Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lemon Basil Cookies

I'm a food history buff. I love browsing old recipes. By old, I don't mean "food like Grandma used to make" but really old, like centuries old.

Some of those recipes are familiar and have made their way down through the ages to us as some of our favorite treats. Things like gingerbread and sugar cookies can be traced back to the opening of trade with the East.

But, browsing old recipes you come across taste pairings that most of us would find a bit odd. Ice cream and sweets made with herbs and vegetables would seem odd to the modern palate. However, when spices had to be shipped around the world in sailing vessels things we take for granted were very expensive and hard to come by. Think of it this way. Have you ever looked at a recipe that called for saffron and then passed it up because you just couldn't imagine spending that much money on one ingredient? Well, think of that with something as common as cinnamon.

So, cooks tended to be very creative in the use of herbs and other flavorings in their dishes. Some of those seemingly strange pairing are actually delicious. One of those is lemon and basil (or the herb lemon-basil) baked into a sweet and slightly savory cookie.

This little cookie resembles a delicate shortbread and the lemon places nicely against the somewhat peppery basil to create a real taste treat. Certainly, a step above the usual cookie fare in the kitchen.

Personally, I think this makes a lovely tea cookie - particular when paired with spiced teas.

Give it a try, you'll be delightfully surprised at the lovely flavors.

1 cup fresh basil leaves (or lemon-basil)
1 3/4 cups sugar (divided)
1 lb. butter, softened
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbs. lemon zest
1 large egg
6 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse basil and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor or blender until blended.

Beat butter at medium speed in mixer fitted with paddle attachment until creamy. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating well. Add lemon juice and egg, beating until blended. Gradually add flour and basil mixture and continue to beat until mixed.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat. Flatten balls slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.

Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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