Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Recipes--Lemon Balm

This week I'm going to try to give you a recipe each day to harvest the summer bounty.
A friend contacted me today and said she had an abundance of Lemon Balm, and what to do? Well, first off, lemon balm is of the mint family and it will take over your garden, so if you're just starting out, plant it in a pot in the ground and then watch it and prune regularly...otherwise it will take over. There are some fun uses outside of the ones you might think of right off. Of course, you can make teas and vinegars with it, and it has the most incredible lemony flavor, but here are a few other ideas and one recipe:
  • Dry the leaves and store for winter teas--you can dry them in your oven, which works particularly well if you have a gas oven with a pilot light. Just wash and dry the leaves and lay them out flat, then turn them every day or so for 3-4 days until dried crispy. Store in an air tight container once dry. If you don't have a gas oven you can turn on your electric oven to the lowest setting for a few minutes just to warm it up, then shut it off and put the leaves in. You may have to re-heat the oven occasionally just to keep the moisture out, but they will dry to a crisp in a few days. You do want them crisp dry, otherwise they'll mold in storage.
  • Make Sangria with the leaves and other herbs, spices and citrus
  • Add the leaves to your bloody mary mix
  • Add fresh chopped leaves to salads for a lemony brightness
  • Add fresh chopped leaves to marinades
  • Use fresh chopped leaves mixed with basil for pesto
  • Add leaves to fresh made lemonade
  • Use leaves for a garnsih for macerated fruit, combining fresh lemon juice and minced leaves with a little grand marnier poured over fresh fruit as a marinade
  • Add chopped leaves to muffins or scones, both sweet and savory

Try this recipe for Valentino from The Herb Garden Cookbook by Lucinda Hutson:

2 oz unsalted butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp strawberry preserves or orange marmelade

1 tsp orange zest

1 tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur or fresh orange juice

3 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm

Fresh Strawberries (optional garnish)

Fresh lemon balm sprigs (optional garnish)

Blend the butter and cream cheese with a fork. Mix in the other ingredients. Best made a day in advance for flavors to mingle; chill overnight and serve at room temperature. Keeps for a week. Serve as a dip for fresh strawberries, or as a spread on open faced sandwiches or with shortbreads.

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