A familiar household herb, sweet bay, was used years ago for laurel wreaths to crown poets and scholars and it is still used today for honoring athletes and decorating winners of the Boston Marathon.
Also called bay leaves and known botanically as Laurus nobilis, it has a delicious aroma from the crushed leaves which are bright green when growing, and a dull, pale green when dried.
Sweet bay is different from many herbs which give off all their flavor in a short cooking time,for it enriches a soup or long cooking dish for a number of hours.
That's why in the following dish, bay is added at the beginning of cooking and basil at the end.
Use leaves whole if you can, advises ''Park's Success With Herbs'' an excellent book by a famous seed company. Whole leaves are easily recognizable and removable in a dish, but if chopped, they are tough and difficult to chew.
This recipe is from'' Park's Herb Book'' by Gertrude B.Foster and her daughter Rosemary Foster; published by Geo. W. Park Seed Co.,Greenwood,South Carolina.
Minestrone Soup 1 pound plus 11 ounces(about 10 cups) cooked red beans 1 teaspoon salt 1 clove garlic, pressed 1/4 cup chopped parsley 1 small zucchini, chopped or sliced 2 stalks celery, choppped 3 tablespoons butter 2 bay leaves 1/2 cup uncooked elbow macaroni 1 teaspoon dried basil 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon oil 1 carrot, diced 4 or 5 leaves spinach or Swiss chard, chopped 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes Grated Parmesan cheese
Crush about 7 cups of the beans and leave the rest whole. Combine everything in large cooking kettle except macaroni, cheese and basil. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer about 3/4 hour.
Add basil and macaroni and cook 15 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese.