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Lemon verbena: a wonderfully fragrant herb


The fragrances of early summer - rose, jasmine, honeysuckle, lavender - are pure romance.

And lemon verbena, that wonderfully aromatic herb, may be the most romantic of them all. Its captivating perfume is delicate; its flavor, mingling floral and fruit notes, pure magic.

Although lemon verbena is widely known, it's elusive. Few chefs and fewer home cooks have used it in cooking, probably because it is an infusing herb rather than a finishing herb such as basil, chervil or dill.

Our recipe for poached apricots and cherries in a lemon verbena-infused wine syrup is easy to prepare and makes a memorable dessert. Experiment with other fruit as the seasons change.

Poached Fruit in Lemon-Verbena Syrup

Total time: 20 minutes plus cooling time

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup sauvignon blanc

3/4 cup sugar

12 white peppercorns, lightly cracked

4 apricots, seeded and quartered

1 cup cherries, halved and pitted

48 lemon verbena leaves, torn

Combine the water, sauvignon blanc, sugar and white peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer just until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.

Add the apricots, cherries and lemon verbena leaves. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes, just until the fruit is almost tender yet still firm. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into a heatproof glass bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.

Each serving: 135 calories; 1 gram protein; 31 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium

- Recipe and analysis from the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper

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