the egg whites are set.

12 minutes for runny yolks, 15 minutes for soft-cooked yolks.


Eggs en cocotte 2


Eggs en cocotte 4



This calls for crusty bread, freshly brewed coffee, and today’s papers.

Half hour later, energized and ready to face you, World!



1. We can add any combination of the following – caramelized onions, minced herbs, shredded cheese, chopped mushrooms – at the bottom, after buttering, the ramekins.

2. Go a little fancy and add a few drops of truffle oil before baking; or go all the way fancy, add a sliver or two of truffles.

3. http://www.cordonbleu.edu/news/easter-2014-recipe/en

I choose to go simple and elegant, and savour the sunny runny yolk. And that crusty buttered bread. I choose to go back to my childhood, Saturdays with my Papa, preparing his version of what I now know as les oeufs en cocotte. Misty-eyed.


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Let’s get acquainted -

I’m Valérie. (I added that accent on the “e” to make it frenchy.)

French cards

Wannabe French. French no wannabe me.

Sleepless nights no longer a problem. I just roll with it. Down by 10p, up by 2a, reach out for my e-toys, or one of the books in bed with me, and out again in two. Yes, candles. Yes, Chanel No. 19.


It’s definitely coffee in the morning, and a slow, lingering one to start my day.

My early morning mantra – I am my dream. I write. I sketch. I paint. (I do not but I believe in my “vision”.)


My two shih tzus, Coco and Marcel, are my exercise pals. And the shore. And a lady named Amy. My goal is to live to 100.

Always with my phone or pad. Always.

My middle name is Manhattan. It used to be Manila. Came to this country 35 years ago.

Yearly jaunts to France.

Born with black straight Asian hair. Dying to have long tight curls. 
Grey is a problem. Color is a friend. Have gone bronze, copper, and red.

My nails are red. A signature.

My lips go red too.

Crazy for high heels. Used to be. Knees and cold weather – they don’t go together.

Love to wear cloche in winter. Nothing in the summer. Gotcha!


I cook. I bake. I eat. Am a food fan.

Started my bread biz last year, Bread and Passion. Re-energizing it this year – from bread dough to bread site.

Check in regularly.


Welcome to my world. …

Your turn.

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