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. 

1 comment:

  1. These recipes look fantastic! I've been sticking some basil in my juicer with cucumbers and strawberries for a refreshing drink. I can't get enough basil. Great post, Lee!