I think I’m going to toss out all my perfume bottles and start walking around wielding a stalk of lemongrass instead. It really smells that incredible. As I sit here trying to think of how to bring its scent to life for you, two words jump to mind: lemony and grassy—creative, huh? But true to its name, this reed-like herb has a bright, citrusy fragrance mellowed out by an earthy undertone. Not only does it smell good, it’s quite eye-catching as well. It has a sturdy, pale green exterior that slices into beautiful rings of purple and white. In the spirit of exploring this ingredient to its fullest, I bit into a raw piece, and its texture—a bit fibrous and a bit watery—was reminiscent of sugar cane. It was even a tad sweet. Suffice it to say, this humble little stalk is quite a complex ingredient, and one that Kate and I both embraced with fervor for our first ingredient challenge.
Lemongrass is perhaps best known for its incorporation into many Asian dishes. Although I’m no expert in Asian cooking, I’d venture to guess that its lemongrass rearing its citrusy fresh bite behind many rich curries and spicy soups. But for this challenge, and to celebrate the warm weather and equipment-laden kitchen I’m frolicking in at home, I decided to take a more unconventional route.
I bring you Lemongrass Basil Sherbet.
Sherbet is a lighter version of ice cream, made with a greater milk to cream ratio. To play up the Thai-inspired flavors of lemongrass and basil, I used two cups of coconut milk in place of whole milk. While the tang of the lemongrass and punch of the basil could have potentially been overpowering, the flavors of this ice cream turned out to be quite subtle and wholly refreshing. I feel a bit guilty for saying this, as I know many of you are reading this wrapped in blankets and parkas, but I enjoyed this as a poolside snack on a warm and breezy Saturday afternoon.
Whether you go sweet, savory, or somewhere in between, I hope that our premiere ingredient challenge has inspired you try your hand at cooking with lemongrass.
Lemongrass and Basil Coconut Milk Sherbet
Adapted from Bon Appetit
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped lemongrass (from about 2 stalks)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat coconut milk, milk, lemongrass, and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat until mixture almost comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Blanch basil leaves in a small pot of boiling water until just wilted, about 10 seconds; immediately transfer to ice water; let cool. Squeeze basil to release excess water.
Place milk/cream/lemongrass mixture into a blenderr. Add basil, sugar, corn syrup, and salt to blender. Purée on high speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Base for sherbet can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)
Strain chilled cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl of an ice cream maker. Process sherbet in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container, cover, and freeze. (Sherbet can be made 1 week ahead. Keep frozen.)
Scoop into bowls or glasses and serve.