On Saturday, the Fleur-de-Lys Farm Market chalkboard message was “Basil Baby 20”.
It was Marina’s 20th birthday, so when I awoke, I did the same thing I did on the morning of Aug. 7, 1990: went into the garden to pick basil. And basil I picked! No wonder basil pesto is her favorite meal.
But I couldn’t make Marina pesto for her birthday this year … she’s having what she calls her “Carmen Sandiego Summer”. From her home base in Brussels she has visited Rome, Stockholm, southern France, and finally, Switzerland. For her 20th birthday, she was at a resort in Gstaad-Saanen, working as an au pair for a family on holiday. With a backdrop of the Bernese Alps, she is experiencing the trials of toilet training, refereeing (in two languages) mealtimes with three rambunctious youngsters under 10, and collapsing in bed, exhausted, with sleepy requests for “Little Star” – the youngsters’ code for a few more rounds of  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
We set a Skype date since she had the afternoon off.  Richard was home so we started the festivities. When Marina zoomed in on Skype, we were ready, singing “Happy Birthday” with two slices of cake with candles burning bright. We told her to blow out the candles and make a wish, and we helped out on this side of the windy Atlantic. And yes, there were a few tears.
Richard thought it was pretty cool that he got to eat Marina’s birthday cake and she could only enjoy it vicariously. But then Marina’s room service meal arrived: pesto gnocchi, venison with elderberry sauce, polenta, and vegetables, and we had the virtual feast. So, despite the miles and time zones, our baby girl turned 20 with basil, family, and friends via the Internet. May your wishes come true, Laurie Lynch
More on Pesto: Marie wrote that she is growing basil for the first time and appreciated last week’s pesto recipe. But, she wondered if she had to buy a salad spinner to clean the basil.
My Answer to Marie:  No, you don’t need to use a salad spinner — I only use it if I prep the basil one day and make pesto the next. Usually, I just gather it in the garden, pick off the leaves and process them. If you pick just after the dew dries, why wash again? If you insist on washing your basil, just make sure you pat the leaves dry with a towel. Another suggestion is to snip off longer stems of basil plants and place them in water, just like a bouquet, and keep them on the kitchen counter (not in the refrigerator). That way, you can enjoy the basil for a few days before making pesto!
Basil-Loving Godmother: Last week Marina’s godmother Terese had Richard and I over for lunch and a swim with her three youngsters. Always the perfect hostess, Terese made this tomato pie that you all must try! We’ve got Assilito Family and Roughwood Golden plum tomatoes that would be perfect for this recipe, as well as fresh garlic and basil.
Basil-Tomato Tart
One rollout piecrust from Pillsbury
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 oz.)
4-5 plum tomatoes
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
2-4 cloves garlic
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Bake pie shell. Remove from oven and sprinkle with ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Cool on wire rack. Cut tomatoes into wedges and drain on paper towels. Arrange wedges on melted cheese in baked pie shell.
In food processor, combine garlic and basil, and chop. Sprinkle over tomatoes. In medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, remaining mozzarella, Parmesan, and pepper. Spoon cheese mixture over basil mixture, spreading to cover top. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes until golden and bubbling. As an appetizer, serves 8; full meal, serves 4.
Detour Done: The Eagle Point steel-grate bridge was painted bright green and is open to traffic.
Peeps to Pullets to Laying Hens: Richard and cousin Liam helped me round up the pullets so we could move them in with the laying hens. The former Easter peeps will start laying any day now. The black Crevcoeurs with their black-feathered “hairdos” appear to be stylish, French glamour queens … but the young men say they’re really lightening-fast roadrunners. Beep beep.
Written on Slate: Bisou magic! French for “magic kisses” and pronounced bee-zoo maj-eek, rhyming with “sheik”. When Marina’s charge accidentally stepped on her toe, the youngster bent down and kissed Marina’s toe, saying, “Bisou magic!”

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