Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eating Like a Bear: Wild Salmon
What’s cooking? Salmon Chowder

Sitka Sound

Once upon a time, a talented physician in Ohio pulled up stakes in response to an ad for a private surgeon, and took his wife and three children to live in Alaska. The children grew up, married, established careers, and two of the three raised their own children in a state that remains largely an untrampled and untarnished wilderness. The surgeon and his wife were my husband’s aunt and uncle; their children were his cousins.

Some 60 years later, the stars aligned, and through the combined power of Spoon & Ink, Facebook, and email, I became friendly with the wives of those cousins. They insisted we should visit them in Alaska. Which meant – to me at least – a cruise! Followed by time in Anchorage with the cousins. My husband warned me that it’s such a huge state that we’d only get to see a tiny fraction of it, and he was right. But it’s also spectacularly beautiful. Moreover, if you go during the summer, it’s really pleasant weather, and for a foodie who likes fish, it’s heaven. More on that in a bit.

In addition to the stunning scenery, I made several darling acquaintances.
Sea otters
Harbor seals 
Sea lions

 Some seemed happier to see me than others.

The humpback whales were just shy.

And the bears were preoccupied with lunch.

So, speaking of lunch, we had nothing but amazing seafood on the trip. Halibut, cod, rockfish, king crab, scallops, and squid, but the most amazing was the salmon. Served every way you can think of – grilled and nestled on a bed of spring greens or in a sandwich of thick, crusty bread; fried in a crisp panko crumb coating and served with slaw; roasted with a spicy Cajun seasoning; smoked and served with ahi tuna in a sashimi “Napoleon” with fried wonton wrappers as pastry; and grilled with a soy maple glaze and Asian vegetables.

One of the reasons for the plethora of salmon dishes was that it’s now high season for Alaskan salmon. Technically, the season for fresh salmon – or “fresh frozen” (which means it was frozen on the boat, minutes after being caught) runs from May through October. But I’m told that Alaskan salmon are harvested at sea about 11 months of the year. Because of Alaska’s reliance on salmon for food and commercial purposes, the state is extremely careful about protecting salmon habitats and nurturing the salmon population, with the result that all five species of Alaskan salmon are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Kitchen Goddess notes on buying salmon:

■ As with any fresh fish, it shouldn’t smell. If the fish in your market smells, go somewhere else.

■ Good fresh salmon should glisten. It should be firm and evenly colored. Don’t be alarmed if you see white lines running through the fish; they’re evidence of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you.

■ Yes, wild salmon is more expensive than farmed salmon. But it’s way better for you, and the taste difference is like night and day. So eat like a bear: get wild salmon.

On our way out the door to return East, my new “cousin” Judy (I now think of them all as my family, too) handed me a recipe for Salmon Chowder. Apparently, that’s what she makes when she has “leftover” salmon from the previous night. Frankly, I’ve never bought so much salmon that I’d have leftovers, but I may have to start.

I’m going to assume you don’t have leftover salmon, either, so I’ve given you the amount to buy at the market. It’s worth starting from the beginning to make this chowder, and with corn and fingerling potatoes also now in season, I would encourage you to use both in making this dish.

Because I was just feeding two people, I should have cut the recipe in half. As printed here, it serves 6. But it was so delicious that we have happily eaten it for two dinners, and the Kitchen Goddess served herself some for lunch today. Easy and très yummy.

Salmon Chowder

Serves 6.

1 pound wild salmon, fresh or "fresh frozen"
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped herbs (chives, parsley, dill, or your choice)
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups onion, in ¼-½-inch dice
1¼ cups celery, in ¼-½-inch dice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes (or fingerlings), in ¾-inch dice
1 cup carrots, in ½-inch dice
1¼ cups chicken broth
kernels sliced from 2 medium ears of corn, or 1 cup frozen corn
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

– 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro or dill, minced
– crumbled bacon (about 6 strips to serve 6)

To cook the salmon:
Preheat oven to 425º. Line a baking pan with foil, and brush a bit of the olive oil on the foil. Lay the fish on the foil, skin side down, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle herbs evenly on top of fish, and bake 15-18 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish), until the fish is just done. Set aside.

To make the chowder:
In a large soup pot (I use a 5.5-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven) over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion and celery. Sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.

Add the potatoes and carrots and chicken broth, and simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Kitchen Goddess note: If you will be garnishing with crumbled bacon, start the bacon cooking when you add the potatoes and carrots and broth. I recommend laying the bacon out on a foil-lined baking sheet, and cooking 15 minutes at 400º, but of course you can do it the messy way in a skillet if you prefer.

Once the potatoes and carrots are tender, add the milk, cream, cheese, thyme, Worcestershire, and salt, and stir until combined. Chunk the salmon into cubes about ¾ inch square, and fold them gently into the chowder. Continue cooking until the cheese is fully melted and the soup is hot. Do not let the soup boil. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve garnished with herbs and crumbled bacon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Frozen Desserts Every Which Way
What’s cooking? Eggless Peach Ice Cream, Blueberry Frozen Yogurt, and Rhubarb Sorbet

The Kitchen Goddess is away on vacation with excruciatingly limited internet access for two weeks (I know – what was I thinking???), but that didn’t stop her from racing around –  while she should have been packing – to put together this post for you. There’s a lot for you to work on here, with previously posted recipes and new ones, too – all designed to help you remain cool and calm until the KG returns.

It is one of the most magical aspects of nature that fruit ripens at a time of year when frozen desserts are most welcome. We have all these beautiful berries and stone fruits showing up in our markets, and it’s hot as hell outside. So, naturally, the best way to cool off is to let that bounty of fruit become ways to make you not so hot. To help you enjoy the summer in all its sunny glory.

Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt
The Kitchen Goddess has practically lost her mind in a whirlwind of frozen dessert activity this summer. In addition to the Lemon-Basil Buttermilk Sorbet I posted about in late June, I’ve also made Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt and Cherry Sorbet from recipes posted last year.

Now I have three new ones for your ice-cold pleasure. And in case you run through those, here are four others that have appeared on these pages.

Apricot Sorbet

Apricot Sorbet

Sugar Plum-Cantaloupe Sorbet (can also be made with regular plums)

Spiced Blueberry Sorbet (can also be made with strawberries)

■ Peach Frozen Yogurt

Peach Frozen Yogurt

 Before I continue with today’s triple header, I thought it would be useful to mention a couple of the Kitchen Goddess’s notes about sorbets/frozen treats. I included them in a post about this time last year, but they bear repeating:

1. Some ice cream/sorbet/frozen yogurt recipes call for cooking fruit in a non-reactive saucepan. Generally, that means anodized aluminum, glass (e.g., Pyrex), enamel-coated cast iron (e.g., Le Creuset), or stainless steel. Highly acidic foods – most fruits (including tomatoes), wine, and vinegars – react badly with aluminum and untreated cast iron, causing a metallic taste to leach into the food, changes in the color of the food, and pits/discoloration in the pan itself. Aren’t you glad you asked? You can use a copper pan, but only if you’re cooking fruit WITH sugar. Me, I just go with stainless steel.

2. My friends at America’s Test Kitchen recommend “super-chilling” your dessert base by freezing a small amount (about ½ cup) of it, then remixing it into the larger part before transferring it to your ice cream machine. That seems to be effective in producing a smoother, less granular dessert.

Lots of recipes for ice cream start with a custard made from egg yolks and cream. This one is waaay easier, and still delivers that creamy, peachy flavor that fills your mouth with the feeling of a cool summer breeze on a hot August day. Even if you haven’t got time to make the ice cream, at least get some juicy local peaches while they’re still in season. You can chunk them up and cook them in water (the first step of this recipe), then just pour them into a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze them until you have time for the rest.

Eggless Peach Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz in The Perfect Scoop

Makes 1½ quarts.

1⅓ pounds ripe peaches (20-21 ounces, or about 5 small)
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
½ cup light sour cream or sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Peel and chunk the peaches (no larger than 1-inch cubes), removing pits. Combine the peaches and the water in a large, non-reactive saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The peaches should be soft and cooked through.

Stir in the sugar, then let the peaches and their juices come to room temperature. Purée the peaches, juices, and all other ingredients in a blender just until well mixed if you want some of the peach texture in your ice cream, or up to a minute if you want the ice cream perfectly smooth.

Chill the mixture well in the refrigerator, then process in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Kitchen Goddess note: You will have to restrain yourself with this recipe, as the ice cream will be very soft when it finishes processing, and needs to sit in the freezer for at least a couple of hours before serving. But hold back – the reward is so worth it.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Adapted from David Lebovitz in The Perfect Scoop

3 cups blueberries
1 ½ cups Greek-style yogurt (2% or whole)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kirsch or French ginger liqueur

Combine the berries, yogurt, and sugar in a blender and purée. Press the mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds. Chill thoroughly, at least an hour.

Before processing the mixture in your ice cream machine, stir well, as it will separate while it sits. Process in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

Rhubarb Sorbet

Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 1995

Kitchen Goddess note: As wonderful as fresh rhubarb is, the season is short. Thankfully, most grocers carry frozen rhubarb (already chopped!), which when thawed, is also excellent in this sorbet. Use the frozen pieces as they come in the package – no need for further chopping.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound fresh rhubarb (or frozen), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

In a large, heavy skillet or saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice and stir over low heat just until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then add the rhubarb. Simmer until the rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup and refrigerate the mixture until cold, at least 1 hour.

Process the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Friday, July 18, 2014

It’s a Pesto Party!
What’s cooking? 4 pestos and 10 ways to use them

I always find it a bit painful to watch the vendors at the farmers’ market tear the perfect, feathery green tops from the bunches of carrots and toss them into a heap. I assume they’ll be composting that heap, but it seems like a waste nevertheless. So I did a bit of investigating, and found that a great way to use those carrot tops is in a pesto.

Strictly speaking, pesto refers to a paste made with olive oil, garlic, grated hard cheese, pine nuts, and basil. According to Wikipedia, the ancient Romans made it with a variety of herbs; the Ligurians around Genoa adapted it with basil, and the French in Provence developed it into pistou, which uses no cheese and adds parsley. A recipe for pesto first appeared in an Italian cookbook dated 1863, but the dish didn’t really become popular in the U.S. until at least the 1980s. And no wonder – before the Age of Cuisinart, you had to pound away on those ingredients with your mortar and pestle. The Kitchen Goddess  may be a purist, but she does very little with a mortar and pestle.

These days, with food processors being ubiquitous, cooks make pesto with almost anything. I’ve made delicious pestos with bases of arugula, green peas and mint, and sun-dried tomatoes, in addition to basil. In my research, I uncovered pesto recipes using sage or beets or spinach (so now I have three more to try). Make up your own with your favorite green plant puréed with a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of pine nuts, lots of good quality olive oil, and some finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Tweak it with a bit of lemon or lime or OJ or citrus zest, and tell me about it. I’ll do a follow-up post in the fall featuring any I hear about.

I should add that pesto keeps really well – at least a couple of weeks in the fridge, and a year in the freezer.

In the meantime, the Kitchen Goddess looked around the farmers’ market and found lots of ingredients for pesto, and whipped up four delicious ones for you. And so you don’t have to wonder what to do with all that pesto you’re about to make...

Beyond Pasta: 10 Ways to Use Pesto

We all know that pesto is great on pasta. Add a little of the pasta water to thin out the pesto (you may also want to add a bit of cream), and garnish with a sprinkling of extra cheese or parsley. Mmmm... What else?

1. Use pesto as a crudité dip – the cilantro pesto goes especially well with cucumber rounds and endive leaves. I frequently use basil pesto or arugula pesto to dip a variety of raw veggies (blanched asparagus, raw carrots, radishes, celery, snow peas, jicama, broccoli, bell peppers).

2. Drizzle pesto over roasted vegetables. The roasted carrots above were wonderful with the carrot-top pesto, or you can try the Kitchen Goddess’s recipe for Grilled Cauliflower with Pesto and Cheese Sauce (click here for recipe). I feel weak just remembering this dish.

3. Thin pesto with some olive oil and use it as a salad dressing. Or don’t thin it and try it on this Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto (click here for recipe). It doesn’t have to be arugula pesto.

4. As an hors d’oeuvre, serve crostini or crackers spread with fresh ricotta cheese or goat cheese, and topped with a dollop of pesto. This photo features Spring Pea and Mint Pesto (click here for recipe), but any pesto will do.

5. Use pesto instead of tomato sauce to make your own favorite pizza.

6. Spread pesto on your favorite crusty sandwich bread for a great new BLT, or even a Chicken-LT.

7.  Brighten up breakfast with a dollop of zingy parsley pesto over polenta topped with a soft-boiled egg.

8. Try cilantro pesto or parsley pesto on broiled fish or scallops. Divine.

9. For another easy hors d’oeuvre idea, garnish quartered hard-boiled eggs with one of these pestos – pretty and tasty.

10. Think French and stir a spoonful of pesto – just like pistou but with cheese – into a steaming bowl of vegetable soup.

So now that you know what to do with it, here are four variations on classic pesto.

L to R: Basil-Parsley-Pistachio Pesto, Carrot-Top Pesto, Cilantro Pesto, Parsley Pesto.

Basil-Parsley-Pistachio Pesto

Adapted from Julia della Croce at

This is a pretty pesto, with multicolor shades of green from the pistachios and the parsley. The nuts add a bit of crunch to the texture as well as a meatiness to the taste, which is surprisingly mild (in a good way). If you want a stronger flavor, increase the garlic.

Makes about 1½ cups.

½ cup pistachios, shelled, peeled*, unsalted
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 cup basil leaves, packed
½ cup parsley leaves, packed
1 large clove garlic
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup good quality olive oil
¼ cup finely grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
freshly ground pepper

*[Kitchen Goddess note: If you cannot get pistachios that are shelled and have the membranes removed, buy the shelled nuts, remove the kernels from the shells, then blanch them in a small saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Shock them in cold water for a couple of minutes, then drain the nuts on paper towels, and the membranes will peel off easily.]

Toast the pistachios and the almonds. [See note about toasting nuts at the end of this post.] Pulse the toasted nuts in the bowl of a food processor until coarsely ground.

Add the basil, parsley, garlic, and salt to the nuts, and pulse until the mixture is grainy. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stop the motor and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and about 8 good grinds of black pepper. Pulse until well combined. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Chill until a half hour before serving.

Carrot-Top Pesto

Adapted from Diane Morgan in Roots, via

This pesto is amazing on top of roasted carrots, but good in many other uses. The carrot greens have a mellow taste, so the flavor of the cheese comes through stronger than with some other pestos.

Makes 1½ cups.

6 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cups packed carrot top leaves, large stems discarded
2 large cloves garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup good quality olive oil
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Start by toasting the pine nuts. [See note about toasting nuts at the end of this post.]

Combine the toasted nuts with the carrot tops, the garlic, and the salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until grainy. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and pulse until combined.

Cilantro Pesto

With the little bit of heat from the jalapeño, this cilantro pesto has a nice bite to it and, because it isn’t heavy, works really well over white fish or shrimp.

Makes 1½ cups.

¼ cup pine nuts
2 cups cilantro, thickest stems removed
2 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon jalapeño, seeds removed
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
¾ teaspoon salt
6-8 good grinds of pepper

Toast the pine nuts. [See note about toasting nuts at the end of this post.] Combine the cilantro, toasted pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until grainy. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Add the jalapeño and Parmigiano-Reggiano and pulse until combined. Add the lime juice and salt/pepper and pulse just until combined. Chill until a half hour before serving.

Parsley Pesto

Adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2013

Italian parsley is available year-round, so this is a pesto you can make any time. Bright taste with a mildly nutty finish. Excellent tossed with broiled shrimp over pasta.

Makes 2 cups.

¼ cup unsalted, slivered almonds
¼ cup pine nuts
4 cups (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup chopped fresh chives
1 large garlic clove, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup finely grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper

Toast the almonds and the pine nuts. [See note about toasting nuts at the end of this post.] In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the nuts until evenly ground. Add the parsley, chives, and garlic, and salt, and pulse to a grainy texture. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and pulse until combined. Add the lemon juice and about 8 good grinds of black pepper, and pulse just until combined. Chill until a half hour before serving.

A Kitchen Goddess Note on Toasting Nuts:

There are several ways to toast nuts, but the Kitchen Goddess prefers either the stovetop method or the oven method. (You can also toast nuts in a toaster oven or a microwave. Neither is any easier than the methods below.) The oven method is better if you need the burner or have already heated the oven; stovetop is preferable for speed and easier monitoring. ANY METHOD NEEDS MONITORING, as nuts can go from golden brown to burnt in the blink of an eye. (Once, after burning three batches in a row – hard to imagine, eh? – I had to raid my neighbor’s pantry for more nuts.)

Stovetop: Put the nuts in a large enough skillet to hold them in a single layer and cook them over medium heat, stirring every 20-30 seconds, until the nuts begin to brown, after which you’ll need to stir them almost constantly until they achieve a golden brown. The whole process will take about 5 minutes. Once you take them off the fire, continue stirring for another minute or remove them to a bowl/plate, as they will continue to absorb heat from the pan.

Oven: Put the nuts in a large enough pan to hold them in a single layer. Roast them at 375º in the upper third of the oven. After about 4 minutes, shake the pan every 2 minutes to get the color even. The whole process will take about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Boozy Blues
What’s cooking? Tequila-infused Blueberries

Summer is a season of fruits. Fruit-based ice creams and sorbets, fruit tarts, fruit salads, fruit smoothies, fruit shortcakes, and just plain old fruit. And now, the Kitchen Goddess reminds you of a twist on fruit that you might have forgotten: mixing fruit with alcohol. Really, people, can you think of a better way to enjoy nature’s bounty?

I know, I know, you’ve made sangria, and you’ve poured Triple Sec or some other orange-based liqueur over raspberries or strawberries. This is a new take on that sort of thing, with a combination I’ve never heard of before. I discovered it on one of my foodie newsletters, Tasting Table, and blueberries will never be the same for me. The berries, soaked in a tequila-lime syrup, retain their slightly tart taste, but now have a boozy sweetness added to the flavor profile. And the tequila-lime syrup reminds me of a sort of intense margarita.

A warning from the Kitchen Goddess: It’s a good idea to put the ingredients together the night before (make the tequila-lime syrup, and deposit the blueberries into it), as overnight marination helps the flavors enormously. BUT... you should wait until AFTER breakfast the next day to sample them. The Kitchen Goddess was trying to figure out ways she could tell you to use them, and in the process tasted them, well, two or three times, and oooo-eee, they are mighty fine. But then it was time for a short nap. So have breakfast first. In fact, have breakfast and lunch first – tequila isn’t really a morning drink.

These little baubles take almost no time to make and can be used in a number of ways. If you find one not listed here, I hope you’ll let me know.

■ My husband’s favorite is to spoon the blueberries and a tiny bit of the “juice” over vanilla ice cream. I don’t know why ice cream and this tequila-lime syrup are so good together, but as the singer Iris Dement would say, “Let the mystery be.” Just enjoy it.

■ My personal fave is to muddle a couple of tablespoons of the blueberries, then stir in 2 tablespoons of the tequila-lime syrup and 1-1¼ teaspoons of fresh-squeezed lime juice. Serve it as an aperitif cocktail.

■ Serve the tequila-lime syrup and berries together in a shot glass. But you may want to limit the number you offer per guest. It’s potent stuff.

■ STOP THE PRESSES. The Kitchen Goddess has just discovered her own version of a blueberry margarita. If you rim a small glass with margarita salt, and add ice, the berries and syrup together can be a cocktail on its own. You might even add club soda and see how that goes. So I don’t have a photo of it, but it would be a little like the above photo if I’d added salt and a couple of cubes of ice, and a bit more of the tequila-lime syrup in a slightly larger glass. Okay, so it’s nothing like this photo, but you are a smart bunch and can figure it out.

Tequila-Infused Blueberries

Adapted from the Tasting Table

Chiles de árbol 

1¾ cups tequila, preferably one that is 100% agave (I bought Familia Camarena, $21)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
4 strips of lime zest (use a vegetable peeler)
2 chiles de árbol (or other milder chile)
2 pints blueberries

Start by making the tequila-lime syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the tequila, sugar, water, lime zest and chiles. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to simmer 5 minutes. [Kitchen Goddess note: The KG and her hubby go for a minimum of spicy heat, but wanted the flavor of the chiles, so I split them and scraped out the seeds. If you want more heat, leave the chiles whole.]

While the tequila-lime syrup is still warm, add the blueberries and transfer the entire mixture to a 1-quart jar. Seal the jar and let the contents cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. For best effect, chill at least 24 hours before using.

The blueberries will keep for up to 1 month, but only if you’re not trying. The Kitchen Goddess’s batch made it less than a week before her husband was whining for more.

Monday, June 30, 2014

50 Ways to Love Your Basil
What’s cooking? Lemon-Basil Sorbet and Strawberries in Lemon Syrup

Okay, so maybe not 50. But a lot.

My friend Ellen in Pennsylvania sent me a note recently asking for some new ideas for basil. It’s early in the growing season, but she already has a bumper crop of the stuff, and has made all the pesto she can tolerate. I get that. You start out with a couple of small plants, thinking how darling they are and wondering if maybe you should have bought more and how you can hardly wait until they’re big enough to really enjoy. Sort of like children: in the beginning, you can’t really do much more than watch them and feed them; then before you know it, they’re huge and completely unruly and taking up way more space than you ever expected. Fortunately, with the basil, you can pinch them back.

As you may know, the Kitchen Goddess loves all the weird research you can do on the internet, and she has found the following (none personally tested) possibilities:

 - A poultice of crushed basil leaves will relieve wasp stings.
 - Chew a few basil leaves to eliminate garlic breath.
 - Basil is apparently a muscle relaxer, so chewing basil leaves also helps ward off a migraine.
 - Basil tea, made by steeping 5-8 basil leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes, is also supposed to help relieve nausea or a headache.
 - And best of all, the aroma of fresh basil – a strong clove scent – is supposed to be a mood lifter, so you might want to keep a small pot of it in your kitchen all the time!

Back to the Food

Enough of these snake oil salesman ideas. The Kitchen Goddess loves basil, and could wax eloquent on the stuff at the drop of a hat. Instead, I’ll just remind you of a few recipes (with links) featuring basil that have appeared in Spoon & Ink. Then we’ll get on to today’s delicious dessert idea.

My own recipe for basil pesto (click here), is excellent – and beautiful – on grilled cauliflower steaks, the recipe for which you’ll find if you click here.

Here’s a wine-basil gelée that goes awesomely with watermelon sorbet, and it keeps forever in your fridge. I froze the leftover gelée and ate it like a granita. Click here for Watermelon Sorbet with Wine-Basil Gelée.


Last summer, I made lemon-basil butter cookies (click here) that I served with plumcot sorbet, although you could serve them with any ice cream or sorbet. They have a lovely, slightly savory note to them, and the basil sugar ingredient (shown at right) is terrific in iced tea.

For today’s treat, I took the basil out of the side sauce and into the spotlight, with a lemon-basil sorbet. The buttermilk makes an excellent (low-cal!) base for this sorbet, having its own lightly tart flavor. Kitchen Goddess note: You can easily make this sorbet with limes instead, which I have noted in the recipe. The lime will add a bit more pucker to the sorbet; the lemon makes a softer flavor. Both will be delicious. And the strawberry sauce is so clear, it’s like a scattering of red jewels under the sorbet.

Lemon-Basil Sorbet

Adapted from Weight Watchers online.

Makes about 6 cups.

1⅓ cups sugar, divided
⅔ cup water
1 cup basil, minced*
1 quart low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or lime juice)
zest of one lemon (or one lime, if using lime juice)

Make basil syrup: In a small saucepan, combine ⅔ cup sugar with the ⅔ cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring only until the sugar is dissolved. Boil 1 minute, then stir in the minced basil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes, then remove from heat and refrigerate until cooled.

In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk and the remaining ⅔ cup sugar, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. In a blender, mix together the buttermilk, lemon (or lime) zest and lemon (or lime) juice, along with the cooled basil syrup. Blend on medium high for about one minute to get the basil more finely processed.

Pour the mixture into a large container and chill thoroughly (1-2 hours), then process in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions.

Strawberries in Lemon Syrup

Adapted from David Lebovich’s The Perfect Scoop

¼ cup sugar
1 cup water
grated zest of one lemon (or lime)
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water and lemon (or lime) zest. Bring to a boil, stirring only until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and chill thoroughly.

Gently fold the strawberries into the lemon (or lime) syrup and allow to macerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours.

To serve with Lemon-Basil Sorbet, spoon the strawberries with some syrup into a bowl and float a scoop of the sorbet on top.

Step 1: Stack the basil leaves, 8-10 at a time.
*Kitchen Goddess note: To mince the basil, start by stacking a bunch of leaves (8-10, or as many as you can manage), then roll them into a cigar shape and thinly slice across the cigar. The resulting cut is called a chiffonade. Then mince that pile.

Step 2: Roll the leaves into a cigar shape.

Step 3: Thinly slice the tube to produce thin strips of basil.

Step 4: Separate the rolled strips and mince.