Saturday, August 1, 2009
I sat in front of these blooming cinnamon basil plants in my garden last week, KNOWING that to get the best flavor from the leaves, I needed to snip the flowers so that the fragrant oils remained in the leaves. But mercy, I found them far too pretty to do that! LOL
I grow cinnamon basil to dry for winter use. I love the Italian, large-leaved varieties, Genovese basil and the rest, but when those leaves are dried for use in cheeses, for instance, their flavor evaporates -- and there is no 'basil' taste. But the spicy varieties, and especially cinnamon basil, all contain more of what I think of when I think of basil - a heady fragrance, a bit of a bite, a green herbness - a wonderful taste! And even dried, this variety KEEPS those flavors. The leaves are smaller than Genovese -- but PACKED with flavor.
I use the dried leaves in cheese mixes, pasta sauce, bruschetta and the like. I'll be giving an herb talk the week after next and sharing this recipe with them -- so I thought I'd share it with you too. Though fresh herbs can be used, I find dry herbs to contain far more concentrated flavor:
Goat (or Cream) Cheese with Herbs
10 1/2 ounces cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons each (if fresh) 1 teaspoon each if dried):
Italian Parsley (the flat leaved variety)
Basil (here I use cinnamon)
A dash of Chives and pinch of cayenne pepper
Milk for thinning
In a bowl, combine the cheese, herbs and pepper. Blend well. Add the milk if you would like it thinner, a small amount at a time, then mix again. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Bring to room temperature before serving with fresh vegetables and crackers.