Lemon verbena can be used in place of vanilla to infuse cream in any custard dessert, such as this panna cotta, which would pair perfectly with sweet local strawberries.
20 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 1⁄4 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup half and half
1⁄3 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1. In a heavy saucepan, bring 6 verbena leaves and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 min.; strain. Stir in sugar and simmer until consistency is syrupy. Reserve.
2. In a bowl, place 2 tbsp. of cream and sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand 5 min. to soften.
3. In a large saucepan, bring remaining lemon verbena and cream, half and half, sugar and lemon zest to a boil. Remove from heat; whisk in gelatin until dissolved. Cool, whisking occasionally; strain. Divide among 8 oiled ramekins. Cover and chill at least 3 hours or overnight.
4. For service: Dip ramekin into hot water for 5 sec. Run a thin knife around the inside edge and invert onto a plate. Drizzle with reserved syrup and serve with citrus cookies.