I just love fresh herbs. I love having them around in glasses and small jars just as much as a bouquet of flowers (ok…maybe not that much as it is sweet to get the occasional flower or two or three…). I take care of them as if they are flowers by refreshing the water each day and pruning them to stay fresh and vibrant. I must say however, I am probably the worst green thumb out there. Lot’s of chef’s claim to have fresh herbs growing in their backyard or kitchen windowsill, well this chef, not so much. My herb box has become a mud box. Covered in leaves and trampled by my pooches, I feel bad scolding them for digging around in the flat as it is my fault for not growing anything. Let’s just say that I had good intentions and maybe one day I will grow my own herbs, but for now I buy mine at the market.
The other day I came across some beautiful basil and thought how nice it would be to use it in one of my recipes. I have trouble sticking to a recipe and I love adding a little twist to anything, especially if it is adding fresh herbs. Mint in my strawberry-banana smoothie? You bet! Rosemary in my apple pie? Oh yea! I like to see what kind of sweet/ savory combinations I can come up with and I usually have good results.
So for my fresh basil…they were finely chopped and added to a classic French recipe for some Madeleines. Oh and those darn lemons, just substitute with some orange instead if you are stuck on an island with no lemons (Note: I can also give another good substitute for lemon juice, especially for salad dressings requiring a couple tablespoons of “fresh” juice. Try San Pellegrino Limonata, add a little pazazz with the fizz and just the right amount of lemon and zest, it works great for a basic vinaigrette).
Makes 3 dozen from traditional madeleine 12-mold pan
2 cups flour – sifted, plus more for pan
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sugar – sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup fresh basil – finely chopped
6 eggs separated
20 tbsp unsalted butter, melted & cooled, plus more for greasing tin
- Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour madeleine tin and set aside. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
- In a large bowl, beat sugar, vanilla, zest and egg yolks with a hand-held mixer at med-high speed until the mixture turns pale yellow, volume triples and mixture falls back in “ribbons” from beater. Slowly fold in flour mixture and melted butter until almost combined.
- Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat med-high until stiff peaks. Be careful not to over beat, you want the egg whites to be silky and sexy. Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to batter and stir until smooth. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites into the rest of the batter.
- Divide batter evenly, I found that a hefty tablespoon fills each mold. Bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes. Let cool and gently remove cakes from tin. You might need a knife to pop them out carefully. Repeat step 4 two more times or until you are out of batter. Serve sprinkled with powder sugar or Chantilly cream. Best eaten shortly after they have been baked.
*Recipe adopted from the June/July issue of Saveur.
**Checkout Cozumel Chef’s Bodega for more products I like!