A Refreshing & Easy Recipe for Next Summer with an Intermission to Boogie

Fall has finally come to Southern California.  I waited too long to get a final usable harvest of my lemon verbena and had to prune the forlorn plant down to its nubbins.  I stuffed my kitchen trash bag with the wan and brown-leaved branches and left it at the door in anticipation of going out to the dumpster.  I then settle down to have a bite of lunch.  I am researching ferns as food, so I pop open one of my favorite foraging cookbooks, Wild Flavors by Didi Emmons***  to see if she has anything to say on this subject.  Nothing on ferns, however there is a short little section on verbena with a recipe that looks too easy not to try.  Here are the ingredients:

2 cups loosely packed fresh lemon verbena

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice.

3 cups warm water

I thought, too, that using the spent verbena might assuage my guilt for not harvesting a final crop of it a month ago.  I hate to waste anything, especially when it is a precious gift like that of lemon verbena which bestows upon the casual passerby such a lovely refreshing perfume.   Even if it is brown, it gives this gift.  If you are not familiar with lemon verbena, it actually smells a lot like Fruit Loop children’s cereal.   Funny to think that someone in a really expensive hotel with fancy verbena soap is going to come out of their toilette smelling like Fruit Loops! Anyway, the ingredients are items I usually have on hand. 

I look like an idiot mumbling  to both myself and the trash as I pick  through it trying to salvage two cups-worth of the least brown leaves right before I heave the trash into the large bin in our parking lot.  As I wash the selected fronds, I find there are still a few little worms who also haven’t given up hope on feeding off the fragrant spears.   I plop the just-cleaned herbs to rest in a bowl, but then I get soooo sleepy!  I take a little nappy, only to get up and find that the poor leaves have withered and turned even more brown.  I pick them off the main branches and put them in a measuring cup.  I squeeze two large juicy limes to have ready for later.  I then go for the sugar—but I can’t believe it!  I am out of normal sugar!  I have five other kinds of sugar:  Succanat (pure evaporated cane juice), dark organic brown sugar, two bags of powdered sugar (one organic and one not), and super-fine baker’s sugar.  I opt for the last one, which is probably a good idea in a recipe such as this, especially since I don’t have an ice cream machine.  I put the sugar and the verbena in the food processor, but after the allotted time of about 30 seconds, the mixture looks like breadcrumbs and not the desired “paste”.   I decide to add about two tablespoons of St. Germain elderflower liqueur to moisten it up a bit.   That worked!!!  I now have a delicious-smelling paste. 

I add the lime juice and continue to process it for a further 30 seconds or so, stopping to scrape the sides a few times.  I pour and scrape this mixture in a bowl and use the pre-measured warm water to rinse out the remains of the processor. 

One is then supposed to put this in their refri for about 5 minutes before transferring to a machine for sorbet or, as I am doing, into a shallow dish for granita.  But I had run out of time.  The granita needs to be stirred and broken up with a fork about once an hour until set.  And I wanted to go to the club to get my groove on to two localish DJs at Club Focus:        Soundcloud for Jason Blakemore              Soundcloud for Barry Weaver   

If you like House Music, you will love all the free sets and downloads at liveatfocus.com

I left the stuff in the fridge until I got back.  Then I transferred the broth into a pie plate and stuck it in the freezer.  I got three good fork-turns done before hitting the hay.  This morning it was good to go!  It is light and not too sweet—very refreshing.  I love the verbena and St. Germain combination.  This granita reminds me of a slushy that I had from the frozen leftovers of a gin drink my girl VFly made one time.   When I got home from work tonight, I served myself a little glass full—and it was fine—but then I remembered how much I love the lemon or strawberry granitas in Italy* with the panna.  I poured a little heavy whipping cream on top.  MMM.  It’s good, but it still is missing something.  I add a splash of St Germain on top.  YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!! 

I wrote in my cookbook that this granita recipe might be fun to do with basil or peppermint (I would use lime and St.Germain again).  Lavender might work well too (not lime, but lemon juice—perhaps with some orange water and/or substitute one of the cups of water with Champagne?). 

Let me know if you try any fun combinations!!!


*This subtle and light lemon verbena granita is nothing like the very intensely flavored, richer, and much more sweet varieties which one finds in much of Italy.

** In the picture with the food processor and the merpeople:  The wooden spoon is not for cooking, but to remind myself not to turn on the garbage disposal with wet hands, lest I be electrocuted again.  Also, I am not endorsing Trader Joe’s Vitamin C.  In fact, they are on my cabinet because I need to return them.  (TMI Alert)  I do a fair amount of various cleansing.  Suffice it to say, I know for a fact that our bodies aren’t digesting these horse pills one bit. 

***I have been in the frou-frou food business for years.  I really recommend this practical book filled with nuts and bolts information that will be of interest to any type of cook or gardener.