In the kitchen: Lemon Basil Cookies

Herbs are fun. Not just the “twigs and seeds to meet your needs,” kind of fun. The “fool your friends and impress people” kind of fun.

They add a hint of something without revealing themselves. Crush fresh flowering thyme between your fingers and the scent gently overwhelms- green, full and clean. Dried and added to stuffing it’s more subtle, flashing across your tongue and disappearing before you can put your finger on the source.

The key to herbs is bravery. To taste and not overdo, but to not be afraid of combining flavors to augment the whole. My mother makes an amazing rosemary chicken. My father knows how to make sage sing in a loaf of homemade bread. Herbs are fun.

Willa posted a lovely recipe from a friend of hers for Lemon Basil cookies. It was simple, included less butter than most of the recipes I’ve been trying lately, but also included a block of cream cheese- deftly cancelling out the semi-healthful low butter content. Dismissing the recipe because it includes cake mix would be a mistake, if for no other reason than because experimenting with an herb that is usually connected to savory dishes in a dessert is, well, fun.

Although it’s not Thursday, the now weekly cookie-baking night, I made a batch after work for a dinner party and they turned out rather well. They taste lemony enough, they’re soft and cakey, and although the top came off the basil mid-pour, I managed to get most of it out so that that it didn’t overwhelm. So on that score alone, they turned out much better than the Anise Sesame cookies.

Dinner was delicious and since appetizers were limited, people started nibbling on cookies with the various rum drinks that were being sampled. I could hear folks making “yummy” noises, but I assumed they were talking about the drinks. At the end of the night, rather than hand the tin back (as he did when I brought the Anise Sesame disasters), the host pointed to the few remaining cookies and said, “You’re not taking those home are you?”

Me: “Um, no.” (tentatively:) “Did you… like them?”

Host: “Oh yes! They’re fantastic! By the way, are those little green flakes pot or what?”

Me: “Um, no. They’re basil.”

Host: (with a wink and a nudge) “Riiiiiiight. If you’re a cop, eh?”

Me: “.”

So the few remaining cookies stayed at my friend’s house. Just in case someone gets the munchies.

Lemon Basil Cookies by Mary G.

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c butter, softened
1 egg
2 1/2 t lemon juice (I used fresh)

Add and mix well:
1 box lemon cake mix

Add 3/4 c finely chopped nuts

1 T dried basil

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and mix ingredients. The dough will be quite stiff.
  2. Place teaspoonfuls of dough on greased cookie sheets (ungreased if they are insulated) and bake for 15 minutes. Take care that the bottoms don’t burn.
  3. Place on wire racks until cool.

(from Sorry Fugu)

Note: Storage is not an issue- there will be no leftovers!

For my next batch I’m thinking maybe orange, white chocolate and tarragon… or strawberry and rosemary maybe?


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