Two weeks ago, we received lemon verbena in our farm share. I had never even seen this herb, let alone cooked with it, so I had to do a bit of internet research to figure out what to do with it. I found a few lemon verbena desserts online, and this sorbet was born. The inspiration for this dish came from two different recipes, but it is mostly an arugulove original.
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
a few strips of lemon zest
3 or 4 sprigs of lemon verbena
1 or 2 sprigs of rosemary
1-2 tablespoons of some kind of alcohol
* This is to keep the sorbet from freezing into a solid block of ice. The more you add, the longer it will take to freeze, and the softer it will be. I’d put 1 tablespoon if you want to eat it in the next day or two, more if you’ll hold on to it longer. I used dry white wine, but vodka, limoncello, grappa, or whatever you’ve got on hand that will taste good will work.
Bring water, lemon juice, and sugar to a boil, and cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the alcohol, lemon zest, and herbs. Cover and let it cool completely.
Once it has cooled, strain the herbs and zest out.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker for 20-25 minutes. Pour into a container and freeze for at least 6 hours.
The resulting sorbet will be more mild and interesting than traditional lemon sorbet. It is not distinctively herbal, but the herbs definitely elevate it into something a little more sophisticated. If you were really ambitious, you could make a batch of those Pine Nut Rosemary cookies to serve with the sorbet for a very elegant dessert.
I recently saw this in Food and Wine and thought it would be a good contribution to a dinner party. Thankfully, my gut instinct was a good one, as the dessert was a success. It’s a mildly flavored, fruity cake, with very interesting flavors. It really doesn’t taste like anything I’ve ever had before. But it looks and sounds very restaurant-ish, so I definitely recommend this if you want to impress.
Before I moved to the west coast, I didn’t realize that one could buy fresh figs, but apparently they are in season out here…who knew?
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pastry flour
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg whites
1 pound fresh figs, quartered or sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus 12 thyme sprigs for garnish
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and coat lightly with nonstick vegetable oil spray. (I didn’t use parchment paper, and it came out fine.)
In a medium bowl, stir the pastry flour with the bread flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks with the olive oil, water, thyme, salt and vanilla and 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the sugar. With a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg yolk mixture at medium speed until very frothy, about 3 minutes. I guess you could probably use a stand mixer, but since you need so many bowls, the electric mixer worked out well.
Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed until the flour is fully incorporated.
In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy.
Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until the egg whites are thick and glossy, about 4 minutes. Scoop a cup of the beaten egg whites into the batter and stir until combined.
Fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, until the cake is golden and starts to pull away from the side. Set the pan on a rack and let the cake cool completely, about 1 hour.
To make the figs, cut them in quarters or halves and put them in a medium size bowl.
Toss them with the sugar, olive oil, chopped thyme, black pepper and salt. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, until the figs begin to soften and release their juices.
I had fig issues. I had envisioned something more syrupy, and after they sat for an hour, they were still pretty dry, you could still see the grains of sugar, and there was not a lot of liquid in the bowl.
See what I mean?
So I added a couple tablespoons of water, stirred, and let it sit for another half an hour. It still wasn’t right, so I added two more tablespoons of water, another teaspoon of sugar, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Much better. By the time we ate the dessert about four hours later, it had just the right amount of liquid. So experiement here to get the right consistency.
To serve, cut the cake into 12 rectangles and transfer to plates. Spoon the figs and their juices over the cake slices, top each slice with a dollop of crème fraîche and a thyme sprig.
I admit, I omitted the thyme spring, but I still think the finished product looks pretty good. Well, better looking than this photo. I have camera issues. This is the only finished product picture I have, so you will just have to trust me that looked good in real life.
And it tasted divine.