It is August and there are those Parisians who flee to damp, cold stone houses in Brittany, or gritty, sticky beaches in Cap Ferrat. I have escaped to my little house in Paris ( une petite maison). The ceilings soar to cool heights. Linen curtains billow and dance at tall windows. The floor in my kitchen is ancient stone pavers. It is cool under my feet. And it keeps the baskets of vegetables and bottles of wine at just the right temperature.
I always spend August in Paris. August is when friends, from distant cities and exotic climes, appear at my door. The Tin Man and Augustine appear first. The Tin Man’s birthday is Bastille Day, and after several weeks of trolling vine yards and forgotten villages they visit Paris. This evening my Paris friend Theadora and Resa of Toronto’s West Queen Street, will dine.
There is a market at the end of my street. I tuck a basket under my arm and early so very early I follow a truck washing the streets of night memories, I shop for tonight’s dinner. Looking for basil from Provence. It’s highly perfumed, piquant, tiny-leaves are the best for a brilliantly flavoured sauce and for tucking into salads.
I am in my kitchen pounding and turning basil with a pestle in a large marble mortar. It’s for a light basil sauce. In the heat of summer it is an answer to almost everything. I use it as a sauce for pasta (tonight’s dinner). I glaze it on pizza along with tomato sauce. I’ve paired it with poached fish. And lavished it the most traditional way as pistou in a Provençal vegetable soup known as soupe au pistou.
The recipe is simple. More so if your kitchen boasts a food process. Into your processor you place four fat garlic cloves peeled and halved , a half teaspoon of fine sea salt, four cups of loosely packed of fresh basil leaves and flowers and process it to a paste. I sometimes include a generous handful of Italian parsley leaves. Then with the machine running you slowly pour six tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil through the tube and process again. Taste for seasoning and the transfer it to a small bowl. Stir before serving. You can store this covered and refrigerated for three days or frozen for up to six months. Bring to room temperature and stir again before serving. You will end up with two-thirds of a cup, or about twelve one-tablespoon servings.
Chilling in a well-used silver ice bucket are several bottles of vin rosé from the south of France. Edith Piaf sings about lost loves. Theadora arrives arms loaded with treasures from the flea markets – vintage fashion magazines. We hear the high heeled taping of scarlet soled shoes on the stairs. Resa has arrived.
The night sky has turned pink. Candles gutter and sputter. It has been an evening of companionship, deep discussions, frivolous fanciful dreams, laughter and a few tears. It has been an August night in une petite maison (my little house in Paris)