Sauces
• Gras Pistas
I learned to make Gras Pistas from Nadia Santini in a small restaurant called Dal Pescatore in the Montava region of Italy The time I spent in Nadia's kitchen was truly my greatest experience while working in Italy; while Nadia cooked, her mother and father helped, and her husband, Antonio, ran the front. Dal Pescatore was the kind of place where you went to the hen house when you needed an egg or to the eel pond when you needed an eel. Nadia taught me an enormous amount about the cooking of her region. She served this over grilled polenta, taking basil to a new plateau.

The Italians have pesto and Gras Pistas, and the French have pistou, all of which were probably developed as away to preserve basil. Basically a basil and parsley pesto, Gras Pistas was originally made with lard. My version uses what today's health advocates consider more healthy--olive oil. Of course, this could all change tomorrow.

Gras Pistas is great spooned over almost anything: polenta, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, chicken, fish, steak, or lamb, or as a dip for focaccia.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups:
Ingredients:

5 garlic cloves
1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions:

• Place the garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped.

• Add the walnuts and pulse. Add the basil, parsley, and mint and pulse.

• While the machine is running, gradually add the oil, one tablespoon at a time, and blend until it forms a loose paste.

• Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.