Cooking With Herbs

Recipes, thoughts, and hints for enjoying herbs in the kitchen



Frozen Treats from the Garden

Summer is finally here.  And Maine’s ice cream stands have taken down the shutters they put up last fall when the first cold winds blew.  Temptation now beckons every time I drive downtown because ice cream is not only America’s favorite treat but mine as well.   Sometimes I even make it myself giving the old favorite a new sophistication by adding the subtle taste of herbs.  Whether it’s the sharp bite of ginger, the refreshing breath of rosemary, the spicy hint of basil, or the citrusy goodness of lemon verbena, herbs make what is good even better.  Use them on their own, combine several, or mix them with fruits or chocolate for an endless variety of cooling temptations.

Sorbets take readily to herbs, too.  Consider a tomato-basil sorbet as a summer starter; a rosemary sorbet to clear the palate: or a lemon herb tea sorbet for a light ending.  Simple cakes or fresh fruits become company fare when accompanied by herbal sorbets and ice creams and a dish of several carefully combined flavors awakens even the most jaded palate.

To add herbal flavors to ice cream, gently heat the milk (if the recipe uses both milk and cream) or half the cream (if there is no milk).  Steep the herbs in the warm liquid for several hours or overnight, then strain out the herbs.  The liquid will have taken on their flavor and can be used in your favorite recipe.  For sorbets, make an herbal tea and use it instead of water or fruit juice in your recipe.

Here are two recipes to get you started.

Spicy Basil/Cherry Ice Cream

1 ½ cups ripe cherries, pitted and halved

½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup milk

½ cup cinnamon basil leaves

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup heavy cream

Mix the cherries and 3 tablespoons sugar in a bowl and let stand until the sugar dissolves.  Heat 1/3 cup of milk, stir in the basil leaves, and let steep for an hour or more.  Strain and return the milk to the heat until it is lukewarm.  Add the remaining sugar and salt, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Beat the egg until light and fluffy, then blend into the milk mixture.  Add the remaining milk and cook the custard over low heat until it thickens.  Chill.  When mixture is cold, stir in the vanilla and cream and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions.  Add the cherries when the ice cream is partially frozen.  Makes 1 quart.

Lemon/Lavender Sorbet

1 ½  cups water

1 ½  cups sugar

1/3  cup fresh lavender flowers or 2 tablespoons dried

1 cup lemon juice

Place the water and sugar in a non-reactive saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  The sugar should be dissolved.  Remove from the heat, pour over the lavender, and let steep until the syrup is cool.  Strain and stir in the lemon juice. Place in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.  Makes approximately 1 quart.

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© photos Chris Mead, text Emelie Tolley



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