This delightful herb announces the arrival of summer in our family.

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Basil, Fresh

One of the most vivid memories I retain from an early childhood visit with my mother to her native Tuscany, is the intense fragrance of basil while visiting a convent just outside of Lucca. Growing up, in the summertime, my mother's overflowing vegetable garden always included basil. For some reason, it took me a while to discover the wonders this readily available herb, and I've still much to learn about it. So far, I know that it's best added at the end of most recipes in order not to lose its signature flavor. While I don't use it in many recipes, it's a must when I do.

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Bay Leaf

Bay leaf has a special place in just a few of my recipes. It's unique flavor is almost a must in tomato sauce prepared for lasagne.

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Bell's Seasoning

Though I don't use this often, when I do, it is indispensable. We could not have Thanksgiving without this ingredient in the all-important stuffing. There are other good uses as well. I knew nothing of Bell's Seasoning until learning about it from my Yankee mother-in-law, one of the many important contributions she made to my life.

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Though I don't use Marjoram very often, I'm finding that it's a wonderful accent for potatoes in some dishes. I use it sparingly just so it contributes to the flavor without standing out on its own.

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Mustard, dried

We most often use dried mustard as an ingredient in a vinaigrette Francaise, i.e. when preparing an oil and vinegar dressing destined for a French inspired dish, such as Salade Nicoise. The addition of dried mustard gives the vinaigrette a lovely tang hard to describe. However, use sparingly. Once I got a little carried away with the result a bitter tasting vinaigrette.

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I use Oregano sparingly, especially in its dried form. It has a tendency to overpower a dish. However, sparingly used, it adds a little zing which I associate with Mediterranean cooking, even more than with Italian.

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Though this herb can be over-used, it seldom is in my estimation. It just needs to be together with some good friends.

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Somehow sage contributes a poultry flavor to some of the dishes we prepare. I think that's because sage is often used as a flavor enhancer with poultry. I'm learning that paying attention to such "go togethers" and incorporating the associated flavor accents in other food preparations satisfies any wistful longings for pre-vegetarian tastes. This is so particularly in two recipes, one for "It's not chicken salad," and the other a "Meatless Loaf."

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I agree with Julia Child. Salt is an important ingredient in many, even most, recipes. I haven't quite caught on to the preference for Kosher Salt, though I do stock it and use it when called for. I find salt important, with care taken not to overdo its use.

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Savory doesn't emerge from my spice/herb shelf very often. It does well with potatoes, and croutons as well.

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Beware of Thyme. It can be overpowering. However I really like it in some savory dishes, just as a background flavor, usually mixed with some other herbs, such as Savory and Marjoram.

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