I recently started a windowsill herb garden (DIY post to follow—stay tuned!) and I’m kicking myself for not having done so sooner. I used to read recipes that listed fresh herbs and weigh my options: was ½ a teaspoon of tarragon really necessary? would a garnish of flat-leaf parsley actually add anything? Though the answer should have probably always been a solid “Yes!” I deluded myself so as to avoid a trip to the grocery store. I hated forking over money for something I knew I’d use 1 tablespoon of, the rest left to wilt and die in the depths of my refrigerator’s produce drawer.
But now, with a garden of bright fragrance at my disposal, it’s all herbs all the time. And not only in recipes that require a bit of thyme or oregano; I find new ways to fold or sprinkle herbs into almost everything. They add such freshness and vibrancy and I admit I’m a bit addicted.
But what about in desserts? Do fresh herbs have a place? I think so. Growing up, my mom used to top fat slices of New York Cheesecake with a bit of lemon-rosemary jelly. It was an unexpected but welcome pairing, the tartness of the lemon punching through the warm earthiness of the herb.
Inspired by this dessert, I imagined something new: a rhubarb fool scented with thyme. The rhubarb’s tartness is similar to the lemon while the thyme, a subtler herb than rosemary, provides that unusual herbal note on a smaller scale.
Fool is one of those desserts that is laughably easy to throw together. It’s basically stewed fruit folded into whipped cream. Here, I cook down the rhubarb with a bit of brown sugar and fresh orange juice and infuse the cream with thyme. The flavours marry beautifully.
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/3 cups rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 orange
pinch of salt
Combine cream and thyme in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat, bring cream to a light simmer, stirring occasionally while cream heats through. Once mixture begins to bubble, remove from heat. Allow to cool. Remove and discard thyme, straining cream through a fine-mesh sieve. Chill until ready to use.
Combine rhubarb, brown sugar, orange juice and salt in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until rhubarb breaks down and combines with the sugar and juice. Remove from heat. Allow to cool. Chill for at least 2 hours or until ready to use.
Whip cream with maple syrup until stiff peaks form (add more maple syrup if more sweetness is desired). Transfer cream to a large bowl. Fold in chilled rhubarb. Serve fool in small glasses, bowls or jars. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh thyme.