Giveaway results at the end of this post!
You can’t fool a basil plant. it’ll absolutely wait until it’s warm enough to come out and play. Once summer really and truly arrives, basil can be your best friend at a party or picnic — ready to mix it up and bring out even the shyest of wallflower ingredients. I think it’s the italian accent that gets me every time. It can even hold its own with stars like glamorous berries. But don’t fool yourself into thinking it’ll be around forever. After the first cold spell in the fall — well, I won’t go into the details, but trust me, it’s not pretty. So enjoy it while you can.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy basil it is to drink it — mocktails, cocktails, lemonade and iced tea. Just keep in mind that it’ll lose its flavor if you cook it, so always add it near the end of cooking or you may be disappointed. One way to get around this when making basil simple syrup is to blanch it VERY quickly — for 10 seconds or so. Before it knows what happened, plunge into a bowl of ice water, then blend with the sugar & water. It’ll still retain that wonderful spicy, complex sweetness. The other big tip I learned from Jerry Traunfeld, in his Herbal Kitchen, is to add a tiny amount of baking soda to the simple syrup. This is a huge revelation for those of us who have added bright green herbs to drinks only to have them turn into a muddy brown mess. The next day, your basil simple syrup will look as lovely in its emerald green summer dress as when it arrived at the party (unlike the rest of us). Don’t combine with citrus until you’re ready to drink it to maintain its beauty for as long as possible.
Basil Simple Syrup
1 1/2 cups basil leaves ( get a “handful” for $1.50 at Let Us Farm at the University Farmers Market and you’ll have more than enough).
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 t baking soda
Blanch basil leaves by plunging them for 10 seconds into a small pot of rapidly boiling water. Lift them out with tongs and place in a bowl of ice water. Place in a sieve and drain, squeezing out excess water.
Blend sugar, water and baking soda in a blender. Add basil leaves and continue blending until you have a dark green liquid — 30 seconds to a minute.
Strain through a fine strainer using a spoon to push the liquid through. Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Once you have this potently delicious syrup you can mix up all sorts of concoctions.
Basil Lemon Lime Fizz (non-alcoholic drink for 1)
2 t basil simple syrup (recipe above)
1 t lemon juice
1 t lime juice
Sparkling water or club soda
Pour basil simple syrup, lemon & lime juice into glass. Fill with cracked ice. Top off with club soda. Stir.
You can adjust amounts of basil simple syrup, lemon & lime juice to suit your own taste. This drink is not only beautiful but is an excellent thirst-quencher for a hot summer day. These same ingredients make the basis (substituting the club soda with tonic) for an amazing gin & tonic.
Basil Berry Tonic (cocktail for 2)
4 ounces rum (we like the taste of dark rum but light rum also works and would make a drink of a lighter color)
1 ounce basil simple syrup (recipe above)
3 – 4 large strawberries, washed and hulled + 2 extra for garnish
Leaves of 2 or 3 sprigs of basil
Tonic water (if you can find Fever Tree, it’s the best we’ve found so far)
Gently muddle the strawberries and basil leaves in the bottom of a wide shaker. Remember you are pressing, not tearing.
Add rum and simple syrup.
Add plenty of ice to the shaker and shake.
Fill 2 glasses with cracked ice. Pour muddled mixture into glasses and top off with tonic. Stir and garnish with a strawberry.
If you prefer a clearer cocktail, you can strain out the muddled pulp. It may look prettier but we think it doesn’t taste as good. Why waste all that good stuff?
Once again, Charlie, our master mixologist, outdid himself with this herbalicious Basil Berry Tonic recipe. We have Jerry Traunfeld to thank for the basil simple syrup and inspiration for the Basil Lemon Lime Fizz.
Now about the giveaway. Lily drew the names out of the gardening hat and the winners are………….. Sally Lawless, Kelly Ann, Renee G, Andrea, Mangochild, Laura, Lorene, nfmgirl, Steve & Zack.
If you are one of these lucky readers, you should have received an email from me instructing you to reply with your name & mailing address. Once we receive that, we’ll send you your new cookbook. Thanks to everyone who entered. We had so much fun hearing your ideas that we’re inspired to find more great giveaways for you. Stay tuned……..