Basil is my favorite herb and since my grocery store is frequently out of it, my love affair with the fragrant green leaves so often found in my favorite kitchen creations has become even more so. We always crave what we can't have, right!? Every trip to the store has become a game and if I can get there before the basil is gone, I am a winner. If not, the college boys working in the produce department are lucky that they don't get hurt and I arrive home an angry Italian- with no basil. It should go without saying that when I picked up my ice cream making supplies on Saturday, I was able to come home with a smile on my face and a huge bunch of basil in my bags.
We may have 2011 underway in a healthy fashion, but that doesn't mean we can't leave a little room to wiggle and indulge in things that fall on the opposite end the healthy spectrum. We decided that Saturdays will be no calorie counting days. Much to my disappointment, this does not mean we can go buy and eat an entire birthday cake like I suggested earlier in the week but it does mean we get to treat ourselves to a little something extra. Hey, any excuse to succumb to my sweet tooth will always be embraced by me with loving arms! I love experimenting with recipes inspired by favorite restaurants so it should not be a surprise that my ice cream creation comes from my very favorite Charlotte restaurant, Ilios Noche. Basil might sound like such a rare bite to pair with ice cream but I assure you, it's fresh, fun and a nice diversion from usual ice cream flavors. I was hesitant to try this at the restaurant but once I did, I fell in love. The flavor is surprising and sweet and just goes to prove that it never hurts to step outside of your culinary comfort zone from time to time. I paired it with a blackberry balsamic reduction drizzled on top, providing a tart and tangy blanket that hugs each bite.
Basil Ice Cream
recipe adapted from Epicurious
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream
Special equipment- an instant read thermometer and an ice cream maker
Bring basil, milk, vanilla, 1/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 2 quart sauce pan, stirring constantly. Once boiling, remove from heat and let it steep for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender (reserve the sauce pan) and blend until finely ground. This is where I altered the recipe a bit. If you click over to the Epicurious link, you will notice that they instruct you to pour the ice cream mixture into a fine mesh sieve. Because I didn't have one, I added less basil than the original recipe called for, chopped it up extremely fine from the beginning and by the time it was blended in the blender, the basil bits were nearly non existent and I was left with a smooth green ice cream base.
Beat together yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer for one minute, or until mixed well and the mixture is pale. Ass basil-milk mixture in a stream, beating until combined well. Pour mixture into reserved sauce pan and cook over moderate heat. stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats the back of the spoon and reads 175 degrees on the thermometer, without allowing it to come to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a metal bowl. Set bowl into a larger bowl of ice water and stir until cold, 10-15 minutes. Finally, stir in cream and freeze as directed in your ice cream maker. Transfer to air tight container and put in freezer to harden, around 2 hours.
Blackberry Balsamic Reduction
recipe adapted from several sources
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon raw sugar
Pinch of salt
In a saucepan, combine berries and water. Macerate berries with a whisk or potato masher and bring to a boil. Add balsamic, honey, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil for at least 5 minutes, or until mixture reduces by half. Let cool before serving over ice cream.
Special thanks and love to my sweet sisters for our Cuisinart Ice Cream maker. If you are looking for shower/wedding gifts, this little gem is perfect! It's also the top rated at home ice cream maker on the market.