Basil is abundant now so I am always looking for ways to use it such as in these Lemon Cakes with Lemon Basil Syrup. We all know that means pesto time as well. Pesto is a cook’s way of preserving the goodness of basil for use at a later time. As long as you have a food processor there is never a reason to let any pesto go to waste. Gillian and Caitie made pesto as did I when we were fortunate enough to get it in our CSA box. That very same week my good friend Cindy made pesto and blogged about it and kindly revealed her secret pesto ingredient, lemon juice. I scoffed at first because, like all cooks, I thought nobody could beat my pesto recipe but Cindy was right. In the blind taste test it was the addition of just a bit of lemon juice that took my recipe to a new height.
I was lucky enough to get two bundles with my CSA because somebody put a bunch in the exchange basket. I snapped it up! With most of it I made pesto (of course) because I needed a cup of it for a Pasta Pesto and Peas salad I had on the menu for a family picnic last weekend. Like most of my “secret recipes” this one was Ina Garten’s first and it has become a ‘go to’ recipe for me for picnics and potlucks year after year. I had plenty of pesto left over so in addition to using it on some broiled tomatoes I used some for a pizza sauce when I had to find a way to use up the rest of last week’s basket!
I don’t think that there is anything that isn’t made better with a little pesto on it. This past week pesto found its way onto grilled and roasted veggies, into a turkey sandwich, and even into a salad dressing. Fresh basil itself, however, is just as easy to use on its own. In fact, the many Persians I know eat it just as is, fresh, as a palatte cleanser with other fresh herbs like tarragon. Its actually quite good. I was at a party at my friend Meshia’s house and look what she did with fresh basil: Mini caprese salads! They were so pretty on the platter that I had to take a picture of them.
Just thread the marinaded mozzarella balls on a toothpick with a basil leaf and a cherry tomato. Serve with a dipping sauce of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. How easy is that? Have a few sprigs left? I made a simple syrup with lemon zest and a handful of basil leaves for these lemon basil cakes. In fact, the syrup is now in my refridgerator begging to be used for some new invention.
Now onto dessert!
Lemon Cakes with Lemon Basil Syrup
Any more ideas?
This is what you will need:
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons, melted
- 3/4 cup matzo cake flour plus additional for dusting
- 2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature for 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 (4- by 1-inch) strip fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 8 large fresh basil sprigs For whipped cream
- 1 cup chilled heavy cream
This is how you make it:
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F
- Lightly brush 8 muffin cups with some of melted butter and chill 2 minutes, then butter again and chill 1 minute more
- Dust cups with matzo cake flour, knocking out excess
- Beat together softened butter, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until well blended
- Beat in lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest until combined
- Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined
- Beat whites with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks
- Add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating, then beat until whites just hold stiff peaks
- Stir one fourth of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly
- Spoon batter into 8 prepared muffin cups
- Blend remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon zest with your fingertips and sprinkle over batter, then bake until cakes are puffed, edges are golden, and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes
- Cool cakes in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then lift out cakes carefully (tops will break easily) and cool completely on rack
- Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil, covered, in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, then remove lid and boil 10 minutes
- Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids
- Cool to room temperature
- Beat cream in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks
- Spoon 1/4 cup syrup into each of 8 shallow bowls and top with cakes
- Spoon whipped cream on top of cakes
Syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator
Will we get any more basil this week?