Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lemon Verbena

There are certain fragrances that send me into sensory overload – lemon verbena owns the top position. Be it in the bar of soap slathering my body clean or the foamy scrub of a shampoo to more culinary applications that mystically scent a finished dish this ethereal herb makes me dizzy.

If I had a garden there would be a three feet high picket face glowing with a seasoned patina, and set as sentinels at the gate – two lemon verbena plants. I envision them standing erect aromatically frisking each person as they enter the garden. More to cleanse one of the outer world and welcome you into the heady, magically place where life gives life. Alas, for now, this is but a fanciful dream and I must rely on the skill and patience of the farmers that share my love of this most seductively, scented herb.

As the summer allows, me to use the herb fresh I find myself throwing leaves into a pesto; floating in hot water which later will be iced; hidden under the skin of a roast chicken. Then by mid-September I am collecting lemon verbena, and storing it in freezer bags for a winter’s callback. Yes, lemon verbena is on of those herbs whose leaves that can be froze for it is on the tougher side, and does not blacken and go mushy upon defrosting. Lemon verbena is so good to me.

Sweet Potato Braised with Lemon Verbena - yields 4 to 6 servings

2 Pounds Sweet Potatoes - peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
1/2 cup Lemon Verbena - leaves only
1 cup fresh Orange Juice
1/8 cup Champagne Vinegar
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an 8x8 baking dish shingle the sweet potatoes and verbena leaves in a single layer so that the verbena is sandwiched between the potato. Pour over the juice and vinegar, sprinkle with the and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil, and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender. Serve hot.

Verbena Lime Slush - yields approx. 8 cups

1/4-cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
2 whole limes – cut in quarts, and center pithy membrane removed
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 cups ice

In a blender process the verbena, limes, sugar and water together till smooth. Then start feeding in the ice until thoroughly blended. If the limeade gets too thick add some water. Serve immediately. For an optional kick add a splash of tequila.

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