Basil Oil and Peach, Cinnamon and Basil Sorbet

July Basil
 
Basil may be the most ubiquitous herb on the planet, appearing as a prominent flavoring for dishes from lands as varied as Italy, Thailand, India, Morocco and Mexico. It is believed that basil originated in India, where it is considered sacred to the Hindu religion — a sprig of basil buried with a deceased Hindu believer is said to be his passport into Paradise.
 
Basil requires full sun and warm temperatures. The herb will not survive once temperatures drop below 50 degrees and it grows best in weather above 65 degrees. Basil seeds can be started outdoors around the same time beans are planted. Sow seeds in full sun, in well-drained, fertile ground. Cover with a thin layer of soil; thin to stand 10 to 12 inches apart. Water weekly and pinch young plants to encourage bushy growth.
 
Do not store fresh basil in the refrigerator; temperatures below 48 degrees will turn it black. Try to use it the same day you harvest it, keeping stems in a glass of water until using.
 

Basil Oil

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1 cup olive oil

Blanch basil in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towel. Transfer to blender. Add oil and purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Peach and Cinnamon Basil Sorbet

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 bunch (1 ounce) cinnamon basil or
1 bunch (1 ounce) sweet basil plus one
(3-inch) cinnamon stick

1 1/2 pounds ripe peaches, skinned, pitted, and roughly chopped (about
1 quart)

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed
lemon juice

Combine the sugar and water in a small (1-quart) saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. As soon as the syrup comes to a full boil, add the basil and cinnamon stick, if using, and push them under the surface with a spoon. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let the herbs steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain.

Puree the peaches in a food processor. Add the lemon juice and basil syrup. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts, or 12 servings.