Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More late night finds...Basil is Sexy!

Oh Basil, My Basil

So now what?  You’ve made the pesto and you’ve eaten about as much as you can of caprese salad.  You want more of your home-grown perfection, but you’re having doubts as to what to do with it.  Look no further, because dessert has arrived and basil is the star.

With more than 150 species of basil, the most widely known is of the species Ocimum basilicum or sweet basil.  For me, basil’s fragrance is incredibly earthy and sexy.  Picture The Wizard of Oz and the scene where Dorothy and friends are running through a field of wildflowers—now change those flowers to a valley of basil and all of its many colours and sizes:  pale to deep greens, cabernet reds, and patches of golden sun with small leaves and large ones too.  And as I’m running and jumping, I release scents of mint, clove, anise, cinnamon, and citrus, all vying for my attention as I slowly lay down in my bed of sweetness, sleepy and satiated...Only wake me when it’s time to bake!

When preparing basil for desserts, it’s important to remember that basil bruises easily—turning black if handled too much.  After washing the leaves, dry them thoroughly with paper towels.  The preferred way to cut basil is to tear it into smallish pieces with your hands.  To get these pieces even smaller, stack 5 – 6 leaves together, and gently roll into a tight bundle and with a very sharp stainless steel knife, slice into thin strips, called chiffonade.  From this point, mincing is just a few knife strokes away.

Basil and Citrus Sorbet
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed and torn
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 ¾ cups organic lemon juice

Combine first four ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook three minutes or until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and chill.  Strain mixture through a sieve, pressing basil with a wooden spoon to remove as much liquid and goodness as possible.  Discard basil.  Mix basil syrup with lemon juice.
Pour syrup into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Spoon sorbet into a glass container, cover and freeze at least one hour or until firm.  Remove from freezer and let sit for 10 minutes before service.  Garnish with flowering basil sprigs.
Yield:  5 servings, 1 cup each

 Basil Butter Cookies
1 cup softened unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, washed and minced
¾  teaspoon salt
½ cup sanding sugar
Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add yolks and vanilla scraping the bowl.  Add flour, salt and basil and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
Divide dough in half and shape each into a log.  Roll logs on sheets of parchment to 1 ½ inches in diameter, pressing a bench scraper into the parchment to make tight, even rolls.
Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll logs in sanding sugar and slice to ¼ inch thick.  Arrange 1 ½ inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake until edges are just golden, 20 – 22 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks and cool.
Yield:  About 4 ½ dozen

Sublime Strawberry-Basil Sundaes
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon organic honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, washed and minced
2 pints ripe strawberries
1 quart vanilla ice cream
Basil butter cookies
Bring balsamic vinegar, honey, cinnamon stick and bay leaf to a slow simmer and continue to cook until syrupy.  It will reduce considerably.  Cool to room temperature. 
Wash and slice strawberries and place in a bowl with the syrup and basil.  Mix to combine and marinate for 10 minutes.
In coffee cups or sundae glasses, add a scoop of ice cream then drizzle on strawberry basil mixture.  Garnish with basil butter cookies.
Yield:  7 servings

I wrote this piece for an online food magazine eons ago and I still use these recipes today.  So feel free to use these time-tested recipes, especially the basil butter cookies--deliciousness!

In fact, I just found a Patrick Bottex "La Cueille" Bugey Cerdon Rosé, which is somewhat of an odd little sparkler from Savoie in Eastern France.  Made with 80% Gamay and 20% Poulsard it's low alcohol 8% and light sweetness of strawberries and raspberries make it a nice accompaniment to the desserts above.



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