So I have a little spot of grass just behind the fence in my back yard. Last year my neighbor next door asked if she could garden there. I said sure! Since then, she’s grown lots of tomatoes and herbs and shares them with me from time to time. The other day I came home to find a bag full of heirloom and cherry tomatoes and a large bunch of basil. The basil smelled wonderful.
I thought of making a sauce or even pesto, but it was hot outside and I wasn’t in the mood to stand over a hot stove and eat hot pasta. Then I thought, “ice cream”! I would try to make basil ice cream and grabbed my iPad. I found an old recipe from Gourmet and got to work. What I really like about this recipe was the method. It allows you to make ice cream in one day, within a few hours. Usually you have to let the cream chill to room temp and then let chill in the fridge overnight before adding it to the ice cream maker, but with this recipe, you chill in an ice bath for a while and add ice cold cream at the end instead of cooking it with the milk. Genius!
The only problem I had was that I really needed a blender. I don’t have one, so I first tried using my stick blender, but it wasn’t chopping the basil small enough. I then tried my food processor, but there was too much liquid and the basil wasn’t getting any smaller, so I tried the mini chopper attachment to my stick blender. That worked ok, but just ok. I guess it’s time to add blender to my Christmas list!
In the end, I strained the cream through three strainers layered on top of one another, hoping that the flavor of the ice cream wouldn’t suffer since there was quite a bit of basil that I wasn’t able to use. No suffering here! I ice cream was bursting with basil. It was a very interesting experience. At first I didn’t think I liked it, even after the first through five bites, but I couldn’t stop eating it. I’ve never had anything like it before. It surpassed sweet and savory to me and flowed into an area that was indescribable. I still can’t say that it was delicious, or the best ice cream that I’ve ever had, but there was something about it that I found very appealing and satisfying. The ice cream received mixed reviews at work. Some thought it was fantastic; others didn’t know what to make of it. One friend had it a la mode with peach pie and thought it was divine. For now, I’m going to savor it on it’s own, but I think I will save a little for experimenting. Perhaps ice cream sandwiches with lavender shortbread?
Basil Ice Cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- ½ cup well-chilled heavy cream
- Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer; an ice cream maker
Beat together yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 1 minute. Add milk mixture in a stream, beating until combined well. Pour mixture into reserved saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 175°F on thermometer (do not let boil). Immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice water, add cream and stir until cold, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in cream and freeze in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.
Adapted from Gourmet 2004