Basil Mint Lemonade
It's already the end of the summer and I've been making every effort to get the best use out of the leftover mint and basil in my herb garden. With the basil, I've made a lot of pesto that I store in the freezer for the winter. There isn't enough left for an additional sauce, and I've always wanted to try a basil infused drink, so today I made a basil lemonade, basil limeade, to be more precise. Sweet basil can be a bit subtle, so I wanted to pair it with another herb to give the drink some kick.
Mint immediately came to mind. I've made drinks all summer using the different kinds of mint we have, including spearmint, peppermint, Vietnamese mint, and apple-mint. I still, however, have a lot of leftover chocolate mint in the garden. Lulu planted it for me a few years ago and it's been growing literally like weeds. It's not as strong as the other mint varieties, so it complements the basil in the limeade I made today without overpowering it. It may sound odd, but it's a really fun, beautiful and delicious drink.
I wish I had tooken the main picture but it is not mine. It was taken by a brilliant photographer named Ken Phuong. He's currently shooting with a team of photographers in the Bay Area.
Yields: 7 cups1-1/2 cups superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups sweet basil leaves, tightly packed
1-1/2 cups chocolate mint leaves, tightly packed
1-1/2 quarts water
1 pinch salt
4 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
1 quart ice cubes
For the simple syrup: In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a near boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool completely. Add the vanilla extract.
For the limes: Zest and juice the limes. This should yield a bit more than a cup of lime juice. Set aside.
Keeping the herbs green: Wash the basil and mint leaves. Quickly blanch them for about 10 seconds in boiling salted water and transfer to an ice bath, to maintain a bright green color. Drain thoroughly of all water. Coarsely chop the herbs. In a blender or a mini-blender if you have one, blend the basil and mint with 1/4 cup of water. Add up to 1/4 cup of water if the blender doesn't flow smoothly. Set aside.
For the basil-mint syrup: Transfer the green mixture into the cold simple syrup.
Assembly time: Combine the basil-mint syrup, lime zest and lime juice. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve. Dissolve the syrup with the remaining water. Add the green and yellow food colorings.
Serve over ice in martini glasses; stir and enjoy with green cookies. Garnish with fresh sprigs of chocolate mint and sweet basil.
I prefer using superfine sugar. It's fine-grained sugar and it dissolves much more quickly than regular granulated sugar.
Blanching the herbs helps ensure that very appetizing bright green color for the drink. It's also important that you let the syrup cool completely before adding to the herb mixture.
Blaching the herbs in salted water (a pinch is enough) helps maintain a green color.
I added a few drops of food coloring to accentuate the color of the drink.
I added vanilla extract but you can add your own taste, such as mango extract, cherry extract, rose water, orange blossom water or even banana extract. Be creative! You can find a lot of these flavorings in Indian and Asian stores.
If you don't have chocolate mint, you can always use regular mint or even Vietnamese mint for its stronger taste.
Don't forget the bread contest. You have one more week to enter your bread recipe. Click on the picture for more info.September 24, 2009.