Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chameleon-like Activity Spotted in Verbena

Verbena sighting at St. Antoine

When my herb man had a bouquet of verbena out on display, I snagged it immediately. This year in the restaurants of France they have verveine infused into everything from panna cotta to pairings with lobster, or in asparagus terrines. Verbena is in the mix in poached peaches and ice cream, infused in savory sauce to top spider crabs and simmered with artichokes, even matched with piquillo peppers! The possibilities are endless for this herb. Voilà, donc, a verveine infused cheesecake with a fruit or berry coulis. I picked up some blackberries (just in case) from a Condrieu producer and and also some apricots from another, to do two sauces, choosing at the last minute which is best for the cake.

Verbena, or verveine

The idea is to make a sugar syrup, add the leaves off heat while it's hot hot hot, and let it soak off heat until it cools down again. It doesn't take more than a couple of minutes of active hands-on activity. Herb syrups keep a long time. You can use this syrup to spruce up or make your own soda or lemonade, and of course serve sublime cocktails. It's fabulous on yogurt. Or like me, you can just sip it by the spoonful. I gleaned the proportions for this recipe from a 1960 edition of Raymond Olivier's cooking magazine, Chez Vous.

in short order you can have verbena infused syrup

Fresh Verbena Syrup

for each 2 sprigs of verbena you use, measure:
200 grams or 3/4 cup sugar
20 cl or 3/4 cup water

Following this proportion, if you want a quart, use 10 sprigs.

Rinse off your verbena and pull the leaves off the sprigs. You will only use the leaves. Verbana must have appeared at a special moment in my childhood because every time I handle the fresh herb, strong diffuse emotions are triggered. Baby memories. I wonder if we had it in our garden when I was a baby. Anyway, bring the water and sugar to a full rolling boil, and remove it from heat. Add the leaves to the hot syrup, ensure that they are fully submerged (they will sink easily), and let the verbena infuse until the syrup cools to room temperature. If you are not using the syrup immediately, strain into a bottle or jar, seal it, and keep it in the fridge. It lasts for several months.

Gift idea

To make the verbena flavored cheesecake, add 5 Tbsp. of the syrup to your cheesecake batter, recipe here. You may add 5 minutes or so to the cooking time. Remember that when cheesecake comes out of the oven, it is still a little bit jiggly. Then it settles down and solidifies to the wonderful thick creamy sliceable wedge of heaven we know to be New York Style cheesecake. If you are in the States and don't have fresh white farmer's cheese, use Philadelphia or a similar kind. You won't be disappointed. Here I am, adding all kinds of crazy flavorings to cheese cake. Viva la révolution!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheesecake for breakfast......what a lovely start to the day.

5:40 PM, July 19, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for coming to visit, franchini! Cheesecake is one of his favorite breakfast foods, that is true.

I am editing out the first couple of paragraphs from this post, because I realized upon reading it that it was a bit rambly.

Only some of you will understand francini's comment!

10:34 AM, July 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy. Thank you for all your delightful posts. I can't wait to try the herb syrups tomorrow! I really feel you are writing like Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. Their books felt like letters from a friend even though we didn't actually know them. My copies are tattered yet so well loved. I would love to see a book by you on Burgundy and its food. We have just had the happiest week there.
Thank you for all the enjoyment you are giving us! Angela

10:14 PM, July 20, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear Angela, thank you!!! Perhaps I will write one. Burgundy really is a gorgeous place to tour.

5:21 PM, July 21, 2007  
Anonymous Maria said...

I would really like to try this. Is the verbena you used the Lemon Verbena? I have looked up images and the leaves don't look very much like the variety I have in my garden.

12:19 PM, May 21, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Yes Maria, the verbena here is lemon verbena - there is another variety known best for the colorful flowers it has.

12:44 PM, May 21, 2010  

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